Handy Manny signs with Phoenix

AFTER impressing in two 2008 Pre-Season Cup games for the Wellington Phoenix – including Wednesday night’s thrilling final – defender Manny Muscat has been signed by the New Zealand-based club as a short-term injury replacement.

AFTER impressing in two 2008 Pre-Season Cup games for the Wellington Phoenix - including Wednesday night-s thrilling final - defender Manny Muscat has been signed by the New Zealand-based club as a short-term injury replacement.

The 23-year-old Melburnian joins the Phoenix from Victorian Premier League club Green Gully as cover for fellow Australian Vince Lia, who is out for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season with a knee injury.

Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert said Muscat had proved a handy player and a good acquisition for the Phoenix, making his debut in the 3-2 win against Sydney FC in a 2008 Pre-Season Cup group match in Wollongong.

“He only had two sessions with us before we played Sydney FC and he played extremely well. Then he backed that up on Wednesday night with a pretty comprehensive performance.”

Muscat provides the Phoenix with cover on the right and left defensive flanks - the latter position a potential concern with incumbent left back Tony Lochhead currently trialling at English Premier League club Middlesbrough.

“Manny is primarily a replacement for Vinnie but he also gives us an option on the left,” Herbert said. “His role in the two games he-s played for us was to show us he was a good enough defender to sign for the club. He-s ticked that box.

“As he spends more time with us that role will involve him getting further up the park and I have no doubt he will be able to do that.”

Muscat was thrilled with his promotion to a top-flight club.

“It-s an awesome feeling to get my first A-League contract. Wellington-s a great place to be, the team is awesome and all the boys have really helped me settle in. My aim now is just to put my head down and work hard. If an opportunity comes to play first XI football I-ll be looking to grab it with both hands.”

Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said Green Gully had been extremely helpful in getting Muscat into the Hyundai A-League.

“Getting Manny out of the Victorian Premier League goes to show how strong that competition and we-re thankful that Green Gully have allowed Manny to leave at what is a crucial time for them coming up to the finals.”

EMMANUEL ‘MANNY- MUSCAT

Date of birth: December 7, 1984 in Melbourne Height, weight: 1.77m, 73kg Playing position: Defender

Club history: 2007-08 Green Gully (Victoria), 2004-07 Sunshine George Cross (Victoria). Hyundai A-League statistics: None (to debut with Phoenix).

Biography: A versatile defender who has excelled in the Victorian Premier League, Muscat adds even more pace and skill on the Phoenix-s flanks. Has the ability to play on both sides at the back and has played regularly as a defensive midfielder with Green Gully.