Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante ended his first training session under new coach Ernie Merrick with a smile on his face.
After two days of testing the team-s first session on grass was light, but it didn-t take Merrick long to start getting the message across that he was expecting a positive style of play.
That, along with the need to forget a dismal last season, was just what Durante wanted to hear and he was enthusiastic about what lies ahead.
“It was exciting getting back on the park and I think the boys have been looking forward to today,” Durante said.
“We-ve had four or five weeks off to enjoy ourselves and it was good to get back in training.
“There was testing over the past two days and from all accounts everyone has come back in good shape.
“The skinfolds were good, as were the heart rates, and I think that shows how keen we are to redeem ourselves after what was a really disappointing season.
“I don-t want to dwell on that because we are looking forward and I believe Ernie is the man to take us forward.
“It is exciting to have a new face around; a new voice and new ideas.
“He is a coach who wants to play an attacking style and straight away, even though it was a light session, he wanted us to keep the ball and move it around.”
With such a long off-season – the Phoenix- first A-League game is four months away – pre-season training can become a bind, but Durante believes that it could work in his team-s favour in this instance.
“It will give Ernie time to work with us as individuals and a team; to get what he wants from us. The long pre-season could be a blessing in disguise.
“We are eager to listen and learn; we want to become better players and a better team.
“It is going to be a new brand of football for us but we have to buy into what Ernie is doing.
“He has the track record, runs on the board as they say. He likes to get the ball forward, not take about 1000 passes from the back, and we all want to play an attacking brand and score goals.”
Durante also dispelled the notion that Merrick is too serious when it comes to football, something that was at times levelled at him when he was in charge of Melbourne Victory.
“He has come out and said he wants to be seen in a different light to what he was at Victory,” Durante said.
“It looks like he wants to enjoy himself in Wellington. I-ve had a couple of conversations with him and he is a funny guy.
“Having said that he wants us to be successful and that is what we want as well.”