GOALKEEPER Mark Paston has pledged his ongoing allegiance to Wellington Phoenix FC, re-signing with the club for another season.
The deal with New Zealand international keeper Paston, 32, is key aspect of the Phoenix-s plans for the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season given the pending departure of Kiwi compatriot Glen Moss to Melbourne Victory next year.
Paston, who was brought into the Phoenix as the number one custodian for the club-s inaugural season, has been hampered by some unlucky injuries during his time with the Wellington outfit but he has grabbed his chances with both hands when fit.
The big keeper said he was thrilled to have locked in another season in the New Zealand capital.
“I-m a Kiwi, I-ve played for the (New Zealand) Knights and I-ve had two years here. I enjoy playing for a New Zealand-based club in the Australian league and the Phoenix is a club I definitely wanted to stay at.
“I-m happy to have things sorted and finalised. My wife and I went to university in Wellington for four years and we-ve got a house here. It-s a wonderfully close-knit city here and my wife and I feel very settled here, which is important.”
Having recovered from a rib injury that kept him out of the Phoenix-s previous two matches – a 1-1 draw with Perth Glory and last weekend-s 1-0 win against the Central Coast Mariners – Paston is fit for this weekend-s Hyundai A-League 2008/09 clash against the Queensland Roar at Suncorp Stadium.
With Moss likely to retain the starting spot on Sunday, Paston is keen to renew the fierce rivalry with his Kiwi mate.
“Obviously we-ve got the rest of the season to take care of and I-m definitely going to be fighting for the number one spot in the remaining five matches. Glen-s come in and he-s playing well, which is what everyone expected him to do, so it-ll be tough getting back in the team.
“That-s how it should be – it-s good for the club to have two good keepers fighting for that spot. Then, come next season, I-ll be continuing that competition for that number one spot with whoever the club brings in to replace Glen.”
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert said Paston had been a quality performer for the club and was a great acquisition for next season.
“We-ve worked through a list of players we wanted to retain for next season and Mark was always on that list. It took some time to work through the contract details and re-sign him, but it-s great to have him at the club. He-s been excellent when he-s come in for us and I-m sure he-ll continue to make every post a winning post.”
The Phoenix are now searching for another keeper to complement Paston next season.
“We need to back Mark up with another keeper who can challenge him for that starting spot and keep the competition right, but we-ll take our time with that one,” Herbert said.
With Paston now fit and set to join the Phoenix squad in Brisbane this weekend, short-term injury replacement keeper Scott Higgins returns home to the Gold Coast.
The re-signing of Paston brings to 14 the number of current Phoenix players contracted by the club for next season and beyond. Along with Paston, the re-signed or currently contracted players are Daniel, Ben Sigmund, Tim Brown, Tony Lochhead, Andrew Durante, Jon McKain, Leo Bertos, Michael Ferrante, David Mulligan, Vince Lia, Troy Hearfield and Costa Barbarouses and Manny Muscat.