Muscat Stays Loyal To Phoenix

Such are Manny Muscat’s feelings for the Wellington Phoenix he has turned down approaches from both his home town clubs, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart, to sign a new two-year deal.

Such are Manny Muscat-s feelings for the Wellington Phoenix he has turned down approaches from both his home town clubs, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart, to sign a new two-year deal.

Muscat, 27, admits the offers, along with the fact that his wife Rebecca is expecting the couple-s first child on January 30, made the decision to remain in Wellington difficult.

“There were a lot of factors to consider, especially with opportunities to go back to Melbourne,” Muscat said.

“My family are there and I have business commitments as well, so it was a tough decision but in the end I thought ‘if you are enjoying your football as I am, why go elsewhere?-.

“The fact that Dura (captain Andrew Durante) and Iffie (Paul Ifill) have just re-signed was a factor in my decision as was Ricki (Herbert) staying with the club.

“Ricki is the only coach I-ve had in my professional career and he has had a major influence on me.

“He knows what people are all about and gets the best out of you.”

Muscat-s arrival at the club will be part of Phoenix folklore for years to come.

With the club looking for an injury replacement for Vince Lia going into their second season, Muscat joined the team in Sydney and had one training session before heading to Wollongong for a friendly against Sydney FC.

Thrown into the fray in the unfamiliar position of left fullback, Muscat impressed Herbert so much that by halftime he had turned to then chief executive Tony Pignata and given him the thumbs up.

“The boys told me it was one of the best trials they had seen, and I feel it was one of the best games I-ve ever played,” Muscat, who had been playing for Green Gully, said.

“Players know how hard it is for someone going into a club for a trial but I felt welcome straight away and that is still how it is. Players trying out at the Phoenix are made to feel at home and that helps them show what they can do.”

When signing new contracts both Durante and Ifill said the closeness of the squad was a major factor in their decision and Muscat is no different.

“The Phoenix playing squad is second to none,” he says.

“I think the way we have been playing this season is testament to that. People write us off year after year and we try and prove them wrong.

“This year was especially difficult. We had the ownership issues and some bad injuries early on but we just got on with the job. There is tremendous character in this team.”

Muscat-s new deal will take his stay in Wellington to six years, something he never envisaged.

“I never thought I would be away from the family for that long, but I see them often because they are at many of our games in Australia.

“With the new contract, and a new baby, I-m starting a new journey and am looking forward to it.

“The only change I-d like to see is me return to the defensive midfield role I prefer. I-ve been happy to fill in at right back but hope to convince Ricki I should be in midfield where I feel more involved in the game.”

Herbert described Muscat-s signing as important for the club as they plan for next year.

It brings to 10 the number of players contracted for next year with Muscat joining Durante, Ifill, Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead, Tim Brown, Leo Bertos, Lucas Pantelis, Jimmy Downey and Mirjan Pavlovic on the playing roster.