The training pitch in Tromso needs a snow plough before every session so Jade North reckons he can cope with whatever the Wellington weather throws at him.

"After the six months I have had, Wellington will be a walk in the park," North says from his home in Norway's north.

After the 18 months he's had, playing for the Phoenix could well be a walk in the park as well. The 28-year-old central defender has endured a difficult time, firstly in South Korea and latterly in Norway.

He's had to battle political games and dodgy club presidents, unpaid wages, Arctic winters (and Arctic summers of daylight virtually 24 hours a day), extended periods away from his young family as well as missing out on the World Cup because of injury.

"I just want to come back [to the A-League] and enjoy football again because the last year-and-a-half hasn't been that much fun," he says.

"I didn't know where my football was going but when Wellington came in for me, it was a no-brainer."

His troubles started soon after signing with South Korean K-League club Incheon United. He had recently joined the North Queensland Fury from Newcastle Jets, whom he led to the A-League title. A clause in his contract allowed him to get out of that deal if another club came in for him.

The Incheon deal was too good to turn down, and some reports estimated he would earn $2 million over two years.

Initially he enjoyed playing there, despite the language barriers. Then the politics started and North struggled to make the first team, even though he was regularly the squad's only current international.

"It wasn't because of my ability," North says. "The president picked the team. It's all about power even though he had no idea about football. They expect the foreign strikers to be like Ronaldo and me to be like [Italian defender Fabio] Cannavaro. It was hard because the president tried to turn all of the Korean boys against the foreign boys.

"I don't regret my time there because the K-League is a good standard. It's fast and physical and there are some good players and teams there. But I had to get out. Some games I wasn't even featuring at all and it wouldn't matter how well I trained or played."

North still had one year on his contract with Incheon but knew something needed to change, especially if he was going to make the Socceroos squad for the World Cup.

He had been in and out of Pim Verbeek's squad but it was hard to press his case if he wasn't playing regularly.

He found out a way to speak to the president of Incheon - players can't speak to him directly - and got the message through he wanted out. He was even prepared to forgo some wages owing to him.

At first the club tried to sell him to a Chinese outfit North had never heard of but he insisted he was homesick and wanted to go home.

In the meantime, his agent was negotiating a deal in Norway. When he signed a six-month contract there, instead of returning to Australia, Incheon "weren't too happy".

"But I had a plan," North says. "I just had to move on and look after myself. With the World Cup coming up, I had to be in a better environment. Going to Europe was the best option."

* * *

Tromso is a small town of 50,000 people in the north of Norway, 350km inside the Arctic circle. People have inhabited the area since the end of the ice age and the Vikings populated the region in the ninth century.

The city is warmer than most other places located on the same latitude, due to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream, but it's still cold. Snow blankets the region for many months of the year and darkness is a constant companion during winter.

The training pitch is cleared of snow before most training sessions and North found himself getting disoriented on the way to the training ground because the snow made everything look the same.

But the best thing about joining Tromso was the fact North was playing football again. It also coincided with a recall to the national side and North gathered with an extended World Cup squad in Melbourne 10 days before they were due to fly to South Africa. It looked as if his fortunes had changed.

North was one of the last players to arrive in Melbourne, largely because it took 36 hours to travel from Norway, and tried to hit the ground running. Instead, he hit the ground in pain.

He strained a hip flexor in his first training session and not only missed the friendly with the All Whites but also the World Cup. It rather summed up his year.

North returned to Tromso and has since helped them to third on the Tippeligaen table behind runaway leaders and perennial winners Rosenborg halfway through the season.

The club wanted him to stay but North couldn't imagine spending a winter in Tromso.

* * *

North will team up with Andrew Durante in the heart of Wellington's defence when he finally lands in New Zealand.

His contract with Tromso runs out at the end of the month and he will then play internationals for the Socceroos against Switzerland and Poland on his way to New Zealand. It might be a bit much to ask him to play Sydney on September 11 but he should be available for the Phoenix's trip to Melbourne to face the Victory four days later.

North enjoyed great success alongside Durante during three years at Newcastle, helping them to the title in 2007-08.

He's had a lot of success in his career. He was drafted into the Queensland and Australian Institute of Sport as a teenager before making his Australian national league debut for Brisbane Strikers in the old NSL as a 16-year-old.

He played in two grand finals in consecutive years at Sydney Olympic - winning one - and followed that up with another grand final appearance with Perth the following year.

A call-up to the Socceroos came in 2002 and he has since played 29 times for his country. He played at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games.

His signing on a one-year deal is a fillip for Wellington, who needed to find another centre-back after Jon McKain departed to play in Saudi Arabia. Someone of North's calibre is probably more than they expected.

Durante's friendship with North certainly helped. The pair skyped regularly about what it is like at the Phoenix and at least this time North will largely know what to expect.

He knows a number of the players and certainly knows what coach Ricki Herbert has achieved recently. "Everything Ricki touches turns to gold at the moment," North says.

It's just what the Australian defender needs to happen to his career, as well.