When Wellington Phoenix striker Stein Huysegems turns 32 in June he will have been a professional footballer for half his life.
When Wellington striker Stein Huysegems turns 32 in June he will have been a professional footballer for half his life. Before that happens he hopes to have another cause for celebration, with the Phoenix now right in the finals mix and the prospect of a new contract spurring him on.
For many A-League fans Huysegems remains somewhat of an enigma, and yet the Phoenix-s No.10 has played in some of the grandest theatres of Europe and been capped by Belgium on 16 occasions. The 31-year-old hopes to play on for at least another two seasons but right now is relishing the buoyant mood in the Phoenix camp.
“I think that first win really gave our team the confidence we were lacking,” said Huysegems when reflecting on the fact it took his team until round 11 to register their first three points of the campaign.
“We knew we were playing some good football in our first 10 games but as a team were just lacking some composure.”
The Wellington frontman scored the solitary goal in that win against Sydney FC just before Christmas. His personal form has mirrored Phoenix-s rise up the ladder to the point that he now leads the golden boot standings and Ernie Merrick-s men are the form team of the competition.
“I think my second goal - the backheel against Wanderers is my favourite.
“The last couple of years we haven-t been able to win away, so to do so at the home of the Premiers was a special night.”
Huysegems began his career as a young boy playing in the amateur leagues with Boauberg. The 6.1 foot striker trialled with professional clubs from the age of eight and was signed by Lierse S.K. as soon as he was eligible.
The Belgian would go on to have a prolific career in the Dutch Eredivisie with powerhouses Feyenoord and FC Twente. Huysegems' football journey went full circle when he returned to the club where it all began in 2011 but not content to see out his career in his homeland he signed a two-year deal with Wellington.
The decision to relocate his family to New Zealand has seen his career continue to prosper and Huysegems is clearly enjoying playing under coach Ernie Merrick. With his contract set to expire at season-s end, he hopes his current form will see him extend his stay.
“I-m presently negotiating a new deal,” said Huysegems. “I-m almost 32 and you want a two-year contract.
“I-d like to sign for two-years but we-ll have to see what the team offers and what I want and we-ll see.”
Throughout his junior career Huysegems was a part of the Belgium national set-up, representing his country from the age of 15 through to the U-21 level. He earned his last senior cap back in 2009 against Australia-s World Cup opponents Chile and has played alongside many of the current crop of players that are forecast to do well in Brazil.
“I-ve played with a lot of the national players,” said Huysegems. “Vermaelen, Van Buyten, Vertonghen.
“They are a very young side now and it would be nice to see them do well.
“I think the quarter-finals will be their minimum expectation.
This weekend the Phoenix welcome another side that have been in great form of late, with the newly acquired Heart making the journey to play at the Cake Tin. While the two sides were rooted to the bottom of the ladder for much of the season, they-ve only lost one game between them in the last month.
Huysegems acknowledges the Phoenix will need to be on their game to continue their surge into the top six and said the team is coveting the opportunity to play finals.
“We will have to play our game from a technical point of view and won-t change a lot."
“At the beginning of the season it must-ve been a goal for every team to play finals and we-re no different.
“If we keep playing the way we-ve been playing we-ll make it and you never know what-s going to happen.”
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Heart Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand Sunday, 16 February 5:00pm local (3:00pm AEDT)
Live and exclusive coverage on FOX Sports 2HD and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand).