Friday night fiesta

FEATURING two teams packed with stars and in top form, Wellington’s first Friday night football match of the season promises to be a beauty.

FEATURING two teams packed with stars and in top form, Wellington-s first Friday night football match of the season promises to be a beauty.

Wellington Phoenix tackle Melbourne Victory at Westpac Stadium in a mouth-watering clash that has fans abuzz.

Having played all six of their home matches to date this season on Sunday evenings, the Phoenix players and head coach Ricki Herbert are relishing the chance to start the weekend-s football action off with a bang on Friday.

While the Phoenix-s crowd numbers have suffered somewhat from so many Sunday fixtures, the team-s form is on a major upswing. With back-to-back wins against Newcastle and Sydney, the Phoenix head into Friday night-s match brimming with confidence.

“It-s going to be great to have a Friday night game,” Herbert said. “We-ve produced the results and hopefully we can get a few more fans along as well.

“Wellington as a city is perfect for Friday night fixtures. It-s a sporting centre and people flow from the centre of the city down to Westpac Stadium on the waterfront. From the position of attracting the crowds Friday night will be beneficial for us, and that-s what we saw last season.

“We-ve come off back-to-back wins and we-re climbing up the table, so hopefully the fans will come out in force to support us. Irrespective of the size of the crowd, we always get a huge boost from our fans – and I firmly believe we-ve got the best in the league – but we need more to come to the games.”

While the Victory – one of the glamour teams of the Hyundai A-League – have a roster of big guns, the Phoenix boast their own stars in striker Shane Smeltz, Brazilian duo Fred and Daniel, midfielder Jon McKain and skipper Andrew Durante.

There will be huge interest in the clash between Fred and his former Victory teammate Archie Thompson on Friday night.

The two good mates got reacquainted following the Phoenix-s captain-s run at Westpac Stadium on the eve of the match, posing for photographers and speaking to media about what promises to be a scintillating match.

Fred and Thompson last played together in the Victory-s 6-0 demolition of Adelaide United in the Hyundai A-League 2007 grand final, the Brazilian laying on four of Thompson-s five goals.

Thompson was effusive in his praise of his former teammate.

“We know what he’s capable of,” Thompson said of Fred. “On his day he is incredible and he showed that in the final two seasons ago, when he put them (the goals) on the platter for me to score.

“He was outstanding for us and for Wellington to have him for six games is a huge bonus for them. It was disappointing when he left but we’ve recruited well and got good players. But after his six-game stint (with the Phoenix), if he wants to come home he’s got a place at my house.”

That admiration and respect was mutual, beamed Fred.

“For me he did it the best,” he said of the Victory-s Socceroos strike star. “I can’t say a bad word about Archie. He never have a chance in the game tomorrow – I wish!”

Friday night-s match kicks off at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from www.ticketek.co.nz, the Phoenix club store (corner of Cuba and Dixon streets) and Westpac Stadium from midday Friday.