Phoenix faithful turn out en masse

IF the turnout at Wellington Phoenix FC’s annual family day is any indication, the club is in for a huge Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season.

IF the turnout at Wellington Phoenix FC-s annual family day is any indication, the club is in for a huge Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season.

More than 3000 fired-up Phoenix fans attended the special event at the club-s home ground, Westpac Stadium – the excitement and anticipation palpable exactly one week out from the Phoenix-s first game of the new season.

Phoenix fans of all ages had the chance to meet the players and coaches, go behind the scenes at the club-s magnificent home venue and take part in a range of fun activities.

The annual event has proven extremely popular during the Phoenix-s short Hyundai A-League history, with Phoenix players relishing the chance to interact with the strong support base in Wellington.

For new Phoenix strikers Chris Greenacre and Paul Ifill, both from England, the big day out was a real eye-opener.

“I was absolutely blown away; the whole event was magic,” said Greenacre. “To see so many fans clearly so passionate about the Phoenix was something really special. We play for the fans and it-s fantastic to know they-re all right behind us. From little children to adults, everyone is so supportive.”

Ifill, formerly of English Premier League club Sheffield United and Championship club Crystal Palace, was staggered by the reception from the Phoenix faithful.

“Even in England, where football is obviously the biggest game going, you don-t experience this level of support. Often as professional players we don-t get the opportunities to connect directly with the supporters, so this was amazing to be part of.”

The Phoenix begin their Hyundai A-League 2009/10 campaign away to the Newcastle Jets on Sunday before returning home to Wellington to prepare for what will be a huge first home game against Perth Glory at Westpac Stadium on Sunday, August 16.

Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said the turnout at the family day was confirmation of the strong and growing support for the club.

“Every year this event seems to get bigger and bigger and it-s great for the fans and the players to get together. You can really feel that the excitement from the players and the fans is hitting top gear.

“Our third season in the competition will be the biggest and best yet and everyone-s champing at the bit to get things under way.”

Click here to see more photos