Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper Mark Paston will bring the curtain down on his professional football career against Melbourne Victory at Westpac Stadium today.
Paston, 36, told team-mates of his decision to retire at training yesterday in typical fashion, with his brief speech bringing laughter rather than tears.
With that task out of the way Paston, the consummate professional, went about his work as he has done for the past six seasons at the club, giving nothing less than 100 per cent.
A goalkeeper’s life at training isn’t easy with 20 or so players firing in shots, often from close range, battering the body time and again.
As he relaxed once his last session was over Paston smiled at the thought he won’t have to do it again – for the time being at least.
While he will say goodbye to the Phoenix he is leaving the door “slightly ajar” when it comes to continuing his All Whites career.
“It would be nice to finish my international career at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil but that is some way off,” Paston said.
“I will take a few months off and re-evaluate a few things.
“Then I would need to talk to my future employer about time off, and if I do put my hand up for those games later in the year I would need some game time so I would have to find a club.
“I’ll worry about that later though. I just need time off at the moment.”
Asked why he had chosen now to walk away from the professional game Paston smiled.
“As you get older you start thinking about the following season earlier and earlier,” he said.
“It is hard to explain, but you start to wonder if you have it in you to go into another season.
“I’m the sort of guy for who it is all or nothing, and if I don’t think I can give it everything I don’t see the point of carrying on in the professional sense.
“My body isn’t getting any younger and I tend to get to about December and it starts to seize up a bit. That is another sign it is about time to give it up because I can’t just turn up and go through the motions.
“It is all or nothing for me and as a goalkeeper at training there is no place to hide.”
Undoubtedly wife Amy will be delighted to see more of her husband, as will 3 ½ year old Jack, 2-year-old Benji and 1-year-old Charlie.
“The lads say I come to training for a rest because it is so full on at home,” he says with a laugh.
“They are great fun though and it is hard spending so much time away from home.
“Basically we are in Aussie every other week and sometimes for 10 days at a time.
“You come back and notice changes in the kids and feel you are missing out a bit.
“I have no regrets though, especially about the last six seasons with the Phoenix and the All Whites.
“I’ve had a blast but now is the time to call it a day.
“Someone told me years ago that in football you tend to have a few highs but a lot more lows and to make sure you enjoy the highs when they come round.
“At the Phoenix I’ve had a couple of broken legs and had to sit on the bench for virtually a whole season.
“That is pretty hard but I got through those times and have given it my all.”
Playing professiona l football was the last thing on Paston’s mind while in England on a working holiday. Then he received a phone call from the New Zealand Knights asking him to play for the club.
“It came out of the blue and I thought ‘why not’,” he said.
“Three months after I signed they went into administration, but without that phone call I would never have got to go to a World Cup or spent six great years at the Phoenix.
“Who knows what would have happened to me and a group of Kiwi players if Terry Serepisos hadn’t stepped in and formed the Phoenix.
“Terry has done massive things for football in New Zealand, and it is the same with the current owners who came to the rescue when Terry had to give it up.”
With just 90 minutes left of his professional career Paston would love to go out in style.
“It’s been a tough old season but in the last few games the guys have played better and the smiles are back on their faces.
“It would be great to finish on a positive note.”