Teenage keeper lands three-year deal

10 November 2017 07:10:36 EST

Wellington Phoenix have moved quickly to secure teenage keeper Keegan Smith to a long-term contract.

Smith was the surprise choice of new coach Darije Kalezic to start the season in goal, despite having never played a senior game.

The 18-year-old is still at school in Wellington, but came into the side for the last two pre-season friendlies and retained his place for the start of the campaign.

He's done well in the opening five rounds, though the Phoenix have yet to pick up their first win.

The club already have their limit of 23 professional players, so Smith's three-year contract will initially begin as a youth scholarship before stepping up to a professional deal from the start of next season.

Kalezic has been impressed with the way he's coped with the step up in standard, and he's set to retain his spot for Sunday's home clash with Perth Glory.

The keeper said no-one could have imagine how quickly his rise would be, adding: "It's been a whirlwind but I'm just grateful to the coaches and the older boys in the team, they've really been fantastic, giving me little bits of advice - those words do go a long way, and they stay in your mind.

"It's every young footballer's dream to sign a professional contract - it's been a long-time goal of mine so I'm delighted to sign with Wellington Phoenix given the opportunities I've already had this season, and I'm looking forward to keeping on working."

Kalezic gave him the nod over more senior colleagues Lewis Italiano and Oli Sail at the start of the campaign, and said the youngster had tremendous self-control.

"He has very sharp reflexes, his vision when in possession is excellent - he has the ability to pick the right pass even under pressure," added the coach. "He's already showed with his distributional quality that he's improving our team."

The Phoenix, who are bottom of the table with just two points so far, are without captain Andrew Durante and Michael McGlinchey against Perth as they are both on international duty.

The Phoenix are 7/4 to beat Perth, who are 11/8 with the draw 14/5.

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