As the Wellington Phoenix prepare for their Hyundai A-League clash with Gold Coast United at Skilled Park tomorrow there has been plenty of light-hearted banter directed at fullback Manny Muscat.
Muscat, who is on the cusp of re-signing with the Phoenix, has the unenviable record of never having scored in 83 appearances.
Even in training the whoops and laughter resound around the park if a Muscat shot flies off target but then easy-going Muscat takes it all in his stride.
“It-s all in fun and I take it in the spirit it is meant,” Muscat says.
“Mind you, I wouldn-t mind ending the drought sooner rather than later.
“What people forget is that I don-t go up for corners and when I get into the box I am usually probably in a better position to pass the ball rather than shoot.
“If we get to 2-0 up in a game and are awarded a penalty I will be putting my hand up to take it!”
At least the banter is taking the players- minds off being constantly reminded of the club-s poor away record.
Winless on the road this season, despite playing better away than at any time in the club-s history, it has become a cross for the players to bear, especially as seven of their final 11 games are on the road.
“This would be the perfect time for us to break the duck,” Muscat said, “because it would give us momentum leading into that run of away games.
“It would also be fresh in our minds when we play Newcastle on Friday night.
“We don-t need telling that our away record is nowhere near good enough but it isn-t for the want of trying.
“This week we are staying in Australia rather than fly back and forth for the Newcastle game and hopefully that will help.
“I also think people forget how tough Aussie teams find coming to Wellington is.
They do it once or twice whereas we are back and forth all season.”
The Phoenix will be without midfielder Vince Lia and striker Mirjan Pavlovic, who have both sustained knee injuries, but the prognosis for Lia appears good and there is a chance he will be able to join the team for the Newcastle game.
Alex Smith is the logical replacement for Lia in midfield with talented young New Zealander Cameron Lindsay probably providing cover on the bench.