Ben Waine meets supporters on New Year's Day

Waine Raring to Go

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Ben Waine may only have been in the northern hemisphere for one week, but he is already feeling right at home in his new surroundings.

The New Zealand international striker, 21, joined for an undisclosed fee from hometown club Wellington Phoenix at the beginning of the January transfer window, realising a lifelong dream to get a chance at cracking English football.

It is a big change for ‘Waineo’, who has spent the entirety of his footballing career with Phoenix up until this point. Possessing a British passport through his English parents, it was only a matter of time until the highly-rated youngster made the move into the EFL, with a host of clubs, including some in the Championship, vying for his signature.

In the end, it was the personal touch of manager Steven Schumacher and positive references from Phoenix teammates David Ball and former Pilgrim Scott Wootton, alongside another Argyle connection, Wellington academy coach Rory Fallon, which left no argument in Ben’s mind.

Speaking at a press call on Thursday ahead of the weekend trip to Bolton Wanderers, where Waine may well make his debut, the striker said: “I think it was pretty much my decision was made after speaking to them [Ball, Wootton and Fallon] and definitely was made after speaking to Steven Schumacher.

“So I think the first person I really talked to about it was Ball and he didn't really just speak about the club but he spoke about English football in general. All my family are English so I have a fair idea just about the passion from the fans, the energy, the stadiums the style of play and the intensity - and it’s all lived up to the expectations.

“Rory and Scotty gave me a more specific kind of viewing on what Plymouth was like as a club, the fan base, the atmosphere, and how many people show up to the stadiums and what people are like. It's lived up to the expectations and more to be honest.

“When I was in communication with the club, I knew everything was honest and truthful ‘cause I obviously had David to talk to. You never know if it's the truth when someone’s trying to sell you the club, but I knew straight away what kind of guy he [Schumacher] was.”

Football transfers, particularly in the January window, are often a hectic experience, but the logistics of bringing a relocating a player from the other side of the world, not to mention the jetlag, have provided an opportunity for Ben to ease into life in Plymouth.

This is not your standard transfer, either, with great curiosity in both Devon and back home in New Zealand over how Ben's undoubted attributes adapt to the English game. For his part, though, Waine seems remarkably at ease with the situation, and is savouring every moment of the experience so far.

He has had the opportunity to take in two home fixtures, the win over Wycombe Wanderers the day before he agreed terms, and the New Year’s Day victory over Milton Keynes Dons – in which he was introduced to his new supporters in front of a packed house minutes before kick-off.

He said: “I was talking to my family about it last night over Face-time. The reception that I've had has just been unbelievable.

“When I was waiting to walk out onto the field, I was so nervous. I was like oh my God, just like don’t do anything stupid. It was crazy and I can only imagine what that feeling would be like scoring a goal, winning a game.

“When I walked down the field and everyone’s clapping and standing up, it was just bizarre to me. I guess I’m not used to that, that kind of support. I mean the Wellington fans are brilliant, don't get me wrong, but it is another level – I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

“Like I said, it's not an easy move to move all the way from the other side of the world, but as soon as I was announced that second game where I came to Home Park, everyone was shaking my hand and welcomed me, wishing me all the best.”

Ben Waine at training
All smiles on the training ground

Ben is not entirely unfamiliar with life in England. With his parents hailing from Newcastle and Hull, Waine has made many returns to the nation of his parents’ birth throughout his formative years.

“So probably up until the age of 13/14 when I started high school, it was every three or four years I’d come [to the UK]. Newcastle, Hull and then maybe a little holiday somewhere came down to London or France.

“And as my football got more serious and I had to stay back for school and it kind of faded away. So, I haven’t been back properly in about nine or ten years. But it’s nice, it feels a bit like home. I do miss it and I enjoy it when I come over here.”

While the culture is markedly different, Waine has found comfort in the coast, and continues to be surprised by the volume of Kiwi connections – including an encounter with a fellow guest at the Plymouth hotel he is staying in while he finalises his move to a permanent apartment.

He said: “I was in the pool of my hotel the other day and got pulled to the side by somebody, and he was from Karori which is in Wellington - like ten minutes from where I lived.” Waine grinned in amazement when recalling the story. “In the hotel I was staying at! I was just like what's the coincidence of that, and they go to the Phoenix games back home, crazy.

“I think I might have been tearing my hair out if we were landlocked right now. It’s just nice to have. It is a big move so to have that kind of comfort of some similarities is really nice. I went for a walk along the waterfront - the first time I seen the sun in about a week! But it was beautiful and people were swimming, it was about four degrees. So, there's a lot of similarities [between Plymouth and Wellington] to be honest.”

On the pitch, Ben knows that it may take time to adjust to the speed and intensity of the English game, and a Sky Bet League One promotion battle, but is backing himself to be able to make an impact for a team which already boasts three potent strikers in the form of Niall Ennis, Ryan Hardie and Sam Cosgrove.

He said: “The club’s in a fantastic position. The move almost happened in the summer, so ever since then I have been keeping an eye on how the team’s been going. it’s been fantastic.

“For me, coming into a team like that, the most important thing I want to be able to do is to try and add to that. I think I don't want to take anything away, I just want to try and hopefully add something that maybe the team doesn’t have yet. So that would be my aim to try and help the team as much as possible.”

On competition for places, he said: “I see it as a positive to be honest. Regardless of how much game time that's going to allow me to have, if you look at that the amount of opportunities that the team are creating and the chances that the forwards are getting, it's a good thing for me to come. Obviously, it’s awesome to see them [the other strikers in the squad] doing well.

“It might be harder to break into the team, but at the end of the day, I do feel like I’m going to get my chance and a team that's creating and doing well, that’s like a striker’s dream isn’t it?"

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