Adrian Caceres has rediscovered his desire to achieve as a professional footballer and he's crediting his new club with reinvigorating his hunger to play.
The Wellington Phoenix attacking midfielder joined the New Zealand-based club for the remainder of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season in late August after seeking - and being granted - an early out from his contract with the Central Coast Mariners.
A championship-winner with Melbourne Victory in 2006/07, Caceres has had something of a nomadic career as a footballer. But the 27-year-old reckons he's involved in something special in Wellington.
"It's been a really easy transition to make and I haven't felt so positive for a long time," the Argentina-born Australian said.
"I'm sure a lot of players say this, and it sounds a bit of a cliché, but I really do mean it - this club has been great for me. The players, the coaching staff, the management - everyone has made me feel so welcome. Everyone's helped me recover from my injury problems and I haven't felt pressured to come in too quickly.
"It's been great for me and I can't speak highly enough of the Phoenix. I'm really looking forward to staying on here and helping the team achieve to the high standards we know we're capable of."
Caceres got his first run in Phoenix colours last Sunday, coming on and impressing as a substitute in the 1-1 draw with the Fury. This weekend, with midfielder Daniel in Brazil to be with his wife for the recent birth of their second child - a girl named Luisa - Caceres could start against the Mariners in the round eight showdown at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
"I felt like a young schoolboy, actually, playing for the first time," Caceres said of his 30 minutes against the Fury.
"I was quite nervous but that's a good thing, to have those nerves and that hunger to get out there and play. I definitely felt that at the weekend and I was so excited. But after five minutes I settled in and felt comfortable again on the ball and started doing my stuff, so it was good."
Caceres said he would relish the opportunity to start against his former club on Sunday but not because he felt the need to prove something to his ex-employer.
"It's exciting for me to be in the mix. I honestly don't care who we play against, I've been working hard to get myself right and get into the starting XI. If that comes this weekend I'll be over the moon and it doesn't really matter to me who we're playing against. I just want us to get the three points, which is very important for us."
Daniel and Jon McKain (quad injury) will definitely miss Sunday's match, with gun striker Paul Ifill a 50/50 chance of taking part after pulling up in the second half of the match against the Fury. The Briton has a strained hamstring and is being monitored by Phoenix medical staff.
While a run-on appearance on Sunday would be significant for Caceres, the match against the Mariners is even more significant for the Phoenix. The Wellington club, which rose from the ashes following the disasters that were the Auckland-based New Zealand Kingz and Knights, celebrates its 50th Hyundai A-League fixture on Sunday.
"This club has proven it deserves to be in the league," said Caceres. "We're competitive and very well supported. We've been really unlucky with a few results so far this season but hopefully the luck will swing our way soon - starting on Sunday."