We all face our own challenges in life. For most Kiwi football fans, including myself, watching the A-League while it’s EPL season is one of them.
Watching the Wellington Phoenix can be pretty painful at times, but they’ve never had the intent of being pretty. Since day one, they have been moulded in a group of typical kiwi battlers, epitomised by none more so than the holy child, Benny Sigmund. But change is upon us. Lieutenant Herbert has been ushered out the door by those who desired a more TV friendly style of football. A new gaffer and players were sought to fulfil a new direction - Scottish veteran Ernie Merrick was recruited as coach (Former Hong Kong national team & Melbourne Victory coach) Carlos Hernandez and his mate Kenny Cunningham (classic name) along with some new young fellas have added depth to the playing squad. But it was the first round of the 2013/14 Hyundai A-League this weekend, and the 2 – 1 loss to Brisbane sure reminded me of the disappointment of last season.
Awesomely, the Nix had (unbelievably) over 90% possession against to Roar for the first 10 minutes at the Cake Tin. Even with Four 1st XI players (Brockie, Durante, Moss and Leo Bertos – embarrassingly) being out of action (All Whites duties) the Phoenix looked right on top, early on. Oak Tree Whoregasms (Stein Huysegems) managed to nip in at the near post for a lead after 20 minute – a spell of play which had me unusually optimistic. However, once Brisbane decided to turn up and pass the ball, the ring-ins were taken advantage of. New young Fullback Luke Adams was sold down the river at least 5 time before being hauled off, and Costa Rican Cunningham looks like a bit of a racial marquee signing - I’m pretttttty sure I didn’t seem him beat a player or cross a ball in at least 10 attempts. Brisbane deservedly equalised after half time, but in all honesty, both teams looked tired and rusty. A draw would have been a great result for Wellington, and looked like a point in the bank after 92 minutes. But a 92nd minute winner had me facepalming. Classic youtube defending from Box-head Boxall and 6 pack Sigmund highlighted the worst aspect of last season – surely we aren’t preparing for another season of mediocrity?
In hindsight, though, that’s a pretty harsh call. Although the fashion of the result was almost laughable, the Phoenix did look to knock the ball around - avoiding the classic World War 2 bombing tactics of yesteryear. These are Promising signs from a team which has mirrored the disappointing nature of Stoke City over the last 3 or 4 years.
I’m not betting against more disappointment, this is just the natural order of things as Kiwi football fans. But as I avoid handing you clichés to confirm what you already know about early season results, most of the fans of the Phoenix will agree that Ernie Merrick seems like a step in the right direction. Whether or not its pays off will be another story. The same can be said for the new signings. Other than the impressive Hernandez, the misfires were noticeable early on, but Paul Ifill wasn’t promising in his first 2 or 3 games - look at him now. Good luck to the Phoenix, I’ll see you all at the pub.