DOWN AND OUT: Paul Ifill is stretchered from the field against Sydney FC.
DOWN AND OUT: Paul Ifill is stretchered from the field against Sydney FC. HAGEN HOPKINSGETTY IMAGES

Surgery might not spell the end for Ifill

PAUL Ifill may have played his last game for the Wellington Phoenix after confirming he ruptured his achilles tendon in Sunday's 1-0 win over Sydney FC, but he won't be hanging up his boots.

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said after the match he was uncertain about the severity of the injury, but Ifill confirmed everyone's worst fears yesterday morning, taking to Twitter to announce he would be out of action for up to 12 months.

Speaking from his home after early-morning surgery, the 34-year-old said retirement was the furthest thing from his mind.

"Football has been my life and I want to continue playing at whatever level I can," Ifill said.

"Whether it is in the park with my mates, in the ASB Championship (New Zealand's domestic competition), or the A-League, I will be playing.

"I will do the rehab and then see where we are, but no way am I going to call it a day."

Probably the best player to wear the Phoenix shirt in the club's seven-year history, Ifill is off contract at the end of the 2013-14 A-League season.

Questions already surrounded the veteran midfielder's playing future after he had been given a reduced role by Merrick this season - those will be intensified by the injury blow.

Ifill went down without contact during the second half of Wellington's maiden victory of the season, appearing to be in agony before being taken from the field on a stretcher.

Sunday's match was Ifill's 108th for Wellington, leaving him eighth-equal highest on the club's all-time list.

In an extraordinary coincidence, this will be the third successive year he has spent Christmas in a moon boot.

In 2011 he broke his leg playing against Newcastle Jets on December 18.

The following year he had an ankle operation on December 21, and the latest injury came on December 22.

Showing he hadn't lost his sense of humour Ifill said: "You can tell Ernie that if I do come back I won't be playing in December!"

Ifill spent 12 years playing in England before joining the Phoenix, scoring 40 goals in 238 appearances for Millwall.

He was a member of the Lions team that was beaten 3-0 by Manchester United in the 2004 FA Cup final.

He then signed with Sheffield United for $A1.5million in 2005, playing 42 games before moving to Crystal Palace for the same fee at the start of 2007 where he added another 61 games to his resume.

- with Kris Shannon

of APNZ


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