Phoenix’ Costa Rican striker going home

Kenny Cunningham is one of five players released by the Phoenix today with Michael Boxall, Josh Brindell-South, Tyler Boyd and Jason Hicks also departing.

Kenny Cunningham has loved his time with the Wellington Phoenix but feels the time is right to go home.

The Costa Rican striker has become a fan favourite during his two seasons with the club, and his two late goals against Central Coast Mariners when the Phoenix came from two goals down to win 3-2 will long be remembered in the club’s folklore.

Cunningham was one of five players officially released by the Phoenix today with Michael Boxall, Josh Brindell-South, Tyler Boyd and Jason Hicks also departing.

Boyd has signed a four-year deal in Portugal and Boxall has been rumoured to be on his way to South Africa, but Brindell-South and Hicks will be looking for clubs.

Cunningham joked that he had never expected Wellington people to like him so much.

“Everyone at the club and the supporters has been fantastic,” he said.

“I think I’ve done well in the year and a half I’ve been here and feel I can go home with my conscience saying I did my best.

“I really love the club and the people in it, but it has been difficult for the last eight months with my family being in Costa Rica after (wife) Natalia went home to have our second child.”

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said Cunningham’s attitude had been fantastic during his time at the club.

“Even when he was on the bench or out injured Kenny remained amazingly positive,” Merrick said.

“He was an example of how a professional footballer should behave.

“I wish him well in the future and I am sure he will be even happier playing closer to home.”

Merrick also paid tribute to the other players being released.

“Michael Boxall filled in with enthusiasm in every position he was asked to play and even became a goal scorer!

“Tyler (Boyd) has secured a good contract in Portugal and I wish him well in his new venture.

“Jason Hicks marked his time with the club by scoring a couple of vital and spectacular goals and I’m sure he will remain in football.

“Josh (Brindell-South) was unlucky in that when he got an opportunity he sustained a freak ankle injury but I’m sure he will find another club because he tries his best every training session and is a model professional.”