As the Wellington Phoenix head into their seventh Hyundai A-League season midfielder Vince Lia's proud to say that he is the only player remaining from the club’s first playing roster.
As the Wellington Phoenix head into their seventh Hyundai A-League season midfielder Vince Lia's proud to say that he is the only player remaining from the club-s first playing roster.
Goalkeeper Glen Moss was also in that first squad but left two years in before returning last season.
As he prepared for three sets of fitness testing at the ASB Sports Centre Lia admitted no-one was more surprised than himself that he was the last man standing from season one of the Phoenix.
“We were talking the other night and with Mal (Football Operations Manager Mal Impiombato) leaving there is only myself and the kit man Russ left from the whole football staff,” he said.
“Not bad considering I arrived on a one-year contract. To be going into a seventh season is unreal.
“I came to get more game time than I was getting at Melbourne Victory and it progressed from there.
“I-m still enjoying it because the boys and the people involved in the club are great.”
Lia was signed for Victory as a 19-year-old by Ernie Merrick who will be his coach in the coming season, a prospect he is excited about.
“Ernie loves to coach, and even with the small number of players we-ve had at training so far he has had us doing things the way he wants us to play,” he said.
“I think the fans will see a different brand of football from us this season, and it was probably needed because we were a little bit stale after having the same group of players and the same coach for such a long time.
“Everyone is starting again with the chance to impress a new coach who is very much hands on.
“It will take us a bit of time but we will play the way he wants us to play.
“The first year I was with Victory we didn-t do too well, but the following year won our first seven games and went on to win the Grand Final 6-0 so he has the track record.”
Describing Merrick as very attack minded, Lia is confident the Phoenix fans that went missing last year will be back in the coming season.
“There is a good support base for the Phoenix in Wellington and if we can win games and win them well it will get them back through the gates,” he said.
Lia is also looking forward to playing in the same team as talented Costa Rican Carlos Hernandez.
“I-ve had the ‘privilege- of marking Carlos a few times and he is very hard to play against. He can score goals from anywhere, is a very smart player and a great addition to our squad.”
The first priority for Lia however is to get through pre-season fit and ready for October-s kick off.
“It is important I have a good pre-season because I am in the last year of my contract,” he said.
“In previous pre-season-s I-ve had a few niggles and last year an ankle injury ruled me out for most of the pre-season.
“My goal is to stay fit and be ready for the start of the season because I have a really good feeling about it.”