Wellington Phoenix’ visit to Auckland has paid dividends despite suffering a 1-0 loss to Auckland City...
Wellington Phoenix- visit to Auckland has paid dividends despite suffering a 1-0 loss to Auckland City with head coach Ernie Merrick confirming today he has signed City-s midfielder Albert Riera on a one-year contract.
While Merrick was assessing the prospects of trialists in his own team that day, he was particularly impressed with the display of 29-year-old Riera and invited the Spaniard to Wellington for a trial.
It didn-t take long for Merrick to decide that Riera was just the type of player he was looking for to add depth and experience to his midfield.
“Albert really stood up in that game and signing him gives us cover in midfield which is vital,” Merrick said.
“He is a ball winner and his passing is first class. He rarely gives the ball away and he will bring composure and on-field maturity to an important position.
“I had been looking for someone like Albert for a while because the modern game puts high physical demands on players, especially in midfield.
“On top of that we face some challenges other A-League clubs don-t have in that we often lose our All Whites on international duty.”
Merrick said the Spaniard-s arrival showed that the club had benefitted from taking pre-season games out of Wellington.
“Playing in Auckland, as well taking on the All Whites in Rotorua, gave me an opportunity to look at suitable players in a competitive situation,” he said.
“I-d heard about Albert but it was important to see him in a real game situation rather than a training situation in Wellington.”
Riera was today finding it difficult to comprehend what has happened to him over the past seven days and is determined not to waste the opportunity he has been given.
“I am still shocked because it has all happened so quickly,” Riera said.
“All I was focussed on was doing pre-season with Auckland to get myself fit for the coming season.
“When I spoke to Ernie and got to training I understood what he wants from me and I want the same things. I like the way he wants to play and know I can fit in with the team.
“Playing on Sunday (in an intra- squad game) in that fantastic stadium was great and I am going to enjoy Wellington.”
Ironically when Riera arrived in Auckland almost three years ago the last thing on his mind was playing football, especially not for a living.
“In Spain I was a paramedic and played semi-professional football,” he said.
“It was hard work fitting in my job and training and it got to the point where I felt I needed a break. I decided to take a year off and do some travelling with friends.
“That was how I ended up in Auckland and now I am a professional footballer! How good is that?”