Football 3 years ago

Smeltz holds soft spot for Phoenix foes

  • Smeltz holds soft spot for Phoenix foes

Shane Smeltz has faced Wellington several times over the last few seasons, but even now the Sydney FC striker has a soft spot for the club that kick-started his A-League career in spectacular fashion.

Smeltz admits it feels like a lifetime ago that he made his debut for the Phoenix in 2007, having returned from a stint in the lower leagues of English football.

That season the Kiwi international netted nine goals for the New Zealand-based side, before his 12 goals the following year earned him both the Golden Boot and the prestigious Johnny Warren Medal.

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He now has 86 A-League goals to his name and is second only to Archie Thompson (89) on the all-time leaders chart.

And as Sydney prepare to host Wellington on Thursday night Smeltz can't help but feel a warmth towards his former side.

"When I came to the A-League they were my first club, so they were the platform for me to do well in this league," he said.

"I've got a bit of a soft spot for them.

"I've faced them a number of times now since I left the club but I've always enjoyed playing against them.

"There's still some players that were there when I played there. I had a great spell at the club."

Those two seasons coupled with his time playing in the national team means he remains close to many of the Phoenix pack, a familiarity he reckons could make him a target at Allianz Stadium.

"Certainly you look at the centre-backs in (Andrew) Durante and (ruled-out Ben) Sigmund, they know me well," he said.

"But I know them just as well, so it works both ways."

However, while they will be on-field foes, on the sidelines they remain close to Smeltz's heart.

And the 34-year-old cannot fathom the A-League without the Phoenix, amid licensing issues that have threatened the exit of Ernie Merrick's side as early as next season.

"I know they're a well-run club, I know some great people in and around the club," Smeltz said.

"For me it would be disappointing to not see them in the league.

"I know there's two sides to the story, I understand that. But hopefully things can work out for the best for them."

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