Soccer: Injury may end Ifill's playing days at Phoenix

By Kris Shannon

Paul Ifill was in agony with a ruptured Achilles tendon before he was carried off the field. Photo / Getty Images
Paul Ifill was in agony with a ruptured Achilles tendon before he was carried off the field. Photo / Getty Images

Paul Ifill may have played his last game for the Wellington Phoenix after confirming he ruptured his Achilles tendon in Sunday's win over Sydney.

Probably the best player to wear the Phoenix shirt in the club's seven-year history, Ifill is facing a lengthy rehabilitation and will be off contract at the end of the campaign.

There were already questions surrounding the 34-year-old's future after his reduced role so far this season, and those will be intensified by the injury blow.

But even with an eight-to-12 month recovery in front of him, a defiant Ifill insisted he would play again in some form.

"Football has been my life and I want to continue playing at whatever level I can," he said. "Whether it is in the park with my mates, in the ASB Championship or the A-League I will be playing.

"I will do the rehab and then see where we are but no way am I going to call it a day."

Ifill went down without contact during the second half of Wellington's maiden victory of the season, appearing to be in agony before being taken from the field on a stretcher.

"I went to push off then heard a bang and thought someone had trod on my Achilles," he said. "I thought, 'that has to be a foul', and then realised there was no one around me and the pain was so intense."

It will be the third successive year that Ifill has spent Christmas in a moon boot and, considering his injury-prone nature and contract status, the Phoenix may be ready to move on without the man who has been their talisman since joining the club in 2009.

Sunday's match was Ifill's 108th for Wellington, leaving him eighth-equal on the all-time list, but it would be a risk to commit to another contract in the hope of him adding to that number.

Ifill occupies an import spot which could well be used elsewhere and, having hinted at remaining in the capital once he hangs up the boots, he wouldn't be lost to the club altogether.

In the meantime, Merrick may look to recruit a replacement player. One name bound to crop up is that of Aaron Clapham, with the All White in red-hot form for Canterbury United in the ASB Premiership.

The attacking midfielder, who leads the league with five goals, has long been linked to the Phoenix and would provide depth in an area which now appears diluted.

- APNZ

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