Phoenix first – then the world

WELLINGTON Phoenix vice-captain Tim Brown is working to ensure there is no World Cup hangover ahead of Sunday’s Hyundai A-League clash with the Newcastle Jets this weekend.

WELLINGTON Phoenix vice-captain Tim Brown is working to ensure there is no World Cup hangover ahead of Sunday-s Hyundai A-League clash with the Newcastle Jets this weekend.

Brown was one of six Phoenix players – as well as Wellington mentor Ricki Herbert – who took part in New Zealand-s momentous win against Bahrain last weekend to ensure the All Whites- qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

While the country is still revelling in international football fever, Brown and his Phoenix and New Zealand teammates Mark Paston, Leo Bertos, Tony Lochhead, David Mulligan and Ben Sigmund know they need to get their minds back on their regular jobs for Sunday-s key clash at EnergyAustralia Stadium in Newcastle.

“You don-t put the euphoria of last weekend-s match behind you but you have to realise that football can be a great leveller,” said Brown, who is also vice-captain of the All Whites.

“We-ve obviously achieved something special as New Zealand internationals but that doesn-t make us all of a sudden better players, or players that don-t have to ‘show up- to play another game this weekend.

“The worse thing we could do is go to Newcastle and think we-re more special than we are because we could be embarrassed.”

Brown said the onus would be on using the massive achievement as extra incentive to drive the Phoenix into the playoffs come the business end of the season.

“There were so many positives to come out of the weekend and the Phoenix is a huge part of the New Zealand football landscape. We need to capitalise on what the club has achieved and make that bigger and better.”

Phoenix coaching staff had not spoken to the New Zealand internationals about the need for them to refocus on their club duties, Brown said.

“And hopefully they won-t need to. Certainly the Kiwi boys that have come back are the sort of characters that don-t need reminding, but if anyone gets out of line then one of us will be the first ones to put them back in their place. There-s no question that it-s fantastic and that we should enjoy it, but we need to use it to improve ourselves.”

The excitement of the All Whites- qualification had flowed through the Phoenix camp, with the club-s Australian, Brazilian and British players joining the Kiwis in celebration.

“The boys have come back into training super happy for us. You can-t fake that sort of stuff and it-s a real compliment.”

That excitement now had to be used to drive the Phoenix on after a run of excellent results – the most recent a determined 1-1 draw with Perth Glory and a 3-0 defeat of the Jets. The Phoenix are sixth on the Hyundai A-League table and can push as high as fourth this weekend.

“These games coming up are critical for us,” said Brown, a former Jet. “We need to keep winning and we-ve got two tough games away (to Newcastle and Brisbane Roar the following weekend) before we come back home.”

That home game, against Melbourne Victory, could see the Phoenix equal the Hyundai A-League-s record of the longest unbeaten home run.

Undefeated at Westpac Stadium on 13 occasions since October last year, the Phoenix can equal Sydney FC-s record of 14 unbeaten home matches (set in 2006/07) should they win or draw against the reigning champions in round 17.