Arsenal fan Boxall gunning for EPL scalps

Phoenix star Michael Boxall jokes he has enough trouble trying to shackle the likes of Loic Remy, Andy Carroll and Papiss Cisse while playing FIFA video games.

Phoenix star Michael Boxall jokes he has enough trouble trying to shackle the likes of English Premier League stars Loic Remy, Andy Carroll and Papiss Cisse while playing FIFA video games.

But the Wellington Phoenix defender is relishing the chance to play those football superstars face-to-face when EPL clubs West Ham and Newcastle United head to New Zealand in July.

The Phoenix pulled off a major coup attracting the Hammers and Toon Army to play in a four-team pre-season tournament alongside fellow Hyundai A-League club Sydney FC.

After the huge success of last year's tours Down Under by Liverpool and Manchester United, the visit of West Ham and Newcastle further underlines how much the A-League has boomed.

And Boxall is excited to be a part of it and the chance to make up for those video game struggles against some of the world's best attackers.

"Obviously Newcastle have some class players that I struggle to shut down on FIFA, let alone on the pitch," the New Zealand international said.

"But it will be a good spectacle and it's a challenge I'm sure all the boys are looking forward to.

"I think the odds would be quite long for me to get the better of Andy Carroll in the air. They've got a lot of quality players and I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing Kevin Nolan and Ravel Morrison go to work.

"It's a big coup from our club to get some decent premiership sides to come to this side of the world."

Boxall started his professional career with the Vancouver White Caps in the MLS in 2011 before returning to his homeland and the Phoenix at the start of the 2012/13 season.

In a rollercoaster campaign for the club this season, the 25-year-old right-back was one of Ernie Merrick's most consistent performers.

"If these kinds of tours become regularity, it would be huge for the profile and growth of football in NZ.

"In recent years there's been opportunities for football in NZ to grab the spotlight usually reserved for rugby but it didn't come to fruition, so this is a positive step by the club and hopefully the start of a bigger following for Wellington, the All Whites and football in general in NZ."

The Phoenix, who finished the recent A-League season in ninth spot, return for pre-season training at the start of June.

Boxall said the squad is keen to be big improvers next campaign and said the opportunity to take on - and hopefully beat - high profile opposition was a huge incentive heading into pre-season training.

"It's going to be the beginning of pre-season for all clubs but that won't mean anyone will hold back," he said.

"Any time you face a big name team or player, it adds a little something special so getting a result over these teams will for sure be added motivation."

And as a big Arsenal fan, Boxall couldn't help a dig at one of their EPL rivals either but also believes tours like this are vital for the development of Kiwi football.

"Hopefully this can become an annual thing and, who knows, maybe other mid-table teams like Man United may come out too," he joked.

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