WELLINGTON Phoenix was all Matthew Ridenton knew about the A-League.
The midfielder joined the Phoenix at age 17 and spent five years at Westpac Stadium before joining the Jets this season.
The 23-year-old heads back across the ditch for the first time when the Jets meet Wellington in round one on Sunday.
“It will be a bit strange going to the away dressing room,” he said. “I have never been in there before. I’m excited for sure. My mum and dad are coming down from Auckland to watch the game. My partner, Jaimee, is coming across as well. It will be a new experience for me to play my former side against players you know really well and that you trained with for many years.”
Ridenton, who played 72 games for the Phoenix and earned New Zealand selection from the club, has spoken to his former housemate Alex Rufer this week but mainly about things outside football.
“I have talked to a few of the boys … just friendly chat,” he said. “It obviously puts a bit of a different feeling on the game when you are going out there against your former side. Personally you want to do well and get a good result. You don’t want them to have bragging rights against you. At the same time, you can’t let that effect you. You have to go out there and play as you would normally.”
Ridenton will partner Steve Ugarkovic at the base of midfielder on Sunday in the absence of regular holder Ben Kantarovski.
“Coming over here I knew they had a strong side and hadn’t lost many players,” he said. “I saw that as a challenge. I just wanted to be as fit as I could be for round one. Whether or not you get selected ... at least you know you have put your best foot forward. I have played higher up the field and do like to attack. One of us will definitely have to be a bit more conservative. Wellington have a few pacy strikers up front, especially on the counter attack. Myself or Steve will have to be like Kanta, who sits in and helps the defence with the counter attack. It will be tough. They have made two new signings in the last week and obviously have a new coach and will have a lot of motivation to go out there and prove a point.”
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