Keeper To Make Debut For Phoenix

Tony Warner will make his debut in goal for Wellington Phoenix against Melbourne Heart in a practice game at Shepparton tonight.

Tony Warner will make his debut in goal for Wellington Phoenix against Melbourne Heart in a practice game at Shepparton tonight.

Warner was always going to play some part in the game but was promoted to the starting line up when Mark Paston felt a niggle in his groin during a morning training session.

Coach Ricki Herbert said pulling Paston out was a precautionary move.

“Mark could probably have played but it is no use taking chances at this point in our build up,” Herbert said.

“We are probably about half way through our pre-season and the players will have next week off as part of a maintenance programme.

“When we come back three of the players - Tony Warner, Paul Ifill and Manny Muscat - will be away on international duty so that is something else we will have to manage.

“It is great for the boys involved because it is always a proud moment when you are chosen to represent your country.”

Herbert said the Melbourne Heart game was the end of phase one of pre-season for the Phoenix. Phase two would start when the players returned from a week off.

“We will start again building up to the game against Central Coast Mariners in Tauranga {September 25) and then we will only be 10 days away from our opening game with Gold Coast.

“It is an incredibly long pre-season and one no footballer has had to deal with in the past.

“Each club will have dealt with it in their own way, and some will be ahead and some behind depending on the choices they have made.”

For Warner who only arrived in Wellington recently, the pre-season doesn-t seem so bad.

“I missed pre-season in England so with another six weeks or so to go it seems just about right to me,” the big keeper said.

“I-m really looking forward to playing against Heart. I was always going to play some part in the game but now I-ve got the chance to start.

“It will be interesting to see it from the sharp end rather than from the bench as I did against Brisbane.

“Looking at the game the standard in the A-League is good.

“I haven-t played since May which makes me look forward to it even more.”

Warner said he had made Trinidad officials aware of the fact he hadn-t played for a while, but they still selected him and he is just waiting for flight confirmation.

He expects to leave from Melbourne or Wellington in the next two days. Trinidad will be playing Barbados, a side that includes his great mate Ifill.

“That will be interesting - if he gets selected,” Warner said with a laugh.

The Phoenix starting line up against Melbourne Heart at Deakin Reserve is: Tony Warner, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante, Bryan Bran, Tony Lochhead, Vince Lia, Manny Muscat, Tim Brown, Paul Ifill, Mirjan Pavlovic and Lucas Pantelis.