Ifill backs protégé Elliot to bolster Phoenix's Finals Series charge

Wellington Phoenix legend Paul Ifill has hailed former protégé Callan Elliot's professional breakthrough as symbolic of the Kiwi club's bold approach to youth development.

Nelson teenager Elliot, 19, came off the bench for his first Hyundai A-League appearance during Wellington's 8-2 trouncing of Central Coast Mariners in Round 22.

Fellow youngster Gianni Stensness also debuted for the 'Nix in that match, and the pair only have to look as far as contemporaries Sarpreet Singh and Liberato Cacace for evidence of the regular first-team minutes available under head coach Mark Rudan.

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Ifill helped hone Elliot's craft after accepting him into the Paul Ifill Academy as a 15-year-old, and then as a team-mate at Tasman United in New Zealand's top local competition. 

And the former Millwall, Crystal Palace and Phoenix favourite thinks the Under-19 international has the right attitude to grasp his chance of Hyundai A-League glory.

"For him to go back to my old club as our first ever academy graduate is obviously pretty pleasing," Ifill told a-league.com.au.

"He's a quiet boy, a humble kid from a really good family. He always did that little bit extra and I think that stands him in good stead with where he's got to at this point.

"He's done a lot of hard work, not only with us but I think at the Phoenix he's had to wait five or six months to get an opportunity to play.

"It's very nice that he got across the line for half-an-hour; the next milestone is a start. Every environment he’s been in he's stepped up to that next level.

"It's nice to see these young boys getting a gig. A lot of young Kiwis getting an opportunity to play professional football is obviously great.

"[I'm] very happy with what Mark's doing at the club and if he can support the younger players while doing it then all the better."

Wellington's convincing win in Gosford lifted the club into fourth on the ladder and reignited hopes of a home outing in the Finals Series.

Ifill top scored when the Phoenix went all the way to the penultimate week of the season in 2010 and believes the current crop could go one better.

"I think Rudes has come in and built a great team culture," he said.

"You can see they're really working for each other and holding each other accountable. 


"There's a really, really good vibe [in Wellington]. For Mark to be able to turn it around so quickly, it's been brilliant.

"I look at this team and think they've got someone who can score goals in Roy [Krishna], got good back up in the likes of David Williams and [Cillian] Sheridan, some decent young guns coming through and Dura [Andrew Durante], at 36, is having the season of his career.

"It's all the luck of the draw when you get to the playoffs, but I think if we can get into third or fourth and get a home game the fans will fill the stadium up.

"I think they're a chance."

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