Soccer: Ridenton signs for Phoenix

Youngsters the world over dream of becoming a professional footballer and today Auckland 17-year-old Matthew Ridenton is living that dream.

Ridenton is in the United Arab Emirates preparing for New Zealand's opening game against Uruguay at the Fifa under-17 World Cup early tomorrow morning (NZ time).

If that wasn't enough to get the juices flowing, it was confirmed today that Ridenton has signed a three-year professional contract with the Wellington Phoenix to become the latest recruit for "Merrick's Minors".

Speaking from the UAE Ridenton said it was hard to comprehend what was happening on the footballing front.

"It has all come about so quickly," he said.

"I was invited to trial with the Phoenix a few weeks ago and now I am a professional footballer which is something I have wanted all my life.

"Being here (the World Cup) is exciting and now I have something else to look forward to when it is over.

"Playing against the best of your age group in the world will be a fantastic experience and I can't wait for it to start."

Ridenton said he felt comfortable from the moment he walked into the Phoenix dressing room at the club's Newtown Park base.

"It is a great environment for a young player to go into," Ridenton said.

"The senior players are great. They make you feel welcome and are always willing to help out.

"It also helps having Alex (fellow under-17 international Alex Rufer) there and I know all the other young guys."

Ridenton comes from good footballing stock with his father Michael being part of the all-conquering Mount Wellington team of the 80s.

Ridenton senior played 40 times for New Zealand and Merrick is confident young Matt will follow the same path.

"I have no doubt that Matthew is one of the future stars of New Zealand football," Merrick said.

"He is very skilful and mature beyond his years.

"We have done our due diligence on him and he trained well when he was with us.
"He played for New Zealand A against the Phoenix, and even though he was out of position in that game he was one of the better players on the field.

"Matthew is aware of his passing options, makes decisions quickly and is composed on the ball at all times.

"He is a terrific signing for the future but I wouldn't be surprised if he landed a place in the starting line up before the season ends."

- APNZ

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