It's not a happy Christmas for Paul Ifill.
How can it be. It's hard for him not to think it's the end when his ruptured Achilles tendon rests on the table in front of him.
The surgeon told him recovery is between 8-12 months.
"You are looking at a year and I'm 34 so you can do the math," Ifill says.
"It was emotional in the changing room afterwards. This could be it. That was the hardest thing to take."
His brain is frazzled. He's traced the steps of his Sunday evening injury a million times. The left Achilles was sore, not this one.
What about his kids, Romy (7) and Bethany (2)? They were Phoenix mascots for the first time on Sunday and were present when dad crashed to the turf like a soldier shot by a sniper on the battlefield.
What about his fiancee Elle? They were supposed to shoot up and look at a wedding venue on Waiheke Island in January. He can't move for three weeks. Not even to attend a Phoenix home game.
There are lots of emotions flying around but Ifill's door is open minutes after his release from hospital because he loves the people of Wellington.
"The ovation I got when I was taken off was great and if I wasn't in so much pain, I would've waved 'thank you'. That was pretty emotional."
Ifill needs time to map out his future. He knows what they are saying on Lambton Quay and down at his local pub, The Realm in Hataitai.
Everyone thinks the Phoenix's best and most popular player is finished with 33 goals to his name since signing with the club in 2009 and too many goal assists to count.
"I'm going to talk to some people I trust," Ifill says.
"Either way I'll do the rehab because I want to play again, whether that is in the park with my mates, in the ASB premiership or the A-League I don't know.
"I'm not stupid. I know it's going to be really tough, but I'm not a quitter so I'm going to go as hard as I can for as quick as I can and if it works out.
"I'll give it everything I've got but if it is not right I'm not going to hang around and try and steal a living."
An obvious path is coaching. His eyes light up. That is where he wants to end up, but not as the next Ernie Merrick, more on the junior side.
Ifill was coming off contract at the end of the season. This was first start and he was playing well against Sydney FC. If it is the end, it wasn't the fairytale finish but very few have that privilege.
"I've been thinking about it a lot.
"I always tried to entertain. I wanted to be a good guy who played football. It is up to others to talk about how good or bad I've been.
"As a kid I always wanted to play in the (English) Premier League and I did that very briefly. I wanted to play in a FA Cup final. I did that once, which was nice. I wanted to get my toe into Europe and I just about squeezed that in. I wanted to play abroad and I did that. In 17 years this is the worst injury I've got . It's been pretty eventful."
So Ifill will spend time the next three weeks on the couch. He says he will enjoy the company of his loved ones and "put the weight back on that I lost".
- © Fairfax NZ News
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