WELLINGTON Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert had advised Gold Coast United counterpart Miron Bleiberg to follow some of his own advice ahead of the two sides’ big game in Wellington on Sunday.
WELLINGTON Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert had advised Gold Coast United counterpart Miron Bleiberg to follow some of his own advice ahead of the two sides- big game in Wellington on Sunday.
Bleiberg cheekily suggested earlier his week that Herbert should focus on his duties as coach of the New Zealand national team – the All Whites just one game away from qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with a game against Bahrain next month – rather than strategising to topple the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 leaders at Westpac Stadium.
“What’s more important, beating us in a league game or making history by going to the World Cup? It’s no contest,” Bleiberg told the Gold Coast Bulletin. “If I were Ricki I’d be putting all my energy and intellect into winning the World Cup match, it wouldn’t make sense to do otherwise. I wouldn’t even be thinking about the Coast game. He should let us take the three points because he has bigger things to worry about and plan for. In reality, playing us on Sunday should be irrelevant to him.”
It-s not advice Herbert or the Phoenix – with their six New Zealand internationals – will be taking.
“Miron-s had some typically ‘interesting- thoughts around Sunday-s game in saying that some of our players won-t have their minds on the game,” Herbert chuckled. “I find that quite amusing, really. I think, given our extremely dominant performance over on the Gold Coast (a 0-0 draw at Skilled Perk in round nine), that he-d be making reflections on his own team – not ours.”
Trumpeted pre-season by Bleiberg and others within Gold Coast United that the Glitter Strip boys would win the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 title unbeaten, things have not quite gone to plan so far. They-ve been beaten three times in 11 games, one loss more than the Phoenix.
“I think Miron might have been suffering from a bit of sunstroke,” said Herbert. “I said before we went to the Gold Coast that I think they-re a vulnerable side and we-ve seen that. I think Perth would be rightly disappointed they didn-t get something from the game last week and prior to that they-ve looked shaky in other games also.”
Herbert was adamant the Phoenix-s Kiwi contingent, like their club teammates, were focused first and foremost on Sunday-s key clash.
“If the New Zealand boys- focus was going to be anywhere else it probably would have been that game before the first match against Bahrain (which ended in a goalless draw). But we certainly dominated that Hyundai A-League game – it just happened to be against the Gold Coast.”
The Phoenix completely shut down Gold Coast-s much vaunted attack – featuring former Wellington star Shane Smeltz – at Skilled Park and looked good value for the win throughout.
The gameplan will be similar again at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
“They-re tough to handle (on attack) but that-s only one dimension of the team,” said Herbert. “The ball-s in our court, we need to take the game to them and we need to win. The amount of ball we can restrict them getting in that front third the easier that-ll make it for us.”
And Herbert will be looking forward to a bit of banter with Bleiberg should the Phoenix get the win.
“He-s very competitive, I-m very competitive. There-s only one focal point for our players and that-s a win. I-m sure there-ll be a few gentle digs should we get it.”