Ernie Merrick has sprung his first big surprise as Phoenix coach, revealing Louis Fenton has the inside running to be the club's new right back.
Fenton's solid rookie A-League season as an attack-minded winger was one of the few bright spots of the Phoenix's wooden-spoon 2012-13 campaign.
The Junior All White has risen through the ranks as a midfielder or striker and has no recent experience playing in defence.
That was until Tuesday, when Merrick unveiled Fenton at right back in a 4-0 pre-season win over Wellington Olympic.
"He thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm working on him pre-season, non-stop in that position and he's doing well," Merrick said.
"He's there at the moment, it's up to him to hold onto it. Absolutely, he's very impressive in that position. Louis has got really good speed, great technical skills and he's a brave tackler. Plus he can play a one-on-one winger and that's the modern game, that's the modern fullback. Like [Ashley] Cole with Chelsea, like [Patrice] Evra, like Dani Alves with Barcelona. He's got all the qualities."
The Tawa product has so far proven himself as a hard worker and fast learner in his young career.
But throwing him in at the deep end against Brisbane Roar in the season opener would represent a sizeable gamble.
Right back has always been a problem position for the Phoenix and former coach Ricki Herbert converted Leo Bertos with mixed results last season.
Merrick views Bertos as strictly an attacking player, while another option, Manny Muscat, will revert to holding midfield.
The coach said he didn't have to sell the positional switch to Fenton.
"If I have to sell it I don't want him, he can move on," Merrick laughed.
"It's tough at the top and even tougher at the bottom. It's about being on the other side of that white line. You either want to be on green stuff or you want to sit on a piece of wood at the side."
In other news, Merrick said he had been in text conversations with Jeremy Brockie, who is loan at Toronto FC.
The star striker said in a recent interview that he was keen to extend his loan spell past the original return date of August 26.
But Merrick said Brockie hadn't conveyed that wish to him and he was expected to report to Newtown Park as scheduled.
Tyler Boyd is out for 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his fractured wrist in Auckland on Monday.
The attacker played with the injury at the under-20 World Cup.
Meanwhile, triallists continue to come and go at Newtown Park.
Former Bayern Munich under-19 player Dominik Traunmuller has moved on, but young Aussie fullback Josh Brindell-South has done enough to warrant further inspection.
Brindell-South will return to Wellington this weekend for a 5-6 week stint.
He will rehab a groin strain then be given further opportunities to impress.
New Zealand under-20 attacker Van Elia (Olympic) has also trained with the Phoenix this week.
- © Fairfax NZ News