Phoenix debut for Musa

Teenage defender James Musa is set to make his A-League debut for the Wellington Phoenix on Saturday night.

Teenage defender James Musa is set to make his A-League debut for the Wellington Phoenix on Saturday night.

The 18-year-old trained in the left-back position and is likely to feature in a reshuffled defensive line-up following Ben Sigmund’s suspension.

The centre-back picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in the 2-0 win over Melbourne Heart and coach Ricki Herbert confirmed Jade North will move into Sigmund’s slot alongside Andrew Durante with Troy Hearfield switching to the right for the match against Melbourne Victory.

“(Musa) is a good chance (to start). Let’s give him a go, that’s my gut feeling,” said the Phoenix coach, who will stick with the remainder of the side that started against the Heart.

“I just think how a cool is that for a young kid. He’s going to come in and probably debut against one of the best clubs in the league historically.”

“That’s where I’m heading at the moment. Will he make mistakes? Look, he probably will. But I think I’ll probably invest in him tomorrow.”

While Herbert stopped just short of confirming the teenage defender’s first start to the media, Musa revealed he got the tap on the shoulder shortly after training at Westpac Stadium ended.

“He just shook my hand and congratulated me and said I think the time is right. You’ve been training well,” said the New Zealand Under-20 representative.

“At the moment I’m nervous to be fair. But I think it’s going to be pretty good (walking out of the tunnel). The Yellow Fever are right there so it should be a good debut.

“I’ve got to start confidently … and Dura will help me out with lots of talk.”

Musa said Herbert’s message to him had been a simple one. “He wants me to settle into the game. He doesn’t want me running up there (on the flank) and then having to get back. It’s defend first and attack when you need to attack.”

Durante was confident his young team-mate would rise to the occasion. “He’s a big boy. He’s very athletic. He’s very strong and has a good left foot,” the Phoenix skipper said.

“He’s quick enough to deal with anything that comes down the side and he’s strong enough to deal with anything in the air or 50-50 challenges.

“As long as he keeps it simple and doesn’t let the nerves get to him I think he can be a standout.”

Saturday’s match is a crucial one for both teams, who sit mid-table, after fluctuating fortunes this season.

The two sides have similar records with losses outweighing victories in the 16 matches they have played to-date. Key players Paul Ifill and Carlos Hernandez have also been unable to make the kind of impact for Wellington and Melbourne respectively, they did last season either.

But the Phoenix have been buoyed by Wednesday’s night’s win which ended a run of successive losses at the once fortress-like Westpac Stadium and saw Ifill get back on the score sheet after six games without finding the back of the net.

“They are in a similar category to us,” acknowledged Durante. “The top three are pretty consistent but outside of that everyone else could be really good or really poor.

“But the Victory are not going to be easy. They’ve got Archie (Thompson) back and Robbie Kruse up front and I think we have to nullify Hernandez.

“He hasn’t posed the same kind of threat this season but it’s only a matter of time before players like that turn it on. We saw that with Ifill. Hernandez hasn’t lit the world on fire this season but if we give him too much time he’s more than capable of doing it.”

“If we don’t let the ball get to him and stop him threading his through balls then I think it goes a long way to stopping them winning.”