WELLINGTON Phoenix striker Shane Smeltz has turned down an attractive offer from Wellington Phoenix FC to today sign a three-year deal with Hyundai A-League expansion club Gold Coast United from next season.
Smeltz-s decision to put pen to paper for the new Hyundai A-League franchise ends months of speculation about the future of the New Zealand All Whites international striker, who roared to prominence in a terrific debut season with the Phoenix.
Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said Smeltz had been top performer for the Wellington-based club and would be missed at the end of the season.
“Shane went from relative obscurity to being one of the best strikers in the Hyundai A-League with the Phoenix. We knew we-d have a fight on our hands to keep him, particularly with the addition of two new clubs for the 20010/11 season.
“We worked hard to get Shane to recommit to the Phoenix but at the end of the day his decision was based around what he felt was right for his young family. It wasn-t a question of money. Our offer was as good – if not better – than what Gold Coast offered but Shane ultimately decided he wanted to return to the place where he grew up and he-ll depart at the end of the season with the best wishes of everyone involved at the club.”
Having starred for the Phoenix since joining the club on a two-year deal, New Zealand representative striker Smeltz was top scorer in the club-s inaugural season in the Hyundai A-League. Smeltz, off-contract at the end of the 2009/10 season, had been linked with Gold Coast United and Adelaide United.
“It-s good to finally have a decision and put an end to all the rumours,” Pignata said.
“The club is bigger than any one individual and we-re already back in the market looking for new strikers – that-s something that we-ve been doing for the past few weeks. Players joining and leaving clubs is part of football. Every club across the league gains and loses players and we-re no different.”
Pignata said clarity around Smeltz-s future would allow the striker to concentrate on continuing to score goals in the remainder of the season with the Phoenix.
“I know it-s been playing on his mind and that-s probably been reflected in some of his performances in recent times. Shane-s still got 11 games left for the Phoenix and we expect him to play better than he has done in the past few weeks. Hopefully now that he-s made his decision and commitment his full focus will be on turning in top performances for the Phoenix.”
Phoenix chairman and owner Terry Serepisos said Smeltz was a valued member of the club and had been instrumental in making the New Zealand-based outfit such a success.
“Shane-s a quality player. He-s been an important member of the squad and I have no doubt he-ll continue to give his all for the Phoenix throughout the rest of the season. The club pulled out all the stops to secure his services for the future but he-s made his decision and he-ll go with our blessing.”
Serepisos said the Phoenix had already begun scouting to find top-notch players for the 2010/11 season.
“Our planning for next season began some time ago and Tony Pignata and [head coach] Ricki Herbert are already working on some very promising leads. In football you can-t wait around and see what happens – you have to be pro-active.”