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Phoenix a path back to All Whites: Smeltz

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/12/2016 Daniel Gilhooly

Shane Smeltz says the Wellington Phoenix is the perfect stage from which to reignite his All Whites future.

The veteran striker officially rejoined his former club on Tuesday, taking a full part in training seven years after his successful two-season stint finished.

Smeltz won't be available to play until the A-League's transfer window opens, meaning he'll miss the Boxing Day match in Newcastle and the home fixture against Adelaide United on New Year's Day.

The 35-year-old will become eligible in time for the January 5 match away to Perth Glory - one of three other clubs he has represented in the league.

When it arrives, he'll be out to prove he shouldn't be consigned to the international scrap heap.

The scorer of 24 goals in 51 All Whites appearances, Smeltz has played just once for his country since the two-legged World Cup qualifying capitulation against Mexico three years ago.

One motivation for choosing the Phoenix over interested clubs in Australia and Asia was a chance to display himself to All Whites coach Anthony Hudson in the most conspicuous way.

"I'm in the face of the national team coach. I think there's no better place for me to be performing and pushing," Smeltz said.

"And I'll be working with a number of boys involved in the national set-up."

Hudson picked Smeltz for the 1-1 draw against Myanmar 15 months ago, where he scored the only goal.

The striker would have been part of this year's Nations Cup squad but was forced to withdraw with a foot injury.

He says his time in the international wilderness hasn't been a cause for consternation but he is desperate to be part of a squad which qualifies for the next World Cup.

"There's been a massive transition in the national team and that's to be expected.

"As far as I'm concerned, my passion has never changed. If I put my head down, work hard and do the right things here, I think there's a flow-on effect."

Smeltz initially wants to simply add to the quality at the Phoenix, believing the personnel are easily good enough to lift the club from eighth to inside the top six by season's end.

He said it was a "funny" sensation walking through the clubroom doors but quickly felt at home when linking with a handful of former teammates.

Smeltz scored 21 goals in 39 appearances in his stint with the Phoenix, forming the first part of his 89-goal A-League career tally which is bettered only by the 90 scored by both Besart Berisha and the retired Archie Thompson.

Engaging in a goal-scoring race with Melbourne Victory marksman Berisha isn't high on Smeltz's priority list.

"I certainly get reminded of it a fair bit and it's something that's interesting for the public," he said.

"But I want to win. That's either built in you or it's not. I don't think chasing one player down is going to be a factor."

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