Ufuk Talay has made it clear his job isn’t done as Wellington Phoenix coach as he prepares the players for “another grand final” this weekend.
The Phoenix play host to Brisbane Roar at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday afternoon in their last home match of the Isuzu UTE A-League regular season.
After three straight defeats the Nix need three points to strengthen their grip on a place in the top six and keep alive their hopes of bringing finals football to the capital for the first time in eight years.
Talay announced on Friday that he will leave Wellington at the end of the season to pursue a new coaching challenge.
But he is “very hungry” to play in front of Phoenix fans at Sky Stadium again before he departs.
“These last three weeks haven’t been the best three weeks for me personally,” Talay told media on Friday. “Because I don’t like losing games…we haven’t been clinical, and we’ve been sloppy in conceding goals.
“We’ve spoken about Brisbane Roar to the players this week. For me it’s another grand final that we’re playing. It’s a game that we need to win.
“It’s our home game up in Auckland and we need to win that to give ourselves a good chance and then we’ve got two very important away games to secure our spot in the top six.
“If we get a good result, we don’t know what Wanderers are going to do against Melbourne Victory [on Saturday night], there’s an opportunity when we play Wanderers [on Friday], that hopefully we get a result there, that we jump above them [and into the top four].
“The good thing is it’s in our hands what we can achieve this season and the opportunity is still there.”
Eden Park has been a happy home away from home for the Nix. The men are unbeaten in 10 matches at New Zealand’s national stadium, including four wins and a draw since Ufuk Talay took charge in 2019.
Talay let the team know last week that he would be leaving at the end of the season.
“The players know my decision and it shouldn’t influence anything else.
“Players and coaches make decisions on what they feel is best for them and at this stage I think it’s the best decision for me.
“It’s not just me. We’ve got players that are coming off contract that are leaving as well and signing with other clubs.
“They’re professionals, they’re currently being paid by Wellington Phoenix [and] we have a goal that we want to achieve and that’s to play finals football this season.
“Nothing has changed. I still currently work for Wellington Phoenix and I’ll be working until the end of my contract to get the best out of the players and the team.
“I’m proud of the club, the staff and the players for what we’ve achieved this far, but the job’s not finished this season.”
The Phoenix plan to announce the men’s new head coach next week.
Talay has welcomed the move and has dismissed the idea that the coaching discussion is a distraction for the players.
“It’s good to have that clarity in place for the players that are staying here next season to have a clear mind who the coach is.
“Players are professionals. They need to focus on their job and their job is to go out and play football and win games. Whatever happens out of their control is irrelevant for them.”
There will be at least one change to the Wellington starting XI to face Brisbane, with centre back Josh Laws suspended after being sent off against Melbourne City on Monday afternoon.
Experienced English defender Scott Wootton is a chance of returning from the calf injury which forced him to miss the trip to Melbourne.
The 24th round Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar is scheduled to kick-off at Eden Park in Auckland at 3:00pm (1:00pm AEST) on Sunday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 2 & 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 14 January 2023 – Brisbane Roar 0 Wellington Phoenix 1
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 11W, Roar 21W & 13D.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER, 15. Nikko BOXALL, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 23. Clayton LEWIS, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 31. Yan SASSE, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk).
Unavailable: 8. Ben OLD (injured), 21. Joshua LAWS (suspended).
Brisbane Roar squad: 1. Macklin FREKE (gk), 2. Scott NEVILLE, 3. Jordan COURTNEY-PERKINS, 5. Thomas ALDRED (c), 7. Rahmat AKBARI, 10. Nikola MILEUSNIC, 11. Jez LOFTHOUSE, 12. Taras GOMULKA, 13. Henry HORE, 15. Noah SMITH, 16. Josh BRINDELL-SOUTH, 17. Carlo ARMIENTO, 19. Jack HINGERT, 21. Marcel CANADI, 22. Stefan SCEPOVIC, 23. Jordan HOLMES (gk), 26. James O’SHEA, 27. Kai TREWIN, 28. Joseph KNOWLES, 35. Louis ZABALA.
Unavailable: 14. Robbie KRUSE (injured).