Back to school for the Phoenix

WELLINGTON COLLEGE students put the books to one side on Wednesday to join the Wellington Phoenix at a special training session at the school.

The full Phoenix squad, coach Ricki Herbert and club chairman Terry Serepisos put members of the college’s 1st and 2nd XIs through their paces during the hour-long session. The Phoenix players had the youngsters run through a series of drills and skills training as hundreds of other students watched on from the terraces.

The visit was particularly special for Wellington College old boys Tim Brown and Leo Bertos. Brown, vice-captain of the Phoenix in their inaugural season in the Hyundai A-League, attended Wellington College from 1994-98 and was a member of the school’s 1st XI from1997, also captaining the side in 1998. Bertos attended from 1995-99 and also played alongside Brown in the 1st XI.

“It’s very good to come back,” Brown said after the training session. “It’s great to see so many kids playing football at school and how the popularity of the game has really increased. It’s certainly a little bit different compared to when Leo and I were here at school.”

Bertos, who has recently returned to the capital after several years playing overseas, was also happy to be back at his old stomping ground.

“It definitely brings back memories, bumping into teachers that were here when I was and it was really good to catch up with them and see how the school’s going. There’s a lot more students here now and a lot more football teams. Hopefully the Phoenix coming down here gives those young players something to aspire to and helps them realise there’s a pathway for them to become professional footballers right here in their home city.

“There’s clearly a lot of talented players around and it’s no doubt a bunch of these guys will be playing for the Phoenix in the future.”

Wellington College sports director Dave Keat said the visit by the Phoenix was arranged in response to the boom in the popularity of football at the school.

“It’s become the major sport by a long way, we’re talking about 29 teams here at Wellington College and 420 boys registered to play football. The Phoenix have really driven the interest along but it’s fair to say it has been growing over a number of years. It’s great to see Leo and Tim here and that’s fantastic for the school because I know the boys really feel like they have a special link to the club.”