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While Christmas Day looms large this yuletide season, it's New Year's Eve Tony Lochhead can't wait to cross off on his calendar.
It will signal the end of a frustrating year for the 23-year-old All White who, in the space of 12 months, has experienced enough highs and lows to last him a lifetime.
Lochhead, back home for a month with his family in Te Puna, shakes his head in bewilderment at how his year turned out.
"It's been a pretty good note to finish the year on but, on reflection, it's been crazy for the most part and one where I've definitely learned how to take the good with the bad."
The All Whites defender was the 33rd pick in the MLS super draft earlier this year after a successful collegiate career at the University of California-Santa Barbara, where he missed just five matches in his four years.
The 7546 minutes he played in the team is a university record and Lochhead was an All-American defender (the top 11 players picked from 200 college teams) after his Santa Barbara Gauchos side made the NCAA division I final.
Lochhead was drafted by Boston-based New England Revolution in the MLS _ but that's where it started to unravel for the former New Zealand Young Player of the Year.
He hedged his bets, opting to trial in Europe for a month instead of signing immediately with the MLS but limped home after wrecking his ankle playing for Belgian champions Anderlecht.
Back home in Santa Barbara recuperating, Lochhead's run of bad fortune hadn't ended.
The former Otumoetai College student contracted glandular fever, nailing him for seven weeks and ruling him out of the All Whites' June international against Australia in London. He made it back to Europe in August but eventually signed for New England after planned trials in Sweden and Norway came to nothing. He warmed the bench for the rest of the season as Revolution won through to the MLS final, losing 1-0 in overtime to LA Galaxy.
"It's been a weird year looking back because every time things started to look good something else would happen to tip the whole thing on its head," Lochhead said, a slight American twang evident in his voice.
Lochhead has followed All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen into the United States' top professional league but admits his initial refusal to sign a four-year MLS deal raised a few eyebrows.
"I'd decided before the draft that I wanted to try my luck in Europe. It was somewhere I'd always wanted to go and many of my New Zealand under-17 team-mates headed there after we played in the world champs."
He struggled in his first week at Anderlecht but was asked to stay on for another week. Just when it looked like he might have a future with the league leaders Lochhead's fate was sealed during a reserve XI outing at Belgium's national stadium.
"A guy came in on the tackle and went straight over the top, definitely illegal. I thought I'd sprained my right ankle and got it taped at halftime, hoping to play on, but couldn't move and hobbled off."
His second stint in Europe opened a few doors in Scandanavia but no firm offers came his way.
"I'm definitely glad I gave it a shot _ it was a good experience and good to put myself in an awkward situation, outside of my comfort zone, because it's not easy to trial in a foreign country."
Glandular fever kicked Lochhead far harder than any opposition defenders, although there was a silver lining to the looming cloud, with Lochhead use his seven-week recuperation to complete his business economics major.
At a loss to explain why hours of training weren't producing the results he was expecting, Lochhead was stunned when glandular fever was diagnosed.
"I was training hard but was left wondering what the hell I was doing wrong because I was tired and out of breath. Once I knew it was glandular fever I just shut down for seven weeks, pretty much just dragging myself to class and sleeping the rest of the time.
"It was pretty rugged and I was cramming and going to summer school to get it all finished but I'm glad I could leave having finished my major."
Three months in Boston, where the temperatures have now dipped to near freezing, proved to be an eye-opener. The closest he got to first team action was warming the bench as Revolution won through to the MLS final in Dallas.
Rookie MLS players earn between $50,000-$100,000, with Lochhead supplementing his salary with an endorsement deal with sportswear company Pony International. Keen to exploit their Kiwi international, Pony made Lochhead their pin-up boy, morphing him into a crazed comic book character for a series of posters and postcards.
"It was cool becoming an action figure but it's all been a bit of a laugh really. I actually think it's a pretty good likeness but friends were pretty quick to point out that I was drawn kicking the ball with my right foot when I'm left-footed!"
Lochhead's curly mass of blonde hair and Kiwi accent quickly scored him a small legion of fans who chant "Kiwi, Kiwi" whenever he warms up in front of home supporters.
He hopes to be able to give them something more than a woolly mop of hair and his nationality to cheer about next season.
"The coach said he wasn't looking to play me (last season), which I understood, but I'm keen for some first team action and to establish myself in this league. I spoke with Nelly (Nelsen, who plays for Blackburn) and he said to give it a good go before I look to Europe again."
Lochhead's home for six weeks.
Come January and it's back to Boston for pre-season training in the snow.