If Kwabena Appiah is as confident in front of goal as he is in front of the cameras then the Australian side Wellington Phoenix have landed a winner.
The former Western Sydney Wanderers forward has completed his first week of training as a Phoenix player, having signed a contract through to the end of the 2015-16 A-League season.
The Phoenix are hot favourites to beat Newcastle Jets at the Hutt Recreation Ground tomorrow but Appiah will have to wait to make his first-team debut, with coach Ernie Merrick saying he will instead play 45 minutes for the club’s reserve team against Hawke’s Bay United in the ASB Premiership today.
But the Auckland-born Appiah has already impressed at training, both on the pitch and off, giving a polished performance during the Phoenix’s media session at the Hutt Rec.
Some youngsters um and ah when asked to describe themselves as players but Appiah, whose parents are Ghanaian, had no hesitation.
“I’m a very attacking player, attacking mindset. I love to showboat a little bit and I can’t wait to express that,” he said.
“The boys have made me feel welcome, I’ve gone for coffee with a few of the boys, I’ve settled in quite easily here. I’m grateful for that.”
Phoenix playmaker Michael McGlinchey recommended the 22-year-old to Merrick, having trained with him at the Central Coast Mariners, where Appiah won the national youth league in 2011-12, scoring nine goals.
In 2012 he became one of Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic’s first signings, going on to play 25 games for the Wanderers as a member of their 2014 Asian Champions League-winning squad.
But things turned sour this year as the Wanderers’ winless A-League streak mounted and Appiah agreed to a mutual termination of his contract last month before the Phoenix pounced.
He is yet to score an A-League goal but Merrick has had great success in turning the likes of Robbie Kruse and Nathan Burns from pacy wingers to lethal marksmen.
His goals at the Phoenix are to: “Start pinging in the goals.”
“I’ve got self belief, great confidence and I’ve got a great coach behind me who’s going to back me to score the type of goals I want to score,” Appiah said.
“I’m just looking forward to scoring goals, getting playing time and helping the boys win the whole thing.”
Appiah will get more attacking freedom under Merrick, compared to the defensively-minded Popovic.
“A bit more attacking compared with what I was doing before. A bit more free licence. I’m looking forward to working hard, developing my game, improving my attacking ability and I think under Ernie is a great place to do it.”
Appiah’s preferred position was wreaking havoc as a central striker but he also backed himself do damage on the left.
“Very unpredictable, coming in, it makes it a bit harder for the right back to defend when you’re on your stronger side going in.”
Said Merrick of his new attacking acquisition: “He has tremendous pace, he cuts inside, he cuts outside, he’s a good dribbler, good one-on-one and he’s really fit. I think at this time of the year, to have someone fresh like that, is just such a good thing.”
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