Tatura export Vince Lia has been handed an A-League lifeline after signing a one-year contract with Adelaide United, with an option for a second year.
Lia, 32, had been offered a trial in the City of Churches and the defensive midfielder jumped at the opportunity, before agreeing to terms last week.
The former Wellington Phoenix star signed on Tuesday and said he was delighted to call Adelaide home.
‘‘It has been a tough couple of months trying to keep yourself motivated, keep fit and hope there is light at the end of the tunnel,’’ Lia said.
‘‘I was always confident in my ability and I am thankful that Adelaide has given me an opportunity to continue my career in the A-League.’’
Lia’s A-League journey began when he first signed for Melbourne Victory in 2005, where he played 28 games.
However, it was across the ditch where he made a name for himself in the country’s premier soccer competition.
On October 14, 2007, with the fledgling club just seven games old, Lia pulled on the yellow and black of Phoenix for the first time.
Ten seasons, 197 matches and four goals later, many have come and gone, but the robust midfielder is one of the club’s longest serving players, despite leaving at season’s end.
‘‘It does feel a little bit strange pulling on the Adelaide jersey and walking into the training ground,’’ Lia said.
‘‘But the longer I am here the more comfortable I will become, I already know a few of the boys, so the transition has been pretty easy.’’
Lia is Adelaide’s oldest player and after impressing during his trial and two pre-season friendlies, the Reds have a leadership role earmarked for the 221-game veteran.
‘‘I am oldest player here now, we are a pretty young squad, so I think my experience will benefit the boys a fair bit,’’ Lia said.
‘‘I am not sure what they are thinking in terms of my leadership role, but I think there is something that will come up.’’
Lia has secured his immediate future with United and could potentially go around for a second year, be he is only focusing on this season.
‘‘My aim was to secure a contract and I have done that now,’’ Lia said.
‘‘As a footballer you want to play as many games as possible, that is my goal now, play consistent football, do what I have to do for the team and if all goes to plan, I am sure everything will take care of itself.’’
Lia will play for German Marco Kurz, who will embark on his first season as a coach in Australia, and the two have already struck a great relationship.
‘‘It has been pretty good, he is starting from scratch at the club, as I am,’’ Lia said.
‘‘He is a strict manager, we have had a couple of games and we are still working on things that we need to improve on.’’
With the new A-League season beginning in October, Lia will continue his charge up the A-League games record list, where he sits in 14th position.
Lia is not looking too far ahead, but the Goulburn Valley talent did not rule out the opportunity of returning to play for Tatura one day.
‘‘I have still got a lot of miles left in my legs to go at a top level,’’ Lia said with a laugh.
‘‘But you never know, I could end up kicking a ball around there one day.’’