GUN Wellington Phoenix striker Paul Ifill is crediting coach Ricki Herbert for his show-stopping performances in the Hyundai A-League.
Ifill has been a revelation for the Phoenix and for the competition since coming to Wellington in 2009 and has scored 15 goals in his 32 matches in the black and gold jersey – the most recent a stunning left-footed drive in the Phoenix-s 2-0 win against the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday.
Herbert, the Phoenix-s foundation coach and the man who led New Zealand-s All Whites to stunning success at the World Cup in South Africa, deserved huge credit, said Ifill, the British-born Barbados international striker who has played at the highest levels in England.
“The club seems to employ good people as well as good players and a lot of that is down to Ricki and (club owner) Terry Serepisos. As a manager Ricki knows how to get the best out of me and I put that down to good man-management.
“I-ve been lucky enough to work with some great managers and coaches in my career, particularly at Millwall – Ray Wilkins, Dennis Wise, Ray Harford and Mark McGhee. I-d put Ricki right up there with them. He knows how I tick; he knows when to put an arm around my shoulder or when to give me a rollicking. That-s the sort of thing that makes a manager stand out.
“It-s about knowing me as a person and as a player and it-s why I think I-ve done well here.”
Ifill admitted he wasn-t expecting too much from the club and the competition when he quit England.
“Ricki has surprised me and the club has surprised me in terms of the levels of professionalism. When I first spoke to Ricki I was happy that he believed we had a good squad and that we, as a club, would do well. I went away from that first meeting thinking ‘this guy really believes in us-.
“That-s half the battle – if you-ve got a manager who believes in his group of the players then he can get the best out of them and that-s what Ricki has done. I-ve probably enjoyed my time in Wellington more than at any time in my career.”
With much of the focus centered on developing playing talent, Ifill said it was important that football-s governing bodies in New Zealand and Australia put time and resources into also developing coaching expertise.
“We need to see how we can utilise that. In the bigger picture it-s about producing talent. For example, who better to go to than the best coach around in Ricki Herbert? He-s got great ideas around the game, he-s a smart coach and he can really offer the game something.”
With speculation post-World Cup that Herbert might look to move overseas, Ifill said it was a blessing that the 49-year-old had decided to stay with the Phoenix.
“I think he could definitely succeed abroad. He-s an intelligent coach himself but he also surrounds himself with the right people. For him personally I-d love to see him do it and why not try to test yourself on the bigger stage.
“But then I-d be losing one of the best managers I-ve ever worked under. It-s a double-edged sword. If he does it, then good luck to him. But I speak for all the boys when I say we want him here and we were pleased when it was announced he was staying.”