Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Soccer: Huysegems to add firepower to the Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix are touting Stein Huysegems as the 'most highly rated overseas player to join the Wellington Phoenix. Photo / Guy Smith / Yellow Fever.
Wellington Phoenix are touting Stein Huysegems as the 'most highly rated overseas player to join the Wellington Phoenix. Photo / Guy Smith / Yellow Fever.

Stein Huysegems played against Alessandro Del Piero in Belgium's 3-1 defeat to Italy in 2008 and he will come up against Del Piero again in his A-League debut for the Wellington Phoenix on October 6.

Both players have hit the headlines since signing with A-League clubs - Del Piero is the marquee signing for Sydney FC - but both come with considerably different backgrounds.

When Del Piero was in Sydney's sights, there was widespread excitment and interest. When Huysegems signed for Wellington, there were plenty heading for Google to find out who he is.

The club are touting the 30-year-old as the 'most highly rated overseas player to join the Wellington Phoenix'. It now remains to be seen whether he can match those expectations.

Huysegems, a former Belgian international who represented his country 15 times between 2004 and 2009, was officially unveiled by the Phoenix today and comes with a good CV.

He spent 14 years in the Dutch and Belgian top leagues, appearing for clubs such as Feyenoord, AZ and FC Twente, played in the 2005 Uefa Cup semifinal for AZ when they were pipped on away goals by eventual runners-up Sporting and took the field against Arsenal in the Champion's League for FC Twente in 2008.

Huysegems' addition will provide variety to Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert who also has new attacking weapons Jeremy Brockie and Benjamin Totori at his disposal to work alongside Paul Ifill.

The Phoenix have struggled to find enough spark in the front third of the pitch during recent years and have often relied heavily on Ifill's magic to provide the impetus, but Huysegems will give Herbert options to employ different ideas up front.

"I just think he fitted the criteria that we want for a player," Herbert said. "He can probably play either side of the front two. He could probably play wide in a front three. The experience he has from the sides that he's played in I think helps us and that quality on top of the new signings that we have are probably quite complementary. We've got good players from behind the ball so somebody to play up alongside a Brockie or an Ifill is really what we've been looking for."

Herbert said his side would go into this season in great shape when they open their campaign against Sydney FC on October 6.

"We've proven now that we've been the most consistent side in the league for the last three years, top four in two of those seasons," he said.

"So we are right on the brink, I think. We probably bring this year a little more pace to the side. I think we look a little better. There will be a number of new faces that takes a little time to gel but we've got to be a good shot this year. We go in to the season very confident."

Huysegems, who will wear No 10 this season, will go through a VO2 max test on Monday and Herbert said they hoped to give him some game time in a pre-season hit-out against Team Wellington on Tuesday night.

Huysegems, who sought the advice of former teammate and Melbourne Victory striker Archie Thompson before agreeing to move to Wellington, admitted there was a weight of expectation that came with being a highly-touted signing but the father of two said he was ready to embrace it.

"I think everywhere you go you feel the pressure to play good games," he said. "Of course when you get a chance to come over here you try to get the best of yourself and I hope to play very good games, try to score a lot of goals and hopefully it's going to work."

- APNZ

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