Ernie Merrick has added a Junior All White defender to the Wellington Phoenix first team with the signing of Luke Adams. The captain of New Zealand's U20 side that just played in the U20 World Cup in Turkey, has joined the A-League club after an impressive week-long trial.
Said Merrick in a club press release:
"Luke has been a standout at training and fits into our plans for the squad, both as a player and a person. He has proved himself at international level with the New Zealand under 17s and under 20s, not just as a player but as a leader through being captain of both teams.
Luke ticks all the boxes and that is what we are about. I want to help develop young New Zealand players while at the same time signing the right players for the Phoenix."
The last part is the key for Wellington, as far as the Merrick hiring is concerned. His background of a dozen years at the Victorian Institute of Sport is part of the reason the Phoenix hired him and Adams' signing represents the beginning of the process of using the national team to the club's advantage, and vice versa.
Merrick was quoted in FourFourTwo Australia at the time of his hiring in May:
"It is unusual for one team to represent a country and it presents me with a great challenge. There is a great potential at the club and there must be a lot of talented young players in New Zealand to draw on. I focused on producing young players at the Victorian Institute of Sport and at Melbourne Victory, and one of my most important roles at the Phoenix will be to provide input into the type of structure that will groom up-and-coming players for the first team."
As for Adams, he prefers center back but can play the wide defensive positions, as well. With the Phoenix currently listing just four defenders on the club's website, Adams will be a welcome addition and will at the very least get a chance to challenge for playing time, even if he is not an immediate regular.