Club legend Chris Greenacre has joined an elite group of football coaches in New Zealand.
The former Wellington Phoenix striker is one of just a select few coaches in Aotearoa, one of them being first-team head coach Ufuk Talay, to hold a pro licence.
Greenacre has recently completed the AFC Pro Diploma, run by Football Australia.
“There are only a handful of people with a pro licence in the country so it’s quite a privilege,” he said.
“There has been a lot of work that has gone into it so I’m really pleased to have finally got it over the line and I can put it to good use now.”
The popular Englishman scored 19 goals in 84 appearances for the Phoenix from 2009 to 2012, before serving as an assistant coach under Ricki Herbert, Ernie Merrick, Darije Kalezic, Mark Rudan and Talay.
He obtained a UEFA A coaching licence two years after retiring as a player and started the pro diploma during the Covid-interrupted 2019-20 A-League season.
“With Covid and the team being overseas it’s something I’ve kept putting on the back burner. But it’s been in the back of my mind to crack on with it this year.
“I’ve had great support from Uffy, Giancarlo (Italiano) and the first team staff, and the other candidates who were on the course with me were fantastic.
“It’s great that the club have invested in me and supported me.”
Greenacre has been head coach of the Phoenix reserves since October last year and guided the team to a sixth place finish in the just completed National League Championship.
“It’s been great to live and breathe it on a daily basis. I’ve certainly enjoyed it and it’s been great to put what I’ve learnt into practice.
“It’s about trying to get the best out of the players we’ve got now. There are some tools I’ve been given and it’s great to be able to start using them.”
While he now holds the highest coaching qualification in football, his education doesn’t stop.
“Things are changing every single day. I will spend as much time in the first team environment as possible and continually learn.
“I want to get better and better and improve the players around me, which is what it is about.
“Hopefully we can get them to a standard that they’re good enough to represent this club and if that’s not going to be the case, they’re good enough to make a living out of the game.
“It’s quite satisfying to know you’ve played a part in a player’s development.”
Wellington Phoenix director of football Shaun Gill has congratulated Greenacre on securing the pro diploma.
“We’re thrilled for Greeny,” Gill said. “He has worked tirelessly to complete the course, while juggling his commitments with the first team and the academy.
“It’s especially satisfying to see Greeny come through the club as a player, develop as a coach and obtain a pro licence.
“We’re proud that two Phoenix coaches now hold the highest coaching qualification possible.”
That number could double in the coming years with assistant coach Giancarlo Italiano currently studying for his pro licence, while academy technical director Paul Temple is hoping to start his pro diploma course in 2023.
“We believe we have the best coaches in New Zealand nurturing the next generation of Kiwi footballers and we feel it’s important to continually invest in their development.”