Phoenix to tour India
Wellington Phoenix will compete in a tournament in India as part of their A-League pre-season preparations.
The trip, where they will play in a four-team tournament, was the brainchild of former Phoenix and New Zealand player Tim Brown, who represented the New Zealand Professional Footballers Association in India in May.
After taking on Newcastle Jets in Weston on August 18 the squad will fly to New Delhi and will kick off the tournament against United Sikkim in Guwahati on August 24.
Two days later they will play an as yet unconfirmed I-League team in Impahl before meeting Shillong Lajong in Shillong on August 30. The tournament final or third-versus-fourth playoff will round out the tour in Shillong on September 1.
It is a far cry from 12 months ago when the team was mired in uncertainty, had just 16 players on their books and was undergoing a change of ownership due to the financial trouble besetting previous owner Terry Serepisos.
"We have struggled for meaningful pre-season games at times in the past and this will give our players a real workout," Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert said.
"Some of the boys from our School of Excellence will be on the trip and it will be a great experience for them, as well as giving the coaching staff an opportunity to assess their progress against good teams in a challenging environment.
"With two under-21 spots still to be filled it also gives them a chance to put their hand up for a playing contract.
"Also it will provide an opportunity for the new players and staff to bond."
Captain Andrew Durante revealed there had been a few raised eyebrows when the India tour was first mooted.
"At first I was a little bit hesitant and I wasn't sure why India was chosen," he said.
"But it's probably a place that none of us would ever really go and visit so it's a good opportunity for us to go over there.
"We've had all our shots and injections to make sure we don't come back sick. It will be interesting.
"A pre-season trip is always good. It gets the boys together and helps them bond whether it's good, bad or indifferent experiences.
"We're looking forward to it. I've got no idea what to expect of India because I've never been there but it should be interesting."
Durante also expects the players to be tested on the field.
"From what I understand I think it's a decent level. I know a guy over there playing and he's said it's a good standard," he said,
"I'm sure the conditions will be really tough for us. It's going to be a good test for us."
The Phoenix will complete their pre-season programme against A-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers at Christchurch's AMI Stadium on September 23.
They kick-off their season on October 6 at home to Sydney FC.