WIND the clock back nine years and Hawke's Bay United footballer Cory Chettleburgh was knocking on the door of a professional contract with the Wellington Phoenix.
It was 2010 and the then 18-year-old Manawatu midfielder was in a two-way battle for the final spot on the Phoenix roster. But the Phoenix coach at the time, Ricki Herbert, chose Australian striker Mirjan Pavlovic instead.
Tomorrow Chettleburgh wil have another opportunity to show former All Whites mentor Herbert what he missed out on when Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United host Herbert's Hamilton Wanderers in a fourth round ISPS Handa Premiership match at Napier's Bluewater Stadium.
"It was a little bit of a blessing in disguise. Because I missed out on the Phoenix I got to spend three years in Holland," Chettleburgh said after a gym session yesterday.
He was referring to his brief spells in the Netherlands playing for Sparta Rotterdam and WHC Wezep.
"Ricki had his reasons for not picking me. He want on to achieve some good things as a coach. Hopefully he doesn't achieve too much this weekend and I can help the Bay be on the right side of things," third-season Hawke's Bay United player Chettleburgh said.
Hawke's Bay United coach Brett Angell said yesterday he would wait until after last night training before deciding on Chettleburgh's role for tomorrow's game.
"He brings us flexibility. While Cory operates well in the midfield he also combined well with Sam [Mason-Smith] up front last weekend. I need as long as possible to decide where he will start."
Chettleburgh, who played his winter football for Wairarapa United, said he enjoyed linking up with Mason-Smith up front against Auckland City and he would be confident in either position.
Like most ardent followers of the league, Chettleburgh is full of admiration for the Wanderers' front three of Tommy Semmy, Derek Tieku and Napier City Rovers player Martin Bueno.
"They have a lot of firepower and a lot of pace. We'll have a tough job to keep them under control but we have the players to look after them."
Well known for his discipline lapses in the past including verbal abuse of match officials, Chettleburgh has come a long way since then and Angell believed his maturity levels have grown as the responsibilities to his wife and two children aged 8 and 1 months have increased.
"It's not just about being a dad. But I have become a more mature person and can keep my head on," Chettleburgh said.
He is confident there is enough talent in this summer's United squad to push for a top four spot, and then the top spot to qualify for the O League.
"While we've had a tough start to the league we are taking some really good steps forward. We were unlucky against Canterbury [drew 2-all] but played well [lost 2-1] against Auckland City last weekend. Of all the times I've played against them this was the time we caused Auckland City the most problems and there were occasions when we took the control off them.
"If we can carry this form on we will have some success, not only this weekend but in games to come," Chettleburgh added.
Angell was also going to wait until after last night's session before making a decision on the availability of centre forward Jordan Lamb. He collected an injury at training earlier this week but trained on Thursday night so Angell wanted to give him more time to stake a claim for a spot on tomorrow's roster.
Coach Angell has plenty of respect for the Wanderers and so he should. They are not fourth on the points table, four spots above Hawke's Bay United, for nothing.
"Hamilton started the league well. If we don't approach the game right they are going to be difficult. We played them pre-season and we know about their attacking threat, particularly during transition," Angell said.
"If we can produce the level of last weekend and the weekend before there's a feeling we've got more than enough to threaten them and put some issues to rest," Angell said referring to his troops' winless run.
He agreed the Wanderers pair of defender James Hoyle, who played for Hawke's Bay United for the last two seasons, and his Napier City Rovers teammate, Bueno, will be determined to show off their capabilities for the visitors on a ground familiar to them.
"We will have to monitor that."
Like Chettleburgh, Angell, knows how lethal the Wanderers front three can be when they link up well.
"It's important we shut down their time and space," Angell added.
Teams for the 2pm clash:
Hawke's Bay United: 1. McKenzie Waite (GK), 2. Anders Eriksson, 4. Cameron Lindsay, 5. Joseph Zupo, 6. Daniel Allan, 7. Cory Chettleburgh, 9. Sam Mason-Smith, 17. Jordan Lamb, 22. Karan Mandair, 23. Jorge Akers, 26. Alexander Britton (GK), 3. Liam Schofield, 8. Paul Ifill, 10. Sho Goto, 21. Bjorn Christensen.
Coach: Brett Angell.
Hamilton Wanderers: 1. Matt Oliver (GK), 2. James Hoyle, 3. Joe Nottage, 5. Stafford Dowling, 6. Agustin Contratti, 8. Brad Whitworth, 9. Martin Bueno, 10. Rhys Ruka, 11. Jordan Shaw, 13. Tommy Semmy, 14. Paul Clout, 15. Joseph Terry, 18. Steffano Riley, 20. Derek Tieku, 21. Will Stephen, 23. Jonathan Mannes (GK)
Coach: Ricki Herbert.