Basalaj Off to Scotland

Wellington Phoenix Football School of Excellence goalkeeper Scott Basalaj leaves for Scotland tomorrow to trial with Scottish Premier League club Partick Thistle.

Wellington Phoenix Football School of Excellence goalkeeper Scott Basalaj leaves for Scotland tomorrow to trial with Scottish Premier League club Partick Thistle.

Basalaj, 19, goes with the blessing of Phoenix head coach Ernie Merrick and is excited by the challenge ahead.

The offer to train and trial with Thistle came through Scott Allison who twice visited Basalaj-s Lower Hutt Club while scouting for Glasgow Rangers.

Allison was keen to take the young keeper to Rangers, but at that time the club-s money troubles prevented it from signing players and Basalaj had to stay home . With a second chance beckoning Basalaj, who has played for New Zealand at the under-17 and under-20 World Cups, is raring to go and believes his time with the Phoenix will stand him in good stead.

“To train in a professional environment and be part of a couple of match days has been huge,” Basalaj said.

“It has given me confidence and I won-t be shy going into that type of environment over there.”

Basalaj is another young player to come off the Lower Hutt City production line and the keeper is grateful to them.

“Lower Hutt have been really supportive and given me lots of opportunities,” he said.

“Playing in two World Cups has also been fantastic and given me the incentive to go further in football.”

Merrick said it was satisfying to see young players coming out of the Phoenix FSE and getting such opportunities.

“I have watched Scott at training over the past five weeks and been impressed by him,” Merrick said.

“It is a tough road but he has a chance because he has the attributes to go all the way.”

Former Glasgow Celtic and Scotland goalkeeper Jonathan Gould, the Phoenix goalkeeping coach, also has high hopes for his student.

“The progression Scott has shown over the last four years, in combination with the work he had done at the FSE and the games he has played for Lower Hutt, Team Wellington and New Zealand gives him a good start for the environment he is going into,” Gould says.

“If you look historically at keepers in Scotland they aren-t all 6ft 4in and 6ft 5in. “Scotty has presence at 6ft 2in, has a tremendous vertical leap and spring and he can kick a decent ball.

“I think the conditions will suit him,”