Tim Payne.
Tim Payne. NZ Herald - Shane Wenzlick

Blackburn Rovers grab Payne

PROMISING Tim Payne will sign a two-and-a-half year contract with Blackburn Rovers this week.

The 18-year-old, who first trialed for the Premier League club in August, is expected to make his debut for the Blackburn reserve team next weekend.

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The New Zealander, who came through the Sacred Heart academy run by former All White Danny Hay before going on to play for Auckland City and Waitakere United, has the ability to play up front (usually as a deep lying striker) as well as midfield.

Ryan Nelsen played a part in getting Payne to Ewood Park but was quick to emphasise it was no free ride.

"He has done really well and it has all been on Tim's back," says Nelsen.

"Sure, I have got him the opportunity there but they are not giving him a contract because of me. He had to play well, plain and simple, and they have watched him a lot. It also reflects on what Danny has done with Tim over the years and I see a lot of how Danny was as a player with Tim. I guess for Tim, the hard work starts now."

Six Kiwis have played in the Premier League but only Nelsen has made more than a handful of appearances.

Others such as Jack Pelter (Sunderland), Chris James (Fulham) and Cameron Lindsay (Blackburn) were on the books of Premier League clubs without ever playing for their first teams.

Payne appeals as someone who just might make it. His promise was evident from an early age; as a 15-year-old, he was the youngest player to score in an NZFC match, and he went to World Cups with the national under-17 and under-20 teams last year.

"Tim has always had a great game sense," says Neil Emblen, a former Premier League footballer who was also his coach at Waitakere United. "He has game intelligence and a knack of being in the right place at the right time."

Blackburn are bottom of the table but that may not be a bad thing for Payne. West Brom's Chris Wood and West Ham's Winston Reid both played in the Premier League as their clubs battled unsuccessfully to avoid relegation. Auckland City showed no sign of a New Year hangover, easing to a 3-0 win over Canterbury at Kiwitea St yesterday to open up a six-point gap ahead of Waitakere at the top of the ASB Premiership, with the West Aucklanders playing at Manawatu today.

Daniel Koprivcic notched the first with a classy finish in the 17th minute, and once Manel Exposito doubled the lead on the hour, the three points seemed safe.

Emiliano Tade added gloss to the scoreline in the dying moments with his sixth goal of the season, meaning last year's runners-up made it a perfect six from six in this season's competition. A late stoush saw both sides finish with 10 men, when City's Luis Corrales and Canterbury's Cole Peverley saw red after clashing following a tackle.

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