Wellington Phoenix star Paul Ifill is fit and raring to take on footballing royalty when he lines up for the Foxtel A-League All Stars against English Premier League champions Manchester United in Sydney next weekend.
It isn-t the first time Ifill has played against the 20-times English champions after being in the Millwall team beaten 4-0 by United in the 2004 FA Cup final.
“That was an amazing day, sharing the pitch with what you have to say were world class players such as Ryan Giggs, my all-time favourite player, and Roy Keane,” Ifill said.
“You don-t forget days like that and I am still being asked about it nine years later.
“I really thought those days were behind me but here I am about to do it again on the other side of the world.”
Giggs will be in the United squad again, this time as player-coach, and Ifill credits the Welsh legend as playing a part in him feeling fitter than he has done for a long time.
Ifill reported for pre-season training with the Phoenix 7kg lighter than when last season finished.
“You read about Giggsy still going strong at 39 and you try to bring some of the things he does into your own life to keep playing as long as you can,” Ifill said.
“He is five years older than me and still doing the business in one of the world-s top leagues.
“I never got fit last season after playing the first six games with pain-killing injections.
“In hindsight that was a big mistake, so this year I wanted to really have a go and show that I can still play well.
“I changed my eating habits and worked hard before going into pre-season and it is the fittest I-ve been in seasons.”
Anyone wanting proof that Ifill really has lost weight will be interested to know that in his time at the Phoenix he has always worn a large shirt.
When his All Stars shirt arrived today, large as advised by the Phoenix kit man, it was a little big on Ifill!
Ifill-s place in the All Stars was only officially confirmed this afternoon and he was glad his selection was finally out.
“It was a poorly kept secret and I had lots of nice messages congratulating me that I couldn-t reply to,” he said.
“I-ll start in on those this afternoon.”