Wellington Phoenix midfielder Vince Lia received an early birthday present today when he signed a new two-year contract with the A-League club.
Lia, the club's longest serving player, turns 29 next week and is delighted that he will be around for another two years at least.
"It is nice to have that security at this stage of my career," Lia said.
"I really wanted to stay here because I think the club is going in the right direction.
"There is a good feel about the place with young Kiwi boys coming through and Ernie (Merrick) has done a fine job in identifying the young talent we now have."
One of those young New Zealanders, Matt Ridenton, turned 18 today and Lia joked that the midfielder was only 11 when he joined the Phoenix.
"You only have to look at Matt's performance against Perth on Sunday to see what a promising player he is," Lia said.
"Here was a 17-year-old making his starting debut, lasting 90 minutes and getting better the longer the game went on.
"That he could fit seamlessly into the side showed we are on the right track."
Lia is enjoying his best season at the club and puts that down to the way Merrick has the team playing in his first season at the club.
"Ernie has changed the mind set and we are playing some good stuff," he says.
"I'm happy with my own form. I got a full pre-season under my belt, I'm seeing more of the ball and am more involved which makes it enjoyable."
A native of Shepparton in Victoria, Lia is looking forward to going "home" at the weekend to play Melbourne Heart, and says the Phoenix have a point to prove after losing 5-0 to the Heart and Westpac Stadium.
"A slow start to the season cost us. While we were playing well we weren't scoring goals.
"We have done well to get back into finals contention and with five games left we have to get on a run, starting on Sunday.
"That home loss to Heart was an aberration and we want to put it right."