When Louis Fenton took a call from Ricki Herbert on his mobile in Melbourne he thought it was one of his mates winding him up for a laugh.
It wasn’t, and now, a mere few months later Fenton looks back on that moment and laughs, which isn’t surprising after he yesterday signed a three-year professional contract with the Wellington Phoenix.
Fenton, 19, is the second member of the club’s fledgling Football School of Excellence to join the senior staff in the last few days, joining 17-year-old Tyler Boyd whose elevation was announced on Monday.
“I didn’t know Ricki’s voice on the phone and really thought it was a wind up,” Fenton said today.
“Once I realised it was a genuine call I was buzzing and I’m still buzzing now after getting a contract.
“This has been the best year of my life. Just training with the Phoenix was great, but now to hopefully be pushing for a place in the playing squad it is awesome.”
When Fenton took Herbert’s call he was playing for Melbourne Knights in the Victorian State League following a spell with St Alban’s, another State League side.
Fenton went to Australia for experience after playing all his junior football and first two years in the senior game with Tawa.
As soon as Fenton got off the phone he informed the Knights he was going home and booked his flights.
Since then life has been a fairy tale for the fleet-footed Fenton.
From day one he impressed the Phoenix coaching staff in training, and his performances on the club’s Indian tour virtually guaranteed him one of the two available under-21 contracts.
“Now I want to repay Ricki for the faith he has shown on me,” Fenton says.
“I will never stop working hard because that’s the way I am, and I want to prove to Ricki that I am ready to play in the A-League if he needs me.
“When I came into the School of Excellence the possibility of pushing for a first team start was unthinkable, but now I’m hoping I may get a chance against Western Sydney in Christchurch on Sunday.
“It would be the toughest game of my life, but all footballers want to play in the big games, and for me there would be no bigger game.”
How would he feel if he found himself on the field in the Phoenix’ opening round Hyundai A-League game against Sydney FC, and Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero?”
“That would be awesome,” he says. “Normally I would be freaking out just walking past someone like him but if I want to succeed in football I can’t be overawed.
“I’ll be giving it everything, no matter what happens. If I get a chance in the A-League I have nothing to lose. They won’t know anything about me and it would be nice to surprise a few people.”
Like most young men and women who succeed in their chosen sport, Fenton has much to thank his parents, Lindy and Mike, for.
“They’ve supported me from day one,” Fenton says.
“Dad is soccer crazy, while Mum is the voice of reason and tries to keep some balance in my life.
“When I went to Australia I was really homesick but Mum and Dad were always on the phone and that helped heaps.”