He may not be renowned as a great trainer, but Paul Ifill is adamant he trains with plenty of purpose.
Coach Ricki Herbert has labelled him as one of the worst trainers at the Wellington Phoenix but Paul Ifill is adamant that is more to do with his unconventional nature rather than a lack of application.
Whatever his methods they appear to work for the Barbadian international who haunts defences across the Hyundai A-League and is the Phoenix’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 26.
“I’m not a conventional trainer. I try all my tricks and flicks in training and if they don’t work I won’t use them on the weekend. If they do work I’ll use them,” the 32-year-old said.
“Most people are pretty straight down the line (when it comes to training). I’m just not one of them. I never have been. I’ve probably frustrated a lot of coaches.
“The way I look at it, I’m doing everything I can during the week to get myself right for the weekend. If that means I train poorly all week that doesn’t really bother me as long as I know that I’m sharp and ready to play at the weekend.”
Nowadays being sharp for the weekend includes plenty of pre-hab work, such as stretching, massages and trips to the chiropractor.
It wasn’t always that way though.
“I remember being a kid and I’d see all the older players moaning about their backs and having to get massages and going to the chiropractor and staying out to stretch and I’d think ‘bloody hell what’s up with these guys they are only 30’,” he said.
“I hit 28 and got like that. I found it early!”
He also found fatherhood changed his outlook as a footballer too. He and partner Elle Isaac have two daughters Romy and Bethany.
“All your focus is doing what’s right by them. It gives you a little bit extra focus because you’re trying to set them up for a good start to life,” Ifill explained.
Romy, five, attends the games at Westpac Stadium.
“She is always telling me I’ve got to go and score for her and wave to her when I score,” said Ifill.
“Bethany is only eight months so she’s not there yet. Hopefully I’m still playing in three years … and she’ll start realising what’s going on. It’ll be nice that they get to see the back-end of my career out here.”
Ifill began his professional football career with Millwall in 1998 and more than a decade later made the switch to the Hyundai A-League when he was released by Crystal Palace.
He has thrived at the Phoenix and was one of the first players Herbert re-signed on his recent recruitment drive that also includes captain Andrew Durante and Manny Muscat.
“I just like (the Hyundai A-League) because it’s fresh and new and exciting,” Ifill said.
“They are trying different things. They are trying to build it the right way. It’s not so business-orientated as English football for sure.”
He is also a rare breed in that he enjoys the regular trips across the Tasman.
“I’ve had enough of travelling up and down England in a coach. You’re talking six or seven hours on a coach and they are moaning about the travel here,” he said.
“I’m quite happy to do four hours on a plane and get a bit of food and stretch my legs.”
He is also enjoying the Phoenix’s rise up the league – even if the recognition from outside of Wellington has been slow to materialise.
“That’s football,” he said matter-of-factly.
“I think we’ve been lucky to get to where we are without people noticing We haven’t thought we’re underdogs. We’ve fancied ourselves every season I’ve been here. I think we will continue to do us.”
“Ever since I’ve been here we’ve been the underdogs and I don’t mind that tag. It’s fine. so.”