WELLINGTON Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert could barely take the smile off his face throughout his side’s first training session of the new season today, impressed by the condition of his players after a lengthy off-season.
WELLINGTON Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert could barely take the smile off his face throughout his side-s first training session of the new season today, impressed by the condition of his players after a lengthy off-season.
The Phoenix enjoyed a light training run at Porirua Park in front of a large contingent of fans as Herbert and assistant coach Luciano Trani got their first on-field look at the players in 10 weeks.
“The break has been good and it-s allowed the players to clear their heads,” Herbert said. “They-ve all come back well and that-s important.”
Some players have undergone surgery following the successful 2008/09 campaign in the Hyundai A-League, with defender Ben Sigmund and player of the season Leo Bertos both going under the surgeon-s knife off-season.
Sigmund is still some way off returning to the training field, though Bertos is very close to taking a full part in pre-season work. The return of Vince Lia to training was also very encouraging, the midfielder-s first two seasons with the Phoenix blighted by injury.
“Some of the guys are at different stages in their rehab but they-re all looking well within themselves and I-m very pleased with what I-ve seen,” Herbert said. “We-ll have a nice, gradual lead-in with training and hit the ground running on May 4. We-ve got a programme that will take us right the way through the pre-season but this initial two-week period is about getting the guys into the right mindset.”
Renowned strength and conditioning expert Eddie Baranowski has developed specific programmes the Phoenix will use throughout the season. Herbert was thrilled to again have Baranowski-s services to call on.
“Obviously there-s a lot of work to do now to get the players to where we want them to be but nobody has come back in disappointing shape, so that-s a great start. Having Eddie-s expertise to call on is fantastic and he-ll be assessing things and planning forward.”
Much of the interest at Porirua Park was focused on new signing Diego. The Brazilian attacking midfielder has joined the Phoenix from Adelaide United and the session at Porirua gave him his first chance to train with his new teammates.
Herbert was happy with his new signing-s early showing.
“Of course it-s only early days but he looked well. Obviously there-s a little bit of tidying up to do with his conditioning but he-s good.”
Another positive for Herbert and the Phoenix was the strong support of local fans at the team-s first training session.
“The players are very familiar with a lot of people in the community and they certainly enjoy getting out there and having contact with people. It-s fantastic and a real focus of the club now.”
The Phoenix have three more training sessions that are open to the public during the April school holidays.
The team trains at Petone Memorial Park from 10.30am on Friday, April 17, with two sessions next week at Karori Park (Thursday, April 23, 10.30am-midday) and Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt (Friday, April 24, 10.30am-midday).