What is a fair weather friend? Not quite a fan – not quite a bandwagon jumper. They are a particular following who, although often only support one team, have the nerve to prioritize life’s chores ahead of the great game.
As a true football fan, the early mornings, slow buffering, or distant sports bar rendezvous must be accepted. Unfortunately, for a true Manchester United fan, I’m having a little more trouble solidifying my loyalty to the Wellington Phoenix. This has resulted in poor weekly updates and comical observations of a battling Kiwi outfit, who need all the help they can get. So, as an editor to his limited number of followers, I apologize. By the end of the season, though, I want to be fully committed to this team – whether in breathtaking, knockout fashion, or dwelling the scummy cellars of the bottom league table. The tide isn’t all the way out, so I’m not 100% shallow – It's not all about results. if the Phoenix can throw together some promise, along with a bit of flair – Ernie Bigcheeks Merrick will have me convinced. So, 3 games in – how are the Nix going?
Since the opening day defeat, there have been improvements. A gutsy 1-1 draw across the ditch against the Western Sydney Wanderers and a 0-0 draw at home against Newcastle. The latter being described to me as ‘the hardest game I’ve ever had to watch’. Well when it comes to that kind of football, it takes two to tango. Maybe not the prettiest, but at least shows the Nix have learnt from the early defeat. Also, with many positive reports concerning the influence of Carlos Hernandez, hopefully it won’t be long until we witness a few sneaky wins. As it stands, however, the Phoenix are second to bottom. Clearly not a desirable start, but only 3 points separate 2nd from 10th. This means the next 3-4 weeks will be crucial, as no team wants to lose pace with the peloton early, especially a team who will likely struggle to string together consistent 3 pointers.
Unfortunately for the Nix, during this transitional stage of their season, the All Whites have two crucial clutch cargo gigs against Mexico. The 14th of November – and then back here for the 2nd leg on the 20th. Depending on flights (etc etc), the round 5 A-League fixture against Perth on November 9th could see the Kiwi boys out of action for the Nix. And even if they do play, I’m sure their minds will be somewhere else entirely. The next flurry of fixtures will no doubt be affected by these qualifiers – but I’d be lying if I said I was more eager for some black and yellow action. It’s a sacrifice Ernie Merrick will have no choice to make – it’s for the good of the nation. If the All Whites do not qualify (or, if their chances are hindered by club/country loyalties), he’ll being dealing with some very depressed men. The one positive aspect from these fixture clashes is that squad players are going to have a second chance to impress – the round 1 loss to Brisbane consisted of 6 back up players, who will be keen to wipe that dirt off their shoulders.
Other than the lack of goals, it doesn’t look too bad at this stage. No injuries means a nice fresh XI will face up against Melbourne on Monday Night, and everyone will know that 3 points would be an excellent brace for the turbulence of upcoming weeks. You’ll hear from me on Tuesday evening, after I set aside my duties to watch the Nix do battle. Cheers and beers.