Soccer: Recruits beef up clubs in Champions League

Jeremy Christie. Photo / Ron Gaunt
Jeremy Christie. Photo / Ron Gaunt

The return of a forgotten All White and the debut of a former Croatian age-group international will add spice to the vital Oceania Champions League clash between Waitakere United and Auckland City today.

With both New Zealand sides in the same group, the result of this match could go a long way towards determining who grabs top spot and pole position for entry into the Fifa Club World Cup and US$500,000 prizemoney. The group matches finish at the end of this month, with the top two teams in each group going to the semifinals in May.

Both teams have significantly bolstered their squads since the end of the ASB Premiership. Perhaps of most interest is the return of former All White Jeremy Christie to these shores. Christie was one of the bolters in Ricki Herbert's 2010 World Cup squad, plucked out of the second-tier US competition.

Christie left the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Football League at the end of the 2011 season after a hip injury. The 29-year-old spent a few months living with Winston Reid in London and trialled with clubs in England without success.

Waitakere's other recruits include midfielder Chris Palmer from Burton, striker Billy Colton, who has played English non-league football, and former Waitakere striker Rory Turner.

Auckland City have brought back two-cap All White Adam McGeorge from Wellington and Darren White from Canterbury but Croatian Mario Bilen is of most interest.

Bilen, 28, is a former Croatian youth international who represented his country 23 times at age-group level. The skilful central defender joins City from Croatian first division club NK Zadar.

• All Whites coach Ricki Herbert has approached Western Sydney Wanderers winger Kwabena Appiah-Kubi about declaring his allegiance for New Zealand.

Appiah-Kubi was born in New Zealand to Ghanaian parents before moving to Sydney aged seven, making him eligible for three countries.

Appiah-Kubi said he was in no hurry to make a decision but he confirmed Herbert approached him when the minor premiership-winning Wanderers were in Wellington beating the Phoenix.

- Herald on Sunday

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