The smile on Paul Temple’s face tells the story as he reflects on the year his Wellington Phoenix Academy is having.
Keegan Smith, Liberato Cacace and Sarpreet Singh have this season made their senior debuts for the Phoenix in the Hyundai A-League, and on Sunday two of this year’s crop Sam Philip and Willem Ebbinge were on the bench for the game against Brisbane Roar.
Neither of the pair got on the field but it shows just how close they are, and besides whetting their appetite for the big time, they were able to soak up the atmosphere.
“It was a fantastic experience for both of them and satisfying for me because you don’t expect to have four graduates in a season,” Temple said.
“They all deserve to be there and we are now seeing the fruits of the labour put in by Andy Hedge and Valerio Raccuglia.
“The whole purpose of the Academy is to get young players into a professional environment and it really satisfying to see it happening.
“It shows there is a pathway to becoming a professional.
“Greenie (Chris Greenacre) believes in them.
“For a young player it is great to know that a coach trusts them and they’ve earnt that trust. He knows which ones can handle it.
“We now have a quality pool of players because we have recruited well. One of the keys to developing players is to get them into the system quickly.
“Our Academy is fortunate to have three A Licence coaches and full time sports scientists and physiotherapists.”
Temple says recruiting quality players raises the standard of internal competition and helps to make sure they are ready for the step up.
While Sarpreet Singh has made the headlines, Temple is just as enthusiastic about the emergence of Cacace.
“It is so much harder for a young defender to break in because defenders are usually playing against strikers who are marquee players.
“It is a credit to Libby that he looks comfortable in that environment.”