Teenager Tyler Boyd is living the dream at the Wellington Phoenix - and he has seven of his mates along for the ride.
The 17-year-old was one of eight players chosen for the Phoenix's first School of Excellence intake and is determined to make the most of the chance he has been given.
Injuries to senior players have allowed all eight youngsters to make the trip to India to take part in a four-team pre-season tournament.
Suspensions to Manny Muscat, Ben Sigmund and Andrew Durante presented further opportunities to the apprentice players and Boyd has been named in the starting line-up for the Phoenix to meet URO Sikkim United tonight.
As the party flew from New Delhi to Impahl yesterday another young hopeful, Louis Fenton, was sitting next to Phoenix captain Andrew Durante, something that would have been the farthest thing from his mind a little over two months ago.
"That is the sort of thing you never imagine happening," Boyd said.
"I've never experienced anything remotely like it and what we have been given is a fantastic opportunity.
"Being picked for the trip to India is a massive bonus, and I'm glad we all made it because we have become great mates in such a short time.
"I know we are all chasing a contract at the Phoenix but I honestly believe the others will be happy for those who are successful."
Asked about his upbringing Boyd laughs as he explains he was "made in the United States and born in New Zealand".
His mother Sherry and father Ric were living in America but returned to New Zealand for his birth.
Boyd admitted the prospect of going into a professional environment alongside seasoned pros was a daunting prospect but he soon settled down.
"I didn't know what to expect and was really nervous, but the way the senior players have accepted us has made it much easier than I expected."
The chance for Boyd to join the Phoenix School of Excellence came out of the blue in a phone call from goalkeeping coach Jonathan Gould who, along with assistant coach Chris Greenacre, has been instrumental in setting it up.
Boyd snapped up the offer and has quickly made an impression on those around him.
In a recent pre-season game against Miramar he scored four goals and had a hand in another couple in a 9-0 win.
Phoenix: Glen Moss, Leo Bertos, Michael Boxall, Tony Lochhead, Luke Rowe, Louis Fenton, Cameron Lindsay, Alex Smith, Benjamin Totori, Paul Ifill, Tyler Boyd. Substitutes: Scott Basalaj, Jeremy Brockie, Tom Biss, Tom Doyle, Alec Solomons, Justin Gulley.
- APNZBy Daniel Richardson @danrichardson21 Email Daniel