The Wellington Phoenix season has jolted spectacularly into life. After a winless first ten matches, the last three games have finally provided the points to match the progress and playing style of the Phoenix under Ernie Merrick.
Merrick has to be given enormous credit for the faith he-s had – and retained – in his playing system. He remained unshakeable in his belief that the results would eventually come, and his focus on processes rather than outcomes has finally borne fruit. The players, too, obviously deserve big plaudits – any team that fails to win in ten matches could easily start to question itself, but apparently there wasn-t a single murmur of discontent among the playing group. They bought completely into Merrick-s system and are now being repaid for that faith.
Stein Huysegems has been a revelation in the last three games. The Belgian striker is revelling in the security of Merrick-s faith in him and his all-round play has been excellent. He-s already chalked up six goals in 13 matches this season, compared to five in 23 games last campaign. Tyler Boyd-s impact off the bench has also been eye-catching and he got a rather sizeable monkey off his back against WSW by scoring his first A-League goal.
Mention must also be made of Albert Riera who is now a crucial member of the Phoenix-s starting side. His ability to sit in front of the back four and distribute possession has been key to the Phoenix-s revival and has also allowed midfield partner Vince Lia to become more prominent in attack. Lia-s pass to Tyler Boyd to set up Huysegems for the Phoenix-s third goal against WSW was the perfect demonstration of this; Lia knows he can get further advanced more often because Riera is holding the fort behind him.
As often happens, the A-League table is tightly bunched, with just seven points separating third from ninth before this current round of matches. Talk of the Phoenix featuring in the top six seemed fanciful before Xmas; now it-s absolutely possible, particularly if the last three matches are anything to go by. 2014 is set to be an exciting year for Phoenix fans.