Strong squad keeps Phoenix confident of finals appearance


The quality of the Wellington Phoenix squad has everyone at the club confident the side can still make the Hyundai A-League finals, even with the stepping down of Ernie Merrick as Head Coach.

Merrick spoke to the media for the first time since announcing his departure and he was confident that the squad he put together can still go far this season.

“It’s not easy to walk away from a good team. We’ve put together a great squad, look at the signings this year, Gui Finkler and Kosta Barbarouses,” Merrick said.

“It’s a good squad, but I feel as though I’ve done my bit. I’m happy with what I’ve achieved, I’m unhappy with the results on the park in the short term, but in the long term that will come good.”

Captain Andrew Durante, who was visibly emotional when discussing the exit of his Head Coach for the past three years, was adamant the side would achieve its goals for the campaign.

“We’ve got a great run of games coming up and there’s no way we’re going to throw in the towel for this season,” Durante said.

“We’re too good of a team, there’s too many good players in the team to throw this season away, I won’t let it happen.”

Joint Interim Head Coach Chris Greenacre was full of praise for his predecessor and is now focused on building what Merrick had begun with the club, starting with the match against Central Coast Mariners in Hamilton on Saturday.

“For myself and the rest of the coaching staff he [Merrick] has had a massive influence on our behaviours, our coaching philosophies, the way we deal with things,” Greenacre said.

“I’m so grateful that Ernie had his time here and we were part of that, but unfortunately we’ve got a game to prepare now for the weekend and all our efforts are now going into the Central Coast Mariners and nothing else.”

Chairman Rob Morrison was also adamant that Merrick’s legacy at the club will be a long lasting one.

“We’ve got nothing but appreciation for the work that Ernie has done and the work that he has put in. He is a loss for the club, I think he’s a loss for New Zealand football as well,” Morrison said.

The process is now under way to appoint Merrick’s successor and Morrison was hopeful of concluding that before end of 2016.