Lia out for season

VINCE LIA’S wretched run of injury has continued, with the defender/midfielder’s Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season over before it even began.

VINCE LIA-S wretched run of injury has continued, with the defender/midfielder-s Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season over before it even began.

Lia wrenched his left leg in a tackle while playing at right back for the Phoenix in their 2008 Pre-Season Cup win against the Central Coast Mariners in Wellington on Sunday. Initial hopes that the injury might not be serious were dashed by a scan on Tuesday that revealed Lia had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee – an injury that would rule him out of football for up to nine months. He will undergo surgery in the coming weeks.

Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert said the 23-year-old was gutted by the season-ending injury blow.

“Vinnie had worked extremely hard during the pre-season and was probably in the best condition he-s ever been. To miss the whole season is devastating for the young guy.

“It wasn-t a nasty tackle or challenge; it [the injury] was just one of those freak accidents.”

Herbert had transplanted Lia from his usual midfield role into right back – a troublesome position but one that the Phoenix boss believed Lia had the ability to excel in.

“He-s a great athlete with terrific ability and potential. I had very high hopes for Vinnie playing at right back for us this season and he was certainly very excited about the challenge.”

Lia, who recently extended his contract with the Phoenix for another two years, has had a wretched run with injury. He missed a large part of the Phoenix-s inaugural season in Hyundai A-League with a thigh injury but showed his immense potential once fit.

“The club is right behind Vinnie and he-ll be receiving the best care,” Herbert said. “We-ll be working very hard to get him back to full fitness as soon as possible because he-s an integral part of the squad and of the club-s plans for the future.”

The loss of Lia has been alleviated somewhat by the Phoenix-s recent signing of experienced international defender David Mulligan. However, Lia-s season-ending injury means the Wellington club is able to now pursue the recruitment of a long-term injury replacement player.

Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said that process was already under way.

“We-ve got a couple of players coming next week to trial, so we-ll assess how they go and how they fit into the squad. Fortunately, we-ve still got some time to assess our options.”

The Phoenix-s next match is against the Queensland Roar in a 2008 Pre-Season Cup tie at Stockland Park on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday.