Soccer: Phoenix sign under-20s captain Luke Adams

After one week's training with the Phoenix, New Zealand under-20 captain Luke Adams has been given a one-year professional contract. Photo/Richard Robinson.
After one week's training with the Phoenix, New Zealand under-20 captain Luke Adams has been given a one-year professional contract. Photo/Richard Robinson.

It didn't take long for Wellington Phoenix head coach Ernie Merrick to be impressed by New Zealand under-20 captain Luke Adams.

After one week's training with the Phoenix, Adams has been given a one-year professional contract, with the option of a second year.

He returned to New Zealand after a season with Derby County and will likely provide backup to skipper Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund. He also fills one of the three under-age spots required in each A-League outfit.

He had been on trial along with fullbacks Dominik Traunmueller, who was previously a member of Bayern Munich's under-19 team and holds a New Zealand passport, and Josh South.

Merrick said the 19-year-old Adams was the type of player he wanted to give an opportunity to.

"Luke has been a stand-out at training and fits into our plans for the squad, both as a player and a person,'' Merrick said. "He has proved himself at international level with the New Zealand under-17s and under-20s, not just as a player but as a leader through being captain of both teams. Luke ticks all the boxes and that is what we are about.

"I want to help develop young New Zealand players while at the same time signing the right players for the Phoenix.''

Adams, who prefers centre-back but can also play fullback, said he would play wherever his manager asked him.

"I'm just delighted that the Phoenix have given me a professional contract,'' Adams said. "It is a great opportunity and I will be giving it everything to prove I deserve it.

"I am looking forward to working under Ernie. He is very honest. He tells you what he expects and explains what you need to do to achieve it.''

Adams has always been on the radar so far as football's talent spotters are concerned.

After making his senior debut for Waitakere United at 15, becoming one of the youngest players to appear in the national competition, Adams had two spells with English club Birmingham City including a three-match tour of Slovakia with their under-18 side.

Adams sustained a serious knee injury while trialling with English Championship side Derby County but had done enough for the club to give him a one-year contract once he had recovered.

Released by Derby, Adams is determined to make an impression with the Phoenix and knows that could help him make the next step up on the international stage with the All Whites.

"That would be great but all I am focusing on now is doing well at the Phoenix,'' he said. "I've only been there a few days but the senior players have made me feel really welcome so I'm looking forward to the coming season.''

- APNZ

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