The ownership consortium of the Wellington Phoenix, Welnix LP, today announced it is establishing a football finishing school with a focus on preparing promising youth players for professional careers.
Based in Wellington, the programme will bring together the best young talent to train with the Phoenix. Very much an initiative which looks at developing the football talent identified at a grassroots level, Welnix board member Gareth Morgan says the programme has been designed to be a finishing school for the country’s best amateur talent.
“We have some amazing young footballers in New Zealand but there is no pathway for these players to develop their skills and migrate into professional contracts without leaving New Zealand,” Morgan said.
“Our vision is to take these talented individuals from around the country, bring them to Wellington to train and play with the Phoenix, and those that make the grade will start their professional careers at the Phoenix” Morgan said.
“While the programme provides the best of our youth players with the option of a professional football career, the Phoenix’s future is also more secure if our best up and coming players can join our club.
“We have a wonderful team at the Phoenix but as we found out pretty quickly when we took over, there is not enough player depth, which leaves us vulnerable. We’ve noticed how our competitors in the A-League are able to blood new young players, which insures their senior squad against injuries and player loss. We need this capability here at the Phoenix.
“The players will be amateur until they are sufficiently skilled to be offered Phoenix contracts, and we want to see more of our local talent who are making waves at the grassroots level entering into our playing ranks. Exposing these lads to the excellence of a professional football organisation and the expertise of Ricki Herbert and his staff is the first step.
“The vision for the Welnix Grassroots programme extends beyond preparing a squad of top amateur players to offering comprehensive training and skills development programmes for women, boys and girls, based at a fully functional football centre of excellence with top-class amenities.
“With an outreach programme that provides Phoenix skills courses and coaching clinics throughout New Zealand we are determined to help the game here.
“We believe the model is quite inspirational and we are keen to work alongside New Zealand Football, its Federations and Clubs in making football, which is already the sport of choice for so many New Zealanders, underpin the professional level of the code right here at home.
“We’re very excited about the potential to achieve something truly exceptional with this programme. It is the start of a new era and will raise the number of New Zealanders good enough to join our professional team.”
At a glance
1. The finishing school will have players in residence in Wellington by June 2012
2. Eight players 20 years old or younger will be asked to join this season
3. These eight players will train and play with the Phoenix
4. Each player will be offered appropriate accommodation, allowances and schooling opportunities developed specifically for each player.
5. The eight players will be eligible to play for Team Wellington in the ASB premiership.
6. The eight players will combine with Phoenix players to play midweek friendly games against squads around the country.
7. During the winter season the players will play in the local Wellington club competition.