Jetsetting Muscat takes flight again

MANNY MUSCAT has become well acquainted with airport departure and arrival lounges in recent times.

The Wellington Phoenix defender has become quite the jetsetter since joining the New Zealand-based Hyundai A-League club as a short-term injury replacement at the start of the 2008/09 season.

So impressive was the Green Gully product in his first season as a fully-fledged professional, he was rewarded with a fulltime contract for 2009/10. Then came the ultimate call – to play international football.

Muscat was named in the Malta national team for recent matches in Europe – first making his international debut against the Czech Republic in Jablonec and backing that up against Sweden in a World Cup qualifier in Gothenburg.

From Green Gully, to Wellington, to Europe – it-s no wonder Muscat-s still trying to keep his feet on the ground. But the demanding travel schedule isn-t over yet, with the Phoenix departing Wellington on Thursday for a three-match tour to China and Australia.

The Phoenix play Chinese Super League sides Tianjin Teda (July 18) and Guangzhou Pharmaceuticals (July 21) during their week-long visit to the world-s most populous nation before returning to Wellington via Dubbo in Australia, where they will play the Central Coast Mariners on July 25.

Like his Phoenix teammates who represented New Zealand at the recent Confederations Cup in South Africa, Muscat is clocking up the airpoints. And it-s not only offshore travel Muscat-s done plenty of – the Phoenix have also played matches in Queenstown and Christchurch as part of a busy pre-season schedule.

“It-s been a big month of travel, that-s for sure,” Muscat said. “But it is good to get a lot of games under your belt pre-season to make sure you-re ready to go when the competition kicks off. The travel is good though, it-s always a good opportunity to bond with your teammates.”

Given the intense travel requirements, Muscat said it was important that the players looked after themselves.

“It-s a matter of making sure you keep yourself right and get as much rest as you can. When it comes to training you do the hard stuff and when it-s time to relax you make sure that-s exactly what you-re doing – putting the feet up.

“Rest and recovery is just as important as putting in the hard yards. The more recovery you do the fresher you feel on the pitch, so it-s an important component of any training programme.”

Another important consideration was making sure medical personnel were kept up to speed, Muscat said.

“As soon as you cop a knock it-s best to tell the medical team, and we-re lucky to have the best. They get straight on to it and monitor things because they know the sooner you recover the sooner you-re back on the pitch. That-s what every player wants to do, especially at this point of the season. It-s a crucial time and game-time is what we need.”

The Phoenix depart Wellington for China on Thursday. Another interesting aspect of the tour will be the trial of Brazilian striker Anderson Ramos.

The 90kg, 1.90m 29-year-old, who has most recently played premier league football in Saudi Arabia, will join the Phoenix for both matches in China with a view to securing a fulltime contract in Wellington.