'Mature' Matthew Ridenton gets Phoenix callup

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2013
Matthew Ridenton
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RISING STAR: Matthew Ridenton, left, in action for New Zealand A against the Wellington Phoenix in a friendly.

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He has just completed his school exams, and now Matthew Ridenton faces a test of his footballing credentials after being named in the Phoenix squad to play Perth tomorrow night.

The 17-year-old is the son of former All White Michael Ridenton and the midfielder flew to Perth with a 17-strong squad yesterday after Carlos Hernandez was ruled out with a quad injury.

Ridenton's chances of making his A-League debut hinge on the fitness of Albert Riera.

The Spaniard has a niggle in his lower abdominal/groin area and a decision on his availability will be made before the game tomorrow.

If Riera is out, then Ridenton is likely to come off the bench against the Glory at nib Stadium.

"This is Matthew's opportunity, if Albert doesn't come up," said Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick.

"I feel confident that he could come off the bench and do something for 15, 20 minutes. I think he's going to be a very good player in the future."

Ridenton graduates from Auckland's Saint Kentigern College on Sunday.

He is one of two schoolboys in the Phoenix squad, along with Alex Rufer of Palmerston North Boys' High.

They both represented New Zealand at this year's under-17 World Cup and Merrick is bullish about their professional prospects.

"[Ridenton] and Rufer are technically very skilled, they've got good levels of fitness and speed. They're not up to full A-League standard yet but they've both got composure about them, they're very mature for their age. They've obviously got to understand more about tactical play and positioning but both are coming on in leaps and bounds ...

"[Ridenton's] come back from the under-17s and then from a break, for school exams, looking highly motivated to perform. What he lacks is that 90 minute, high endurance, high intensity match fitness but if he's not starting he doesn't have to worry about that."

Phoenix import Stein Huysegems said Ridenton had the technical ability and mental strength to handle the step up.

"He has a lot of qualities," Huysegems said.

"Keeping the ball very well, he has a good view, to see where he has to play the ball to the strikers. He's still a young player but you can see that he has a great future and hopefully he can bring something extra to the team.

"He's a good guy and at training I never see him getting nervous. I don't think that's going to change when he gets his chance in a game."

Jeremy Brockie, Reece Caira and Josh Brindell-South are the other inclusions to the squad that drew 0-0 with Western Sydney on Sunday.

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Out drop Tyler Boyd, the suspended Manny Muscat and Hernandez, who has a 2.5cm tear in his quad and is out for at least one week.

Huysegems is expected to fill Hernandez's crucial playmaking role.

"Stein Huysegems can play a No 10 role," Merrick said.

"In fact his possession play is first class, he's been outstanding in the last couple of games."

Caira will slot straight back in for Muscat at left back, while Paul Ifill is also pushing hard for a starting spot.

"I feel that we have the squad to win this game because we've got good depth now," Merrick said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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