Significant showdown for Phoenix

THIS weekend’s match is a big one for Wellington Phoenix for a variety of reasons.

THIS weekend-s match is a big one for Wellington Phoenix for a variety of reasons.

For starters, when the Phoenix run out on to the Westpac Stadium pitch on Sunday afternoon to take on the Central Coast Mariners in their Hyundai A-League 2009/10 showdown, they will be looking to extend their unbeaten run at home to 10 matches.

They-ll also be seeking to secure their second win of the season after a frustrating run of draws in matches they-ve dominated.

But, perhaps even more importantly, the Phoenix will celebrate their 50th match in the Hyundai A-League.

It-s a significant milestone for the Wellington club, which has played a leading role in restoring the credibility of professional in New Zealand following the embarrassing failure of the Auckland-based New Zealand Knights.

Terry Serepisos, whose vision and passion saw the Phoenix rise from the ashes of past failures and develop into an integral player in the Hyundai A-League, said reaching the 50-game milestone was indicative of the good health of the club and of football in New Zealand.

“Fifty games in the Hyundai A-League, that-s a huge achievement. It reflects the commitment to the club and the code that everyone involved at the Phoenix – me as the club owner, the players, coaches and management and the fans – shares.

“This is a positive thing for the game in New Zealand, especially given the two massive World Cup qualifying games the national team has in the coming months, and I-m thrilled that the Phoenix has been able to play a pivotal role in leading the renaissance of football here.”

The number of registered players has exploded throughout the country, a phenomenon labelled the “Phoenix Effect” by some of the games leading administrators and pundits.

“My intent was to bring something special to Wellington and to foster and develop football for the generations to come,” Serepisos said. “To have lost professional football in New Zealand would have been a disaster. To see how the success of the Phoenix has contributed to the growth of the game nationwide is hugely gratifying and the future looks extremely bright for us as an organisation and, indeed, for football in general.”

Serepisos admitted that backing the Phoenix had been taxing both personally and professionally, but that his commitment was unwavering.

“I have the ambition to ensure this club exceeds on every level. We-re incredibly well supported; we-ve got great players, coaches, management and sponsors and the best fans in the competition. The support is growing exponentially and my belief in the club grows along with that.

“(Phoenix chief executive) Tony Pignata and I are working with Football Federation Australia to extend the club-s license for another 10 years and things are looking very positive and very promising on that front.”

Serepisos- other ambition, one much more immediate, is to see his side make the top-six playoffs in 2009/10. A win against the Mariners on Sunday, following some recent heartbreaking draws for the Phoenix, will be a terrific fillip.

“Although we-re placed where we are at the moment a lot of that comes down to simple bad luck. But we have 20 games to go and the belief that we can make the playoffs is as strong as it-s ever been.

“When we set up the club in 2007 we set a three-year plan to make the playoffs and that-s what our focus is on achieving this season. I-m hoping that in the future we-ll be able to bring the Hyundai A-League grand final to Wellington.”