Warner relishing Phoenix move


It took Tony Warner all of a day to make the decision to join the Wellington Phoenix for the upcoming A-League season.

The 37-year-old goalkeeper arrived in New Zealand in the middle of last week after receiving a phone call saying the club was interested in signing him.

Having missed out on a move to Blackburn Rovers when his contract with Tranmere Rovers ended, Warner had no hesitation in agreeing a deal for the season, especially after speaking to Phoenix playmaker Paul Ifill – a former team-mate at Millwall.

“I spoke to him and just asked about (the club). He said I would enjoy it. I spoke to the powers that be upstairs and pretty much got it done and dusted in a day,” the Liverpool-born keeper said.

“I got asked the question. Spoke to my family about it and pretty much said ‘yeah let’s go’ because you can hang around and things can pass you by.”

“I’ve never been down this side of the world before and I thought there would be a lot of things, a lot of opportunities, for the family.”

Aside from staying in touch with Ifill, Warner had some idea of what to expect of the A-League having watched some of the games on TV in Britain.

He got a further taste from the sidelines last Friday when the Phoenix played Brisbane Roar in a pre-season game in Dunedin, a match Wellington lost 5-1.

“They show the Grand Final and show highlights every week,” he said of the A-League coverage in Britain.

“Paul told me it was a good standard, although I’ve heard conflicting views that maybe it was a little bit slower and not quite as good as I’ve found it.”

“From what I’ve found from training with the players the quality is good and from what I saw of the game the other day, Brisbane Roar are top of the tree, so everyone says, and I think they showed that,” he added.

“They are a very tidy outfit and played very good football and were very organised. Compared to maybe some divisions in England I think the Brisbane Roar would do quite well against a lot of teams.”

Warner, who began his career as a trainee with Liverpool in 1990, is in a battle with New Zealand’s Mark Paston for the No.1 shirt at the Phoenix.

But given his lengthy career, which also includes spells at Fulham, Leeds United, Norwich City and Barnsley, it is a situation he is well used to.

“I’ve been to a lot of places and had a lot of battles. It’s just another one really,” Warner said.

He will get his first chance to impress coach Ricki Herbert in Friday’s pre-season game against Melbourne Heart in Shepparton with both keepers expected to get 45 minutes each.

The match will also provide valuable game-time for Leo Bertos and Tony Lochhead who are working their way back to full fitness after lengthy injury lay-offs.

“There’s not a lot I can do for Bertos or Lochhead but give them more time on the park,” said Herbert.

“They are nowhere near where they need to be. People need to understand and appreciate that.”

Potential signing, striker Maceo Rigters, is also likely to start after coming on for the second half against the Roar and scoring the Phoenix’s only goal.

Young Oakleigh Cannons defender Bryan Bran will also get a run as Herbert looks to fill the under-21 spots on his roster.

“It won’t be a stable XI. That’s probably a month away yet,” Herbert said.

“The keepers might get 45 each. We’ll use the game for the players’ benefit … to give the players the time they need.”