Phoenix racking up the air points

THE Wellington Phoenix will rack up some serious air points in the coming 10 days as they embark on a gruelling away trip that will see them travel more than 11,000km and play two Hyundai A-League 2008/09 games before returning home to the New Zealand capital.

The Phoenix play Perth Glory in Perth on Sunday and will travel direct from the West Australian capital to Sydney for a Friday night match against Sydney FC. Rather than return home to Wellington between matches, Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert said the club had made the decision to remain in Australia to minimise the impact of the demanding travel schedule on the players.

“It has a lot to do with the short turnaround between matches. Getting to Perth takes a whole day of travelling and we play them on Sunday. Then we have to back up against Sydney on Friday, so there-s not a lot of time.

“It makes sense to shorten the trip up and get into Sydney as soon as possible.”

Despite the punishing schedule, Herbert has resisted the temptation to take an extended squad away for the trip, opting instead for a standard 15-man touring group.

“If it had been a situation where we were playing in Sydney then going to Perth we probably would have considered taking an extended squad. But given the second game is in Sydney the distance involved isn-t so great if we need to bring players over from Wellington in case of injury.”

Settling quickly into a routine would be paramount for the Phoenix, Herbert said.

“We-re away for 10 days, so it-s a case of doing things right. We haven-t done this before and it-s quite new for us. It-ll be important to keep the group buoyant on and off the pitch in an attempt to maximise our potential in both away fixtures.

“The sooner we get into the flow of what we-re accustomed to at home the better we-ll be able to perform in what are quite testing circumstances.”

Locking in the right mindset would also be important.

“While the travel component is difficult, it-s not something that we haven-t had to anticipate,” Herbert said. “It-s the reality of the league and we just have to get on with it, make sure we understand the demands and do everything we can to ensure the group is prepared and ready to go.”

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Vaughan COVENY, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 21. Leilei GAO, 22. Andrew DURANTE (captain), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES.

In: 23. Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted)
Out: 15. Adam KWASNIK (omitted)
Unavailable: 17. Vince LIA (knee – season).