For a man living on borrowed time, Phoenix midfielder Alex Smith seems remarkably relaxed.
The American's short-term contract expires on January 16 and he is yet to hear whether he will be retained by the Wellington club.
But the 26-year-old, who will probably start from the bench today against Perth, realises that the decision is out of his hands.
"It's not ideal," Smith told the Herald on Sunday, "but I try to put it out of my mind. I'm pretty comfortable with the way I have been playing and usually these things work themselves out. I've enjoyed my time here and think I've been playing some pretty good football."
Smith has yet to talk to coach Ricki Herbert but figures it will happen "fairly soon". His philosophical attitude is understandable when you consider the ups and downs he has endured during his football career.
After graduating from college football in Texas, Smith had a season with FC Dallas in the MLS before walking out after one season. He says it was due to a series of "bad experiences" with the business side of the sport, though also admits now that he was a bit of a "young hothead" back then.
He quit football and ventured to Australia with no plans, hanging up his boots for a while as he enjoyed a Downunder adventure. After a few years away from the game, Smith signed with Fraser Park in the NSW Super League, eventually catching the eye and joining Sydney Olympic in the NSW Premier League. After a goal-a-game stint with Sydney Olympic, he trialled unsuccessfully for Gold Coast United in 2010 but was signed by Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg the following year.
He and his fiancee moved to the Coast but, during pre-season training, an ankle injury put him out for a month. In the meantime the club decided they preferred Maceo Rigters, who had just finished a trial period with the Phoenix.
Smith was released, though the club paid out his newly-inked contract in full.
"At the time, I was pretty angry," says Smith. "Now I can see where [Bleiberg] was coming from but it was tough. We had a six-month lease on a house and had just bought new furniture [which is still in storage] and I felt like I was back to square one."
Concerned by Smith's plight, Gold Coast and All Whites goalkeeper Glen Moss recommended him to Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert. After a trial period, he was signed as injury cover for three months, and earned a two-month extension in November. Smith has made nine appearances, including five starts, for the Wellington club. He has been versatile, playing up front as well as centre and wide midfield without ever making one position his own.
"I'm happy to fill in where needed," admits Smith, "and could even play fullback if required."
Today the Phoenix will be looking for some revenge against Perth after a 0-1 reverse across the Tasman earlier this season, when they dominated the match. The Wellington side will also hope to continue a strong run which has seen them score nine goals in their last two matches at Westpac Stadium.
"We played well over there and didn't take anything from it," says Smith. "They are very physical in midfield and try to push you around. Hopefully we can assert ourselves and then their travelling legs should kick in after about 60 minutes or so."
Looking ahead, the Phoenix travel to Gold Coast next week, a game Smith is set to relish - even if it could be his last.
"I'm looking forward to it," he says. "It's not that personal but I have to admit I would love to score and play well against them."