Musa set to debut for Phoenix

YOUNGSTER James Musa could be a surprise starter for the Wellington Phoenix in Saturday night’s clash with Melbourne Victory at Westpac Stadium.

YOUNGSTER James Musa could be a surprise starter for the Wellington Phoenix in Saturday night-s clash with Melbourne Victory at Westpac Stadium.

Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert has indicated he will throw Musa into the deep end at left back for the Phoenix on Saturday in a “sink-or-swim” scenario for the young defender.

The switch comes as a result of the one-match suspension of regular Phoenix centre back Ben Sigmund, who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in his team-s 2-0 defeat of Melbourne Heart on Wednesday.

Musa, 18, has played two games for Phoenix A in New Zealand-s ASB Challenge Series and has performed well enough to earn the nod from Herbert to make the squad to face Victory.

The Wanganui teenager is excited about the prospect of making his debut on Saturday and becoming the 50th player to wear the Phoenix jersey in a competition game.

“At the moment I-m nervous, to be fair. First game out, we-ll see how it goes. I-ve got to start confidently or else something could go wrong.”

Musa will have plenty of experience alongside him, with skipper Andrew Durante and Socceroos defender Jade North set to start as the central defensive pairing and Troy Hearfield at right back.

“Ricki-s told me to settle into the game. He doesn-t want me running up there (on attack) and then having to get back. So it-s defend first and attack when you need to attack. Dura will help me out with lots of talk.”

Striker Paul Ifill, scorer of both goals against Heart, hailed Herbert-s plan to give Musa a chance.

“Since James has been here he-s come on hell of a lot. Sometimes you just have to chuck them in and see if they sink or swim. You can-t get that experience without playing, you can-t replicate games at training.”

Ifill has been particularly impressed by Musa-s attitude.

“I think he-s a great lad - always willing to listen and learn and do that bit extra. Dura has taken him under his wing and given him plenty of tips and who better to help him than the captain.

‘Whether James is ready or not is not my decision, it-s the gaffer-s, but I hope he comes in and does well. I remember making my debut and the same questions of whether I was ready or not came out. It-s hard because the nerves can get the better of you.

“So we-ve got get around him, help him and give him as much protection as possible. It-s not easy coming into game where you-re going to have players like Archie Thompson and Robbie Kruse running at you - when they-re on form they-re a handful for experienced campaigners, let alone someone making his debut.

“But James has worked hard, he-s earned his chance and he-ll make the most of it.”

Wellington Phoenix vs. Melbourne Victory Saturday, 27 November 2010 Westpac Stadium, Wellington Local kickoff: 6pm (4pm AEDT) Referee: Peter O'Leary

Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1, FS1 HD & Sky Sport 1 (NZ). A-League club broadcast partner is The Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM 774 ABC (Melbourne), and SEN Digital. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.co.nz

Wellington Phoenix: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 4. Nick WARD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 12. James MUSA, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Mirjan PAVLOVIC, 15. Jade NORTH, 17. Vince LIA, 19. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Dylan MACALLISTER, 26. Simon ELLIOTT *three to be omitted*

In: James MUSA (promoted), Simon ELLIOTT (promoted), Dylan MACALLISTER (promoted), Mirjan PAVLOVIC (promoted) Out: Ben SIGMUND (suspended - 1 game) Unavailable: Tony LOCHHEAD (groin - 3 weeks), Oscar Roberto CORNEJO (knee - 3 weeks)

Melbourne Victory: 1. Michael PETKOVIC (gk), 2. Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3. Mate DUGANDZIC, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 8. Grant BREBNER, 10. Archie THOMPSON, 11. Marvin ANGULO, 12. Rodrigo VARGAS, 13. Diogo FERREIRA, 14. Billy CELESKI, 15. Tom PONDELJAK, 16. Carlos HERNANDEZ, 19. Evan BERGER, 20. Sebastian MATTEI (gk), 21. Robbie KRUSE 23. Adrian LEIJER, 27. Geoff KELLAWAY *one to be omitted*

In: Geoff KELLAWAY (promoted) Out: Nil Unavailable: RICARDINHO (knee - 4 weeks), Surat SUKHA (rested)

Head-to-Head: All matches (played 10): Wellington Phoenix wins 1, Melbourne Victory wins 4 (5 draws)