Phoenix ready to Roar


The result may not matter but the pressure will be on for several players when the Wellington Phoenix take on Brisbane Roar in their pre-season clash in Dunedin on Saturday.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert will use the match to have one more look at triallists Dani Sanchez and Matt Thurtell, while striker Billy Mehmet will get his first real chance to impress after arriving on trial late last week.

Mehmet spent five years at Scottish Premier League club St Mirren before moving to Turkish club Genclerbirligi SK where he played alongside New Zealand and former Phoenix striker Shane Smeltz.

Smeltz suggested Herbert get in touch with the 27-year-old Mehmet when he decided to leave Turkey despite having two years left on his contract.

“Shane made a call just to say he’d be worth having a look at,” explained Herbert.

“Billy is here for a couple of weeks and will play in Dunedin.”

Smeltz also put in a good word for his old club too.

“He only had good things to say about the Phoenix and when you hear that it really helps,” said Mehmet.

“I went back to England and had offers from there and Scotland but, after hearing what Shane had to say about the Phoenix and the A-League, I thought I would give New Zealand a go.”

“It is now a case of do I like it and does the club like me. I am really looking forward to giving it a real go.”

As for the other two, it appears Sanchez, an attacking midfielder, is the closest to being offered a contract in spite of being hampered by a thigh injury early in his trial period.

“Dani is over that injury and he had a bit of time (in a friendly) at the weekend. It’s a chance for him to really make a mark,” said Herbert.

“I kind of like what I see. I think he’s done a good job for us in the small time that he’s had. You’re looking at potential more than anything. Now he is fully recovered he can show us.”

“It’s probably his last chance. Not being negative but it will probably be his last chance to give us what we need.”

As for Thurtell, Herbert seemed less sure about his prospects. “He’s a young boy. We’ll give him some time (against the Roar) but I guess now you’re comparing. Is he better than what we have domestically and I think that’s the question-mark around him at the moment.”

For the rest of the Phoenix squad Saturday’s match will be about the performance, not necessarily the result, given it will be the first hit-out against Hyundai A-League opposition.

“You still hate losing and you always want to win and we’ll be going out to win,” said defender Ben Sigmund.

“But we’ll be disappointed if we play poorly. We’ll be looking to put out a good performance and when you put out a good performance you normally win, don’t you.”

But with the season still almost two months away from kick-off, neither side will be in peak form, although there was an ominous look to the Roar as they dismantled the Brisbane Strikers 5-0 on Tuesday evening.

“I guess the team is at probably anywhere between 65-75 percent. We’re in a good spot,” said Sigmund.

“There are still six or seven weeks to go before the season starts so overall we’re pretty happy with where we are all at.”

“It’s nice that we haven’t had the distractions of the World Cup, the All Whites game and things like that. We’ve all been together and had a proper pre-season, which is nice.”

Sigmund and his All Whites team-mates Tim Brown, Leo Bertos, Mark Paston and Tony Lochhead could also find themselves facing the player whose penalty miss in a qualifier in 2009 helped send New Zealand to last year’s World Cup.

Bahrain defender Sayen Mohamed Adnan has signed a one-year deal with the Roar and is likely to make the trip to Dunedin.

“I heard all sorts of stories that he wasn’t sleeping when he got home and his family were getting abused,” said Sigmund.

“I hope the guy can get his career back on track. It will be interesting to speak to him when we get down (to Dunedin).”