Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Soccer: Fenton making a name for himself

Club insiders say Fenton has pace, mental toughness, precocious ability with the ball at his feet and the courage to take on and beat opponents. Photo / Getty
Club insiders say Fenton has pace, mental toughness, precocious ability with the ball at his feet and the courage to take on and beat opponents. Photo / Getty

There are plenty of examples of children being named after famous sportspeople but Louis Fenton's situation is hard to beat.

The Phoenix midfielder, an early season revelation at the Wellington club, carries the full name of Louis Ferenc Puskas Fenton, in deference to the Hungarian football legend.

Puskas scored 84 goals in 85 internationals, including two in each of Hungary's most famous wins over England, 6-3 at Wembley in 1953 and 7-1 in Budapest in 1954.

He also starred in the great Real Madrid side that dominated Europe in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

He is recognised as one of the greatest players of all time and in 2009, the Fifa Puskas Award was introduced for the player who scores the "most beautiful" goal every year.

"My dad was football-crazy and my mum is from Hungary," says Fenton. "Put all that together and somehow they came up with that. For a long time, I was definitely embarrassed by it and I wasn't too impressed with my father.

It wasn't the best middle name to have at school."

Growing up in Tawa in the late 1990s, there wasn't much awareness of a little-known (in New Zealand, at least) Eastern European legend but the Puskas name has plenty of resonance around the Phoenix dressing room.

"The boys have given me plenty of stick," admits Fenton. "They always tell me it's the worst middle name they've ever heard."

However, that has been just about the only source of jibes coming Fenton's way - he has been a model professional since he arrived at the Phoenix as part of the Academy in June.

He impressed on the pre-season tour to India and coach Ricki Herbert handed him one of three youth spots with the Phoenix.

Having made the squad, Fenton forced his way into the starting 11, culminating in a dream first A-League game where he upstaged Alessandro Del Piero on the Italian legend's Sydney FC debut.

It's been a rapid rise, considering this time 12 months ago, he was an unknown preparing for his first ASB Premiership season with Team Wellington.

"So far, it's been a dream come true," says Fenton. "Everything has happened so fast, probably too fast for me to get a big head or anything like that. I know I have a lot of work ahead of me this year.

"I knew that first game was going to be my easiest, because after that, teams will get to know me and what it is I like to do."


Fenton is a graduate of Central League club Tawa. He went to Australia last year, appearing for St Albans in the Victorian State League but it was a difficult experience as the Saints were relegated. Fenton stood out for Team Wellington in the 2011-12 ASB Premiership (eight goals in 12 games) before returning for another stint in the VPL, this time with the Melbourne Knights.

"That experience [in Australia] was pretty important," says Fenton. "It toughened me up and improved my skills. It's more physical (than the ASB Premiership) and there's lots of passion from the supporters."

The 19-year-old Fenton attracted the attention of both Melbourne A-League clubs but his import status was always going to be problematic. A phone call from Herbert asking him to come home stymied any potential rival bids. Aside from his obvious attacking skills and eye for goal, Fenton's work ethic has been a stand-out through his career.

"What sets him apart from other players of his age is his work rate," says Team Wellington coach Matt Calcott. "He has taken some pretty big steps over the last 18 months but his energy levels are incredible. Every time he hits the park, he finds that level of consistency rare in players of his age."

Fenton and fellow youth player Tyler Boyd have recently been promoted to the senior dressing room but otherwise still have to fulfil all of the tasks associated with an Academy player, modelled on the British apprentice system.

Fenton arrives at 8am every morning and helps with various tasks before training, including pumping up the footballs and preparing protein shakes. After training, and the afternoon gym sessions, Fenton finishes each day by cleaning the boots of Paul Ifill and Chris Greenacre.

"It's fine," says Fenton. "It's all part of the job. They have been great to me, always helping me out with plenty of advice and tips."

Fenton still has a lot to prove - and will have plenty of ups and downs this season - but his promise is unquestioned.

Some club insiders feel he has the potential to be better than Marco Rojas, the last wunderkind to emerge from the Phoenix.

He has pace, mental toughness, precocious ability with the ball at his feet (the benefit of endless dribbling drills in the park with his father) and the courage to take on and beat opponents.

Fenton, who lists fellow Wellingtonian Vaughan Coveny as an inspiration, is clear on his goals.

"I'd like to establish myself in the A-League and one day be seen as one of the better players in the competition," says Fenton. "Then I would like to go over to Europe and do well there. That's the plan. And of course it would be a dream to play for the All Whites one day."

- Herald on Sunday

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