Soccer: Phoenix sign another youth international

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick's search for a new left back has seen him add Australian under-20 international Reece Caira to the roster. Photo / Getty Images.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick's search for a new left back has seen him add Australian under-20 international Reece Caira to the roster. Photo / Getty Images.

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick's search for a new left back has seen him add Australian under-20 international Reece Caira to the roster.

When Merrick joined the Phoenix he pledged to give youth a chance, and he has so far kept his word.

Caira's signing on a two-year deal comes hard on the heels of New Zealand under-20 captain Luke Adams joining the club.

Merrick released veteran left back Tony Lochhead shortly after coming to the Phoenix.

Youngster Luke Rowe, who made his Phoenix debut last year and has one All Whites cap to his name, was thought to be a good chance of scoring a pro contract but that won't eventuate due to a perceived lack of pace.

The 20-year-old Caira is a left back or central midfielder who comes to the Phoenix from the Western Sydney Wanderers where he made two appearances last season after spending more than three years at English Premier League club Aston Villa.

Born in Gosford, Caira played his early junior football with local club Wyoming Tigers before joining the Central Coast Mariners academy and then moving on to Blacktown City.

It was at Villa that Caira began to blossom and though, in his own words, he didn't get close to a first team spot when he got a one-year contract, he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

"I got to see England and got a close look at how the professionals worked,'' Caira said.

"It put me in a good position when I was released and went back to Australia.

"I played in all the under-20 World Cup qualifying games but the success Wanderers had in their first season made it hard to break into the side so I asked permission to trial with the Phoenix to see if I could get more first team football.

"They agreed I could go to Wellington and I'm really excited to be joining the club.''

Merrick said Caira had a lot going for him and he was pleased to have secured him.

"Reece has a good background having represented Australia at under-20 level, and he is well-schooled in the game after three and a half years at Aston Villa,'' Merrick said.

"He can play at left back or midfield and that flexibility makes life easier for me.

"Up and coming players like Reece have got the speed and skills to play more than one position.

"His signing adds another youth international to our ranks which gives us a blend of experience and high quality young players.''

The Phoenix begin their season on October 13.

- An earlier version of this story stated that All White Ian Hogg had an unsuccessful trial at the Phoenix after his contract ended following the 2012-13 season. That is not the case and we apologise for the error.

- APNZ

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