All Whites striker Ben Waine has left the Wellington Phoenix to sign for English League One leaders Plymouth Argyle.
Dubbed the ‘Waine Train’ by fans, Waine (21) has signed on a permanent transfer.
“This is an absolute dream move,” Waine said in a video message. “Ever since I did become a professional footballer I’ve had this desire and kind of addiction of wanting to move over to the UK and play over here, and Plymouth Argyle have given me the opportunity to do that so I’m extremely grateful for that.”
Waine scored 17 A-League goals in 73 matches for the Phoenix since making his debut as a 17-year-old in March 2019.
He also found the back of the net five times in the Australia Cup, including three goals in August.
Waine has expressed his gratitude to the club and Nix fans from Plymouth.
“I just want to say thank you because I didn’t get the chance to do this in person as everything just happened really quickly,” he said.
“Firstly to everyone in the academy, players and staff that gave me the chance to develop and push me towards the first team, I want to say thank you.
“Then in the first team, you guys gave me a platform to be able to make this move a possibility. I’ve honestly got friends for life in that team and all the boys that have come and gone have played a big part in my career so thank you all.
“But most importantly I just want to say how grateful I am to have been accepted and to have played in front of the Yellow Fever and the Nix fans.
“As a kid growing up in Wellington aspiring to be a footballer to play at Sky Stadium in front of you guys is an absolute dream come true. The confidence and passion you guys have given me is next level.
“I’m going to miss you all but hopefully it’s not the last we see of each other.”
The Wellingtonian scored his first goal for the Phoenix early in the 2019-20 season to become the youngest goal scorer in club history at 18 years and 145 days.
He enjoyed a break-out campaign the following season, scoring seven A-League goals in 18 games to take home the club’s young player of the year award.
Waine went on to represent New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 before making his All Whites debut in March this year.
He was the Nix’s equal top goal scorer last season and found the back of the net three times in eight A-League appearances this campaign.
Talay: ‘The club has never stood in anybody’s way’
Ben Waine leaves with the Wellington Phoenix’s best wishes.
“The club has never stood in anybody’s way.,” Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay said.
“Even though the Phoenix may ask for a price, I think it’s good that the club that is interested really invests in the player that they’re taking as it’s good for our players.
“Waineo has done a fantastic job in the games that he’s played for Wellington Phoenix and we’re proud that we’ve played a part in his development.
“Now he’s hopefully going off to bigger and better things and continues to have success in his career.”
Waine, like former Phoenix team-mates Sarpreet Singh and Liberato Cacace, is a product of the club’s academy.
Talay says it shows the pathway the Nix are able to provide young Kiwi footballers.
“We heavily rely on the academy, we love promoting from within and providing opportunities for young players.
“They’re not just given, they have to work for it and Waineo is one of those ones who has worked for it.
“He’s come through the academy into the first team and has played consistently and scored goals. Now an opportunity has come and the club has opened the door for him to go and hopefully he can continue that.
“It’s exciting that we produce players and the club ends up getting rewarded for selling these players overseas, and that’s the way we look at things at the Wellington Phoenix.
“We try to develop our own, send them off to Europe and the club gets rewarded financially. That goes back into the club and the academy and we start that process again with other players.”