Hamish Watson turned 23 on Sunday and today received the birthday present he was wishing for when he signed a one-year professional contract with the Wellington Phoenix.
A former member of the Phoenix Football School of Excellence, Watson played two A-League games for the club before going to England where he played for Grimsby Town and went on loan to Gainsborough United.
When things didn’t work out in England the ebullient striker returned to New Zealand to join ASB Premiership club Hawke’s Bay United and began scoring goals that alerted Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick when he had to look for an injury replacement for Roy Krishna in February.
In his second outing the strong striker scored two goals against Newcastle Jets before getting himself sent off for kicking the ball away at a free-kick.
That blemish aside Watson has impressed since his return and today got his reward.
“It is great to have signed as a fully-fledged professional,” the likeable Watson said.
“The right people want me at the club and Ernie has been really supportive.
“I was surprised when I got a second chance with the Phoenix and I am now determined to make the most of it.
“The spell overseas definitely helped me. It was tough at the time but I wouldn’t be talking to you today if it hadn’t improved me.
“This is a great chance for me and I want to make myself the No 1 striker at the club.
“The priority is to score goals and repay Ernie Merrick for the faith he has shown in me.”
Watson’s career received a further boost this week when he was asked to attend an All Whites camp in Auckland during May.
Should he do well there is a chance he could make the All Whites squad for a training camp in Brisbane starting on May 18.
Should he miss out on that the consolation prize is a trip with a young Phoenix squad to the Hong Kong Sevens! Not bad.
Watson’s signing shows the Phoenix’ initiative in setting up a School of Excellence is still paying dividends and with the Phoenix playing exciting attacking football all the team needs is someone putting the ball in the net.
Watson is determined to be that player.