Tyler Boyd: He shoots, he scores

By Peter White


It has easily been the biggest week in Tyler Boyd's young football career.

The 17-year-old striker made his A-League debut off the bench for the Wellington Phoenix in last weekend's 2-0 win over a strong Sydney FC team featuring 37-year-old Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero.

Just six months ago, Boyd was playing for Melville United in Hamilton, but so much has happened to the former Tauranga Boys' College student in a short time.

In June, he arrived in Wellington with seven other young hopefuls as the first intake into the world class Phoenix School of Excellence that was established to prepare the best of our young talented players for professional careers.

"I think we are the luckiest young players to have the school and it is an amazing opportunity we have been given," Boyd said.

"Even in Australia, I don't think the academies there get to train with the first team day in and day out, get to go to the gym with them, and being in that environment you get so many tips from the pros and hands-on coaching from Ricki [Herbert] and Chris [Greenacre]."

The Phoenix pre-season tour to India was the making of Boyd in many ways, as it was in that difficult environment he proved to Ricki Herbert and the other coaching staff he could handle the big step up.

"It was definitely interesting as far as the culture and places we went to are concerned but in terms of achieving what it was supposed to achieve, I thought it did that," Boyd said.

"As a group we got a lot closer and all the School of Excellence players got to know the pros a lot better and it was a great trip. I tried my hardest, listened to the coaches and tried to impress so that Indian tour was fairly important to me getting into the Phoenix."

After the Indian odyssey, Boyd became the first graduate from the School of Excellence to join the pro ranks when he signed a three-year deal with the Phoenix, less than three months after joining the academy.

He joined an impressive line-up of talented strikers in Paul Ifill, Stein Huysegems, Benjamin Totori and Jeremy Brockie and his first team debut came immediately in the season opener against Sydney FC.

"It was an honour to be the first player out of the School of Excellence to be signed, especially being the youngest there. It has definitely jump-started my career, as far as getting noticed and giving me a chance to be the best I can be, with opportunities to play in the A-League."

The moment he ran on to Westpac Stadium in Wellington for his debut was a complex mix of emotions for Boyd.

"There was definitely a lot of nerves and anxiety but I was extremely happy at the same time. The buzz when I got out there was extreme, so inflamed and I have not felt anything like it with the support I was given by the home fans there.

"It was definitely a step up to what I have been used to but I had been training with the Phoenix A-League players every day for three months and I guess that prepared me pretty well."

Playing against Del Piero was another thrill for Boyd, who proved in his time on the pitch he has the technical skills and mental strength to succeed at this level.

"I didn't get a chance to talk to him after the game but I shook his hand afterwards, and to play against him on my debut is something I will tell my kids about in years to come. It was a great opportunity and an experience I probably won't forget."

And so to the future for this remarkably talented young footballer, who has a natural goalscorer's ability to take chances but also the passing game and unselfish attitude to be a quality midfielder.

"Every young kid obviously wants to play in Europe when they're older but I want to establish myself in the A-League and prove myself there first. I guess to score a few goals would be nice to help me establish myself in the team."

Another short term goal for Boyd is to make the New Zealand squad that will play qualifying matches in Fiji in January for the Fifa Under-20 World Cup, to be played in Turkey in June 2013.

He is hoping he will make the team alongside Waikato players Ryan Thomas and Jesse Edge, who were all in year 9 together at Tauranga Boys' College.

But Boyd's immediate focus is all about Sunday's clash with Melbourne Heart, at AAMI Park.

The fixture is one of the toughest every season but has become an even more daunting prospect as the All Whites are playing a World Cup qualifier the same weekend in Tahiti.

With coach Herbert and seven regular players in Papeete rather than Melbourne, the onus is squarely on the young guns at the Phoenix to step up. Boyd will be joined by School of Excellence goalkeeper Scott Basalaj and midfielder Louis Fenton, who scored the winner against Sydney FC last weekend.

It is a challenge Boyd is looking forward to. He would love to help the Phoenix win their second straight game and also score his first goal in what he hopes will be a long and successful A-League career.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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