'It’s special to come back here and say goodbye' - Durante's bids Phoenix fans emotional farewell

Wellington Phoenix legend and all-time A-League appearance record holder Andrew Durante says it was special to return to New Zealand with Western United and bid his former side and fans farewell, after recently announcing his imminent retirement.

Durante played 273 times for Wellington throughout his 11-year stay at the club.

The 39-year-old's 357th A-League appearance came in his second season at Western United against the 'Nix on a special occasion for the club, as they returned to play on home soil for the first time in 433 days after spending the majority of the 2020/21 A-League campaign based in Wollongong. 

The Phoenix put on a show for the home fans on Saturday, May 22, beating Durante's United 3-0 at Sky Stadium, with the result all-but ending the Green and Black's hopes of stealing a spot on the Finals Series.

Speaking to Sky Sports post-match, Durante let his emotions flow as he described the feeling of returning to Sky Stadium for one last time as a player, with just three games remaining before the end of the 2020/21 season - and his 20-year playing career which began at NSL side Sydney Olympic in 2001.

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Durante with family during his final campaign in Phoenix colours in January, 2019
Durante with family during his final campaign in Phoenix colours in January, 2019

"On a personal note its the last time I’ll be at (Sky Stadium), and I’ve had some amazing moments here so it was special to say goodbye tonight," Durante said.

"I timed it knowing there was a home game going to be here, and spending 11 years here and playing over 100 games on this turf, I thought it was the right time to do it.

"I just want to say thank you to the fans, and everyone in Wellington who has treated me so well. Thank you.

"I wanted to go out on my terms, I get the opportunity to do that and go out playing, it’s special to come back here and say goodbye."

"It’s probably the end of our ambitions for Finals football," Durante added.

"But (for) me personally I’ve got three games left in my career - I want to make the most of it and enjoy it as much as I can."

Durante: I've had some amazing moments here | Interview | A-League