Phoenix stars praised for travel sacrifice

Wellington Phoenix have been joined in Sydney by off-shore stars Gary Hooper and Ulises Davila but they won't see their teammates for two weeks.

ROB MORRISON, Wellington Phoenix chairman.
ROB MORRISON, Wellington Phoenix chairman. Picture: Martin Hunter/Getty Images

The travel sacrifice made by stars Ulises Davila and Gary Hooper shows how determined Wellington Phoenix are to win the A-League, according to club chairman Rob Morrison.

The bulk of the Phoenix squad crossed the Tasman on Saturday to begin 14 days of quarantine at Valentine Sports Park in western Sydney, Football NSW's base.

Mexican playmaker Davila and English striker Hooper also touched down in Sydney to begin a concurrent self-isolation period, having spent the lockdown in their respective home counties.

COVID-19 regulations mean the pair can not join their teammate any earlier than July 4, less than two weeks out from their game against leaders Sydney FC.

The presence of Davila and Hooper is an enormous bonus for the third-placed Kiwi club, given other teams have already announced some visa players won't return for the remainder of the revamped season.

Among those confirmed as no-shows are Melbourne Victory captain Ola Toivonen, Perth Glory defender Gregory Wuthrich and Western Sydney midfielder Pirmin Schwegler, while a cloud hangs over the return of Brisbane coach Robbie Fowler.

Morrison was impressed by the attitude of Phoenix's attacking weapons, who immediately responded to a call to arms despite the uncertainty surrounding the competition and pay cuts for players.

"It wasn't a negotiation, it was 'we want to get back and play'," Morrison said.

"That hasn't been the case with all the visa players around the league.

"If you're in Mexico or you're in London, to come back, spend a couple of weeks in quarantine and then finish a season, that's a big upheaval.

"That sums up the feeling within the squad. We want to do this, we want to finish it."

Davila and Hooper, who have been on the books of English Premier League clubs Chelsea and Norwich respectively, settled quickly in the A-League.

They have scored 17 goals and provided 10 assists between them.

Davila was among the classiest attacking forces in the competition before it was suspended in March and he returned home to be with his newborn child.

Wellington captain Steven Taylor said the star duo's presence in Sydney will lift the squad.

"When you start losing one or two key players like that, it will affect the group," he said.

"I don't know how it will affect the other teams who will struggle to bring their foreign players back."


AAP