The Phoenix needed to sign one player, instead they signed two. Justin Gulley and Antony Golec. A couple of defenders to bolster the ranks of what to be fair was already a pretty well-stocked crew but depth is always handy and competition for places, as Mark Rudan keeps on saying, is a crucial part of a competitive team.
Each of them signs on for the rest of this season… which is about as expected since that’s how long pretty much the whole rest of the squad is signed for. So, yeah, don’t read too much into the length of contract yet. Expect they’re just keeping options open… I mean, Mitch Nichols was one of the few signed for two years and he didn’t even last six months.
Justin Gulley signed first. The Team Wellington captain trained with the team over the new year break in the Premiership and was always a strong candidate for a deal. He’s been nothing but dependably excellent for the TeeDubs for a couple years now. At 26 years old he’s coming into his prime, plus he’s got exactly the right mentality that Rudan is looking for, with leadership qualities and a willingness to work for what he gets. And of course he’s familiar with the club having appeared eight times back in the day as he progressed up through the youth ranks.
Now he’s back, after captaining Team Welly at the Club World Cup recently. He’s already won Premierships with the side, as well as the Oceania Champions League… there wasn’t much else to achieve with the TeeDubs. Perfect timing for Gulls. Gulls has already gotten himself into the extended All Whites picture with his Premmy performances, making his debut under Fritz Schmid against Kenya over in India last year. Next step is to consolidate that by taking his footy to the next level as a full professional.
This is exactly the kind of signing that the Nix should be open to – rewarding the best and most consistent dudes at the kiwi domestic level with the opportunity to go pro. Expanding the pool of professional kiwi footy players. Obviously not every signing needs to be an up and coming local lad but a few of them now and then won’t go astray. And unlike someone like Callan Elliot, Gulley should slip straight into most extended matchday squads… not necessarily gonna make the bench too often but that’ll depend on how well he’s trucking at training. Not named in the squad that travelled to Perth this weekend though, one thing at a time (Golec made the cut, however).
Gulley came up as a fullback and will most likely be seen as Louis Fenton’s backup at right back, thus filling a gaping hole in the squad. Who else could play there? Would’ve had to be a centre-back like Fox or Lowry and there’s nothing ideal about that hypothetical outcome. The first XI is all goods, it’s the depth that’s been the issue whenever Rudan’s been forced to stray from those particular hearty soldiers. Which will be the case on the weekend when Andy Durante is out suspended. Gulley might be a right back but he’s more familiar with playing as a centreback in a back three for the TeeDubs and, guess what, that suits perfectly too.
(Captaincy prediction without Dura: Steven Taylor)
Antony Golec isn’t such an obvious sitter of a signing. A 28 year old Australian journeyman centreback, he’s played 90 times in the A-League so heaps of experience… plus he’d go good on the scouting team having already played for five other A-League franchises: Sydney FC, Adelaide United, Western Sydney Wanderers, Perth Glory and, until a few days ago, Central Coast Mariners. Chuck in brief stints spent in Moldova, Iran and South Korea as well. And a fun fact… Golec was part of the WSW side that won the Asian Champions League… which means both midweek signings have played in the Club World Cup. A mostly useless factoid but there you go.
Gulley’s signing came as perfect timing for him and a logical next step in his career, moving across town to the only professional club in the country. Makes sense on all levels. Golec is different because he’s coming over from Oz. Not somebody invested in the club prior to signing, just somebody who made this decision to join. You know it ain’t financial because it’s the Welly Nix… so the fella’s motivations become pretty fascinating and what he had to say about the Nix in the press release was immense…
Antony Golec: “I have been watching Wellington Phoenix and believe it’s the most exciting team in the competition. Having spoken to Mark, I was impressed with the mental toughness and togetherness of the squad and I wanted to bring my Hyundai A-League experience into it. I believe in what Mark is doing here and I want be a big part of it and do my best to help this club be successful again. He (Rudan) has created a team of leaders and I believe we can definitely reach the finals this year. I am very excited to get started and can’t wait to make New Zealand my new home.”
Jeez mate, settle down. It’s only a footy club. But this tells us that what Mark Rudan and the lads are doing is raising eyebrows around the competition. For Golec, anything to help him escape the Central Coast Mariners would be worth it. Having been short of minutes at CCM, struggling since a broken leg last March, this is an opportunity to join a competitive team and play some games. But you’re still looking for the best situation and here he is in Wellywood now.
On the flipside, what does he offer that’s gotten Rudan keen? Well, he’s a Croatian Aussie for one thing so there’s that connection. Don’t pretend like you don’t go signing up all the available kiwi players on Footy Manager. A centreback doesn’t feel like the most necessary addition when Dylan Fox and Ryan Lowry are hanging around but neither of them seem to have impressed the gaffer too much judging by how many minutes Michal Kopczynski has played at CB already.
If Golec can offer the distribution that Kopa does with a much more natural sense of positioning then sweet as. Always keep looking for ways to improve. If Golec is just another backup CB scrapping with Fox and Lowry then it makes less sense… but he was keen, available and there was room in the squad so this might not be the most enticing transfer ever but there’s nothing really at stake here. Worst case scenario, he gets the flick like Mitch Nichols. Best case scenario he has an effect like David Williams has had. No dramas. I’d take that gamble every day of the week.
This still doesn’t address the biggest weakness in the squad which is the lack of depth in the midfield. There’s only Kopa there backing up Alex Rufer and Mandi which leaves us one injury/suspension short of extreme vulnerability. We already had that crisis once with them both out and it was a mess. Mitch Nichols lost his contract because of it (sort of). So I’ll just say that the Nix still have two more available places in their squad and they might not be done here.
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