The Wellington Phoenix have bolstered their men’s squad ahead of a potentially hectic schedule over the coming months.
Academy players Oskar van Hattum, Jackson Manuel and Finn Surman have joined the first team in Sydney, bringing Ufuk Talay’s playing group to 24.
The trio are needed as the Phoenix men could play as many as 13 matches over the next seven and a half weeks, depending on the team’s progression through the FFA Cup.
They will travel to Melbourne to play Western United FC in their round of 32 tie next Tuesday, which potentially will be the first of half a dozen double game weeks if the Phoenix advance to the final.
“With the experiences we’ve had in previous seasons, we’ve realised that with an FFA Cup match coming up and a short turnaround we need some extra bodies,” Talay said.
Van Hattum, 19, and Manuel and Surman, both 18, all trained with the Phoenix squad during pre-season before playing for the reserves in New Zealand Football’s South Central Series.
Van Hattum scored four goals in three games for the reserves this month, after finding the back of the net six times for Lower Hutt City in the 2021 Central League.
Manuel is a defensive midfielder who made two appearances for the Phoenix reserves in the South Central Series after playing for Lower Hutt and North Wellington during the winter.
Surman started all but one of Lower Hutt’s Central League matches, regularly partnering fellow academy graduate Kurtis Mogg at the heart of their defence.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to bring them over and get them involved in the first team as we see huge potential in them,” Talay said.
““Their season is finishing this weekend anyway so it’s also an opportunity to get them some football.”
Almost half of the Phoenix squad in Sydney have come through the academy, which is being celebrated by its technical director Paul Temple.
“There are 11 academy graduates in this season’s squad now which shows the pathway is working and our club buys into the youth development that is happening,” Temple said.
“It’s a good message to all our academy players as well. Be prepared, be ready, be professional because there is always someone watching and when opportunities come along you want to be in a position to take them.”