Nathan Burns coup for Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix have stolen the march on other A-League clubs by signing Nathan Burns to a two-year contract. 

Burns, 26, said he was excited by the prospect of starting his New Zealand stint against English Premier League opposition.

“It will be awesome playing against West Ham and Newcastle United,” Burns said from Greece where he has been holidaying.

“I’ve played in friendlies against EPL teams before and it is really challenging.”

The English clubs will tour New Zealand next month, facing off against the Phoenix and Sydney FC.

Burns began his career with Adelaide United and has since played in Greece for AEK Athens and Kerkyra (on loan) before moving to Korean club Incheon United in 2012.

As a promising youngster he was earmarked as a regular for the national team, but his career stalled overseas and he slipped off the radar.

He made a brief return to the A-League last season with Newcastle Jets and caused the Phoenix problems when the teams met in Napier.

Burns said coach Ernie Merrick was a big influence in him moving to the Kiwi outfit.

“Ernie has been around a long time and had success in the A-League,” he said.

“He convinced me about the style of football he wants to play and I saw for myself what he was trying to do last season.”

Merrick said he had been looking for a player who could play as a midfielder, winger or high striker.

“Robbie Kruse was a good example of that type of player,” Merrick said.

“When he came to Victory as a winger I turned him into a high striker who would come in from wide and score goals.”

Burns said that role suited him just fine.

“It suits my style of game and funnily enough myself and Kruisey used to compete against each other for that role,” he said.

While his first goal is to help the Phoenix do well in the A-League, he also sees it as an opportunity to start pushing for a place in the Socceroos again with the last of his seven appearances coming in 2011.

“Watching the World Cup whets the appetite,” Burns said.

“My career has been a bit stop start for a few years now and it will be good to be challenging for a first team place every week.

“It was tough in Europe because it is all about momentum once you get in the team and that didn’t happen.

“You also need a bit of luck, but it hasn’t curbed my enthusiasm and I am still young enough to kick on.

“The Phoenix are making some good signings and there were good players there already so I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Merrick sees the acquisition of Burns as slotting in another piece of the jigsaw.

“Nathan’s attributes suit the modern game,” the coach said.

“He has a high work rate and good technical skills combined with speed and one-on-one dribbling skills.”


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