Keeper steps into spotlight after 'good' Hibs showing

THE "mystery" goalkeeper fielded by Hibs boss Mixu Paatelainen against Raith Rovers was today revealed as New Zealand-based Phil Imray.

The English-born star is currently four days into a two-week trial with the Easter Road outfit as Paatelainen seeks to bring in cover for Yves Ma-Kalambay, who will miss the start of the SPL season having been called into the Belgium squad for the Olympic Games in China.

Although the 24-year-old admitted he didn't have his best game at Stark's Park on Tuesday night – rating his performance as "okay" – he kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw in which he was joined by fellow trialists Joe Keenan and an un-named French defender.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And Paatelainen, who refused to divulge the identity of any of the trialists on the night, insisted he had seen encouraging signs, saying: "The goalkeeper made some good saves, he came off his line well, his distribution was okay and he put in a good performance all round."

A move to the SPL would complete a footballing rags to riches story for Imray, who was born in Worcester before moving to New Zealand at the age of 16 to study at the Ole Soccer Academy.

Only a few weeks ago he was plying his trade for Porirua team Western Suburbs in the Wellington-based Central League club competition.

Imray's visit to Scotland has been helped by the contacts of former Scotland and Celtic goalkeeper Jonathan Gould, now New Zealand's Olympic team assistant coach.

He said: "It has been a dream of mine, for a while, to play professionally over here, I've just got to make sure I try and raise my game while I'm here."

Imray admitted, however, that the difference in standard between Western Suburbs and Hibs was "staggering".

He said: "It's a massive step up, everyone is quality here and it's a lot more physical."

Although little-known outside Wellington, Imray shot to prominence as Western Suburbs lifted the 2006 Chatham Cup by saving three penalties in a final shoot-out against Eastern Suburbs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Imray played in the NZFC last season for Team Wellington, captaining them at times and is said to be the top goalkeeper in the league, right up there with the likes of Wellington Phoenix stoppers Glen Moss and Mark Paston, who compete for the No.1 slot in the national side.

However, Imray is not pinning all his hopes on Hibs. He said: "I'm going to try and pick up a contract over here and, if it doesn't work out at Hibs, I'll try somewhere else. This is my first stop and it's a pretty big club. It's a pretty big step up so, if it doesn't work out here, maybe I'll try and drop down a level or two."

Meanwhile, a Hibs XI, made up mostly of youth players, will face Forfar Athletic at Station Park tonight (kick-off 7.45 pm).