Phoenix coach hits Wellington

WELLINGTON Phoenix football coach Ricki Herbert had barely landed in Wellington yesterday before he was being besieged with media calls about his shift from Auckland to get on board with the newest Hyundai A-League franchise.

If he-s feeling any pressure there were no signs of it showing in the Century City Developments office of franchise owner Terry Serepisos – in fact he was looking forward to finalising player signings and getting to grips with the Phoenix organisation.

Herbert-s shift to Wellington has not been without considerable sacrifice, leaving his family in Auckland for what he says is a “24/7” position in Wellington. But the sacrifice is all part of the life of a professional football coach, one Herbert readily accepts.

“It-s pretty much going to be 24/7 down here. Obviously I will have time when I-m going to get home or have the family down here. But football-s like that – it requires total commitment.

“I hope people can see the personal commitment I-ve made because I want to make this work.”

Herbert says considerable groundwork has been put into the Phoenix organisation to get it up and running off the field. Next up for him and owner Serepisos is signing on a playing squad – and that is coming together nicely.

Interest from players and their agents at representing Wellington-s Phoenix has been significant, Herbert says.

“Not only from Australia but from South America, Asia and Europe.

“I know the A-League well and we-ve tapped into a number of people, I-ve made a lot of phone calls.”

Herbert says about 9-10 New Zealand players have been targeted to join Phoenix but that number was flexible because he wanted to “get the balance of the team right.” He has no captain in mind and will spend most of May continuing to scout players and at the pre-season A-League tournament in July where he will have the flexibility of trialling players.

“Recruitment is going to be crucial,” Herbert says. “There will be a lot of movement in that area over the next few weeks.”

Herbert-s coaching credentials – he is the present New Zealand national coach and holds a prestigious Uefa ‘A- International Coaching Licence – were clearly shown in his guiding of the now defunct New Zealand Knights to three wins from five starts at the end of last season.

In the process Herbert-s coaching blueprint of maintaining possession and attacking with purpose in the front third of the field shone through.

“That-s the type of football I would like to bring to Wellington. The team did well against the top four sides.”

One thing is sure with Herbert – he is definitely up for the challenge of being part of the Phoenix rising from the ashes. Having a week in, week out coaching role will add value to his national position – especially with a number of New Zealand internationals and emerging talent tipped to join Phoenix.

Wearing two hats will not be a problem, Herbert says.

“From a personal point of view they are two separate environments that are going to need different outcomes, and we-ll work through and deal with that.

“One of the real positives (with the Phoenix) is that professional football is on your doorstep. I just want to really make the most of it and I-m delighted to have been given an opportunity like this.”