IT MAY not happen overnight, but it will happen.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert has vowed to help his men rediscover the confidence, passion and desire that has so far been in short supply in their Hyundai A-League 2008/09 campaign.
Buoyed by his squad-s commitment to put things right in the wake of last weekend-s 1-0 away loss to Perth Glory, Herbert said the Phoenix were unified in accepting that everyone at the club had to lift, beginning with Sunday-s against high-flying Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium.
While expecting complete turnaround in form in the space of a week might be more than a little unfair, Herbert is in no doubt the Phoenix have taken a massive step closer to rediscovering the form and self-belief that took them to the final of the 2008 Pre-Season Cup.
“The players have responded really well. From my point of view I-ve thrown myself right back into the group this week. There-s been some light-hearted banter in the group and a few more smiles on my face, too. It-s good that connection is there and I-ve certainly valued immensely the support of the players and club management.”
Herbert-s top priority has been fanning the spark of confidence that burned so brightly in his talented squad pre-season.
“We-ve put a real emphasis on the confidence side of things and players being prepared to express themselves on the pitch. It-s a matter of alleviating any fears and worries that players have about making mistakes. We-re a fluid, talented football side that can play, and we need to rediscover that.
“That may or may not happen on Sunday, although it-s not about just one game, but for me now it-s about making a difference over the next 16 games. Nobody thinks we-re going to do anything on the balance of the season to date but it would give us all great pleasure to change that.”
The Phoenix had turned recent disappointment into a drive for change and renewed optimism.
“Everyone has been very open this week, which has been good, Herbert said.
“If you can have a positive coming out of losing to Perth then it-s been throwing everything on the table. We need to move forward. I think the signs are there and we are going in the right direction. If our performances are better we will win games, it-s as simple as that.
“We-ve said to the players that if we-re to move forward then we need to have confidence and I-m going to support them in that.”
Rediscovering the free-flowing style of football the Phoenix know they can play will not only see the team push unbeaten Sydney FC hard on Sunday, it will also please fans desperate to see their team realise its obvious potential.
“A brand of football is something that gets attached to a club very quickly,” Herbert said. “Last season, the perception of Wellington Phoenix as a ‘style- quickly came to the forefront. We were exciting and it-s that exciting style that I think people are missing at the moment.
“It-s not like we-re looking for something that-s impossible to get – we-ve seen it, we-ve had it and we-ve delivered on it. We just need to back to those three key points.
“Thankfully, we-ve got a fantastic group of people that come out and support the club. We can only hope that their support continues and that they stay strong and unified with us. It-s for all of us to move the club forward.”
Sunday-s match kicks off at 5pm NZDT (2pm AEST).
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 6. Tim BROWN, 8. Vaughan COVENY, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Richard JOHNSON, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 15. Adam KWASNIK, 16. David MULLIGAN, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 21. Leilei GAO, 22. Andrew DURANTE (captain). * two to be omitted
Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Iain FYFE, 5. Mitchell PRENTICE 6. Tony POPOVIC (captain), 7. Rob MIDDLEBY, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 10. Steve CORICA, 11. Brendon SANTALAB, 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 23. John ALOISI, 26. Dez GIRALDI, 27. Matthew JURMAN. * one to be omitted.
* Head-to-head: All matches (played 3): Wellington Phoenix wins 1, Sydney FC wins 1 (1 draw). In Wellington (played 2): Wellington Phoenix wins 0, Sydney FC wins 1 (1 draw).