Young Phoenix keeper Basalaj off to Scotland
Wellington Phoenix school of excellence goalkeeper Scott Basalaj leaves for Scotland tomorrow to trial with Scottish Premier League club Partick Thistle.
The offer to train and trial with Thistle came through Scott Allison who twice visited Basalaj's Lower Hutt City club while scouting for Glasgow Rangers.
Allison was keen to take the young keeper to Rangers, but the club's money troubles at the time prevented it from signing players.
"To train in a professional environment [with the Phoenix] and be part of a couple of match days has been huge," Basalaj said.
"It has given me confidence and I won't be shy going into that type of environment over there."
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick decided to sign Australian Lewis Italiano instead of Basalaj as a back-up to Glen Moss and the 19-year-old goes with his blessing.
"I have watched Scott at training over the past five weeks and been impressed by him," Merrick said.
"It is a tough road but he has a chance because he has the attributes to go all the way."
Phoenix goalkeeping coach Jonathan Gould - a former Glasgow Celtic and Scotland goalkeeper - has high hopes for his student.
"The progression Scott has shown over the last four years, in combination with the work he had done at the FSE and the games he has played for Lower Hutt, Team Wellington and New Zealand gives him a good start for the environment he is going into," Gould said.
"If you look historically at keepers in Scotland they aren't all 6ft 4in and 6ft 5in. Scotty has presence at 6ft 2in, has a tremendous vertical leap and spring and he can kick a decent ball. I think the conditions will suit him.''
The Dominion Post