Ricki Herbert will have no qualms throwing a team of kids out on to Melbourne's AAMI Park next month - but really he has no other option.
The Phoenix and All Whites coach faces an impossible juggling act as Wellington play a round two A-League game against the Heart in between World Cup qualifiers in Tahiti and Christchurch.
New Zealand meet Tahiti in Papeete on October 13 (NZ time), the day before the Phoenix kick off in Melbourne.
The All Whites are then back in action against Tahiti at AMI Stadium on October 16.
Phoenix management had written to Football Federation Australia requesting fixture changes and, with new A-League boss Damien de Bohun in the room, Herbert labelled the situation "unfair" at a function on Monday night.
The Phoenix have seven All Whites on their books, plus Benjamin Totori, who will be called up by the Solomon Islands during the international window.
However, Herbert was whistling a happier tune after the Phoenix's preseason hit out at Porirua Park on Tuesday night, expressing confidence that the club's six "school of excellence" players could make the step up.
"I think you're going to see a few injected into the professional ranks anyway, when we play Melbourne Heart," Herbert said.
"By default, we're going to lose a whole lot of players and I've always said the replacements will come out of that young group."
The academy players are Scott Basalaj, Luke Rowe, Justin Gulley, Alec Solomons, Tom Doyle and Tom Biss, after Louis Fenton yesterday joined Tyler Boyd and Cameron Lindsay as a professional under-21 squad player.
The fleet-footed Fenton has impressed throughout the preseason and the Tawa product is a real chance of lining up against Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero in the season opener against Sydney FC on October 6.
While Paul Ifill is a chance to be fit for the season opener, Herbert said Dani Sanchez, recovering from minor knee surgery, probably wouldn't feature until mid to late November.
Vince Lia and Jimmy Downey, also recovering from knee problems, are a "week or so" away from returning to full training, while Mirjan Pavlovic will return from his loan stint in Sydney at the end of September.
Herbert showed his hand at a training game against a Wellington selection side on Tuesday.
Mark Paston started in goal, Leo Bertos was at right back, while Manny Muscat and Alex Smith were paired up in central midfield.
Fenton and Totori operated as wingers with Jeremy Brockie and new signing Stein Huysegems the strike duo.
Herbert said that side would also start Sunday's preseason game against league newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers in Christchurch.
- © Fairfax NZ News