Just when the Wellington Phoenix players thought there were no more surprises in store, they had to endure a tough trip to the Gold Coast as they prepared for their first Hyundai A-League game of the season.
What seemed like a simple trip across the Tasman turned into a 14-hour ordeal. Arriving at Wellington Airport at 1pm for a flight to Melbourne the players trooped into their Gold Coast hotel at 3am New Zealand time.
Along the way was a long wait for a connecting flight and two delays, including one where the fire brigade was called when smoke began belching from the plane they were about to board.
When that was found to be a luggage loading vehicle catching fire the all clear was given,only for the attending firemen to find an oil spill they deemed dangerous.
Eventually another aircraft was found and the players were able to complete their journey.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert described it as “an interesting trip” but just another thing for his players to overcome.
“Despite the late arrival the players were up to train this morning and the session was very bright,” Herbert said.
“We are 24 hours out from our first game of the season after around 8 months off so there is a real anticipation in the camp.
“That will be the same at all the clubs among players, staff and fans, because after the longest ever off season it will be difficult for them to know exactly where they are.”
For the opening game against Gold Coast United at Skilled Park Herbert has put his faith in tried and true Phoenix players.
Much has been made of the off-season departures but the only new face in the Phoenix lineup is likely to be Spaniard Dani Sanchez, who promises to be a big player in this season-s competition, with the rest made up of Phoenix regulars.
Arrivals Nicky Ward, Jimmy Downey, Cameron Lindsay, Brent Griffiths, Tony Warner, Niko Tsattalios and injury replacement Alex Smith, who joined the club on Friday, will have to wait to make their mark, though four from Ward, Griffiths, Downey, Daniel and Warner will start on the bench against Gold Coast.
Herbert admits events off the field haven-t made it easy for the Phoenix players and hopes the fans will get behind the team and show a little patience.
One person who can-t wait for tomorrow to come is Rob Morrison who heads the consortium that took over the club two weeks ago.
Morrison said he and his fellow owners were excited by the prospect of seeing the Phoenix in action.
“These are exciting times and we are all hoping they do well. I can-t wait for the kick off,” he said.
“Ricki told me earlier this week that they have been sharp in training and we all wish them well.”
A likely Wellington Phoenix lineup: Mark Paston, Manny Muscat, Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead, Vince Lia, Tim Brown, Dani Sanchez, Paul Ifill, Chris Greenacre, Leo Bertos.