Blog: Land of hope and glory

Wellington Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata and coach Ricki Herbert are in the United Kingdom for two weeks scouting for top-class strikers. In the first of a series of blogs, Pignata sets the scene for what the club is seeking.

THE first thing that strikes you about London – quite apart from the typically dreary weather (5-degrees Celsius and overcast) – is the British fascination with all things football.

The game here is, quite simply, huge. It-s everywhere – on TV, the radio, in newspapers on online. It-s the universal topic for Britons, they talk football seemingly non-stop (a good idea, most likely, given that the weather doesn-t warrant mentioning).

So Ricki Herbert and I find ourselves in the heart of one of Europe-s footballing powerhouses as part of our two-week mission to find two quality strikers for the Wellington Phoenix for our upcoming Hyundai A-League campaign. Thankfully we were able to do much of the “legwork” prior to departing for the United Kingdom, having already made good contacts with players and agents. We have developed a shortlist of potential candidates and most of our time during this trip will be spent talking with them, their agents, and watching them train and play. Many of the agents we will be meeting with also represent other players in Europe and our decision to travel to this part of the world will prove invaluable in speeding up the process of securing talented players we believe will make significant contributions to the Phoenix.

I know there has been plenty of discussion about the club-s decision to examine playing talent in the United Kingdom. I must stress that while we are confident that we can find what we are looking for in this part of the world, rest assured that we will also leave our options open in terms of assessing what else is on offer elsewhere. Work has already begun to that effect also.

The addition of two new teams to the competition and the likelihood of another two joining in 2010/11 means there is a shortage of quality players in Australasia. While development of young talent has been good, it will take time for those youngsters to rise to the level required by the Hyundai A-League. In the meantime, we need players with proven pedigrees. That means looking offshore. We have identified League One as a competition we feel can deliver players more than capable of making a splash in the Hyundai A-League. League One is possibly a slightly better standard than the Hyundai A-League, but the two competitions are comparable in quality for the most part. However, in saying that, our scouting has not been isolated to League One and we have some interesting meetings scheduled with players and agents from other, higher, levels in the coming days.

So, what are we looking for in the two strikers we seek?

From a playing perspective, it-s all about speed and work-rate. We want strikers that offer versatility, guys with an eye for goal who can cause havoc in opposition defensive lines be it with the ball at their feet or in the air.

But another, equally important consideration is for Ricki and me to get a “gauge” of potential signings face-to-face. In the modern, professional environment it-s not solely about signing players because of their on-field talent. We must assess how a player will fit into the club environment; get a feel for their hopes and ambitions; understand what makes them tick. We don-t want players seeking a holiday. We want players who can help take this club to the next level on and off the pitch. Being here to talk directly with them will help us immeasurably in making those important assessments.

There are good players here that we think fit the bill and could have a huge impact for the Phoenix. Now it-s a matter of convincing them their futures are in the Hyundai A-League with the Wellington Phoenix. Ricki and I trust this will be a straight-forward task.

I-ll be keeping you up-to-date.

Yours in football,

Tony Pignata