Ifill back for Reds clash

Hard work in the gym rehabilitating his badly injured ankle has paid off for Paul Ifill who will fly with the rest of his Wellington Phoenix team-mates to Australia for their Hyundai A-League elimination semi-final showdown with Adelaide United on Friday night.

Hard work in the gym rehabilitating his badly injured ankle has paid off for Paul Ifill who will fly with the rest of his Wellington Phoenix team-mates to Australia for their Hyundai A-League elimination semi-final showdown with Adelaide United on Friday night.

When the star striker was carried off the pitch on a stretcher during the 4-0 win over Newcastle Jets back in mid December it looked like his season was over.

But while his team-mates have been doing the business on the pitch in the past few weeks to secure the sixth and final play-off spot, Ifill has been in the gym twice a day to give himself a chance of playing in his second successive A-League finals series.

"It gave me something to aim at," Ifill said. "If we weren't going to make the play-offs I probably would have taken another two, three or four weeks just to let it settle."

"But when it looked as though we were going to make it I spoke to the physio and he felt the same and said 'let's have a go, let's push it'."

Ifill then got clearance from the specialist to do just that. "I've been in the gym solidly for the last five or six weeks. It's been tough but once you sort of see the light at the end of the tunnel it becomes quite enjoyable and you get addicted to it.

"I'm glad it's done and hopefully I can make an impact with the team."

Ifill admits the ankle is still a bit sore and that he hasn't got the fitness or match sharpness to start against Adelaide United but he still believes he has a role to play.

"I probably won't be at full sharpness until the start of next season. Even if we made the final I can't see me starting at any point again this season," he said.

"But it's good for me to be on the bench and for (coach) Ricki (Herbert) to bring me on as and when he needs me."

"I hope it's a case that we are two or three-nil up and I haven't got to play. It would be nice to have an extra week to be right for the next one."

However, the prospect of playing alongside the increasingly impressive Marco Rojas does appeal to Ifill.

"We did it quite a bit in pre-season and we've done it all the time in training. You see it every day here, he leaves people tangled up on the floor all the time," Ifill added.

"It was a case of whether he was going to be able to bring it to the big games and he's been able to do that - home and away - it's brilliant to see."

"We all knew he had the potential to do it but to actually go out there and perform week in week out is the big thing, especially at 19, it's not easy."

"He's done a great job and it's been good to watch. I'm looking forward to getting on the pitch with him hopefully."

Rojas is off contract at the end of the season and Ifill joined the chorus of those imploring the youngster, who was given his chance at the Phoenix through a Yellow Fever scholarship, to stay in Wellington.

"People have read that story the world over and it's an amazing thing that the Yellow Fever did for him," the striker said.

"He should pay that back in one more year at least."

"I think he is better off staying here and learning his trade. I've seen a lot of players with that sort of potential go too early and end up dropping down the leagues (in England)."

"I know it's different in England but you just don't want to jump ship too early."