Top 15 A-League players: No.10 Paul Ifill

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Despite not being a Kiwi, Paul Ifill, the club's all-time leading goal-scorer, has a strong claim to being considered 'Mr Wellington Phoenix'.

The centre-forward's arrival in the north island of New Zealand prompted a fourth-placed finish in 2009-10 and the Phoenix's first appearance in the post-season reckoning, an adventure which ended with a 4-2 preliminary final defeat to eventual champions Sydney FC.

The fortunes of Ifill and those of his club became closely linked - his consistency was the driving force behind two further top-six finishes, before a dip in form last season saw inaugural manager Ricki Hebert leave the club, as the Phoenix slumped to 10th spot.

A knee and ankle injury suffered weeks before the 2012-13 season led to a disrupted campaign and a

PAUL IFILL

 
Club Games Goals
Wellington Phoenix [2009-]
94 31

reduced return in front goal from Ifill, and the 33-year-old, a former Barbados international, took a personal share of responsibility for the club's struggles, apologising to Herbert and the club's supporters on Twitter for letting them down.

It isn't all take from the Phoenix though, the special relationship goes both way.

Earlier in his career, Ifill spent seven happy years at Millwall, scoring 40 goals in 238 league appearances, and playing in the 2004 FA Cup final defeat to Manchester United, making him one of only two active A-League players to have reached the conclusion of the oldest knockout competition in the world, the other being Melbourne Heart's Harry Kewell.

But after leaving The New Den, Ifill failed to settle at Sheffield United and Crystal Palace. Now set to enter his fifth campaign at the club, Wellington have provided some welcome stability for the centre-forward.

Having torn his hamstring during a pre-season run out in September, Ifill, seemingly increasingly injury prone, faces another battle to recover and make an impact under new manager Ernie Merrick in 2013-14.

But don't bet against him getting back to his best and linking up with new team-mates Carlos Hernandez and Kenny Cunningham to impressive effect in the campaign ahead.

Strengths

At A-League level at least, Ifill is an excellent all-rounder, possessing the pace to trouble most backlines, the strength to hold the ball up and able to score with his head and feet. He can also play through the middle or out wide, and has far better technique and close control than many gave him credit for during his time in England.

Defining moment

Ifill announced his arrival as a force to be reckoned with in October 2009, scoring one goal and providing assists for three more as the Phoenix hammered Gold Coast United 6-0.

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