Some funky old things coming out of the Welly Nix beat lately, tell you what. Injuries and suspensions and contract confusion and all sorts. I’ve already written a fair bit about Mark Rudan’s future with the club so no point going any deeper down that rabbit hole when nothing has changed. Until Rudes decides to clear things up himself, nothing is going to change. And that’s fine because the priority right now is this season and we are sort of at a little bit of risk of this whole thing going to waste if lose focus on the current moment.
Because the Newcastle Jets beat Melbourne Victory 2-0 on Saturday night which brings them within two points of the Nix in sixth and that’s getting sweaty. It was a nine point gap not all that long ago. Obviously it’s not just the Nix caught in that drama – both Adelaide and Melly City are within three points of the Nix and all three of those other teams have played an extra game. In other words, four games without a win has left the Phoenix in a precarious position but they can quickly overcome that with a few wins on the trot. Just gotta earn it. If they can’t make the top six from this position then they won’t deserve to anyway so no dramas. All a matter of turning those draws into wins.
And good news: they play the bottom team this Saturday. Central Coast Mariners. Just, erm… a couple slight issues here. Alex Rufer is suspended. That’s an immediate blow to the midfield with the enforcer missing. Michal Kopczynski will slide in nicely enough and of all games to miss this isn’t the worst one, really. That means a change in central defence and ordinarily that’d be Tommy Doyle, right? Nah but he’s been injured. Same as Justin Gulley is apparently injured. And Dylan Fox is out for the season. Antony Golec then? Probably have to be.
If we look at the first choice back three as Taylor, Dura, and either Kopa/Doyle then there have been just three occasions in which that trio was broken up and the Nix lost all three games without scoring a goal. Lucky then that I’m pretty buoyant about Golec having seen him a couple times for the reserves. Not exactly A-League standard of competition but he’s looked like a clever, assured defender with a good left foot and a fine sense of positioning. Exactly what the Nix need in that role and I’m already on record as saying I think Golec locks down that LCB role amongst the starters by the end of the campaign. Might as well double down on that.
The squad depth is doing its job there so far but of much more concern is how Steven Taylor is recovering from that calf strain or whatever it was. If he’s out then it’s a big drop off to get to Ryan Lowry and that’s not even a criticism of Ryan Lowry. Plus there’d be no defensive cover on the bench.
Which is why the Nix are signing Gianni Stensness to a first team contract as injury cover for Dylan Fox. This is a perfect use of the reserve team. Stensness was one of the two Aussie-based lads (along with Taci Kumsuz) who came over from rival A-League clubs in order to make use of their NZ passports ahead of the U20 World Cup. They’d both been involved with the Aussie U20s in the past but with kiwi heritage were committing to the All Whites. Best of all is that if he debuts against the Mariners… well, it was CCM that we signed him from. Ha, as the saying goes, ha.
Stensness has started 12 games for the reserves, both as a defender and more recently as a central midfielder. At A-League level I think he’s much more suited as a defender, he’s got good size and strength for a young bloke but the midfield ability shows he’s got skill on the ball too. I guess it’s useful to be able to cover both. We need some more midfielders, to be honest. Word is that Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi was actually gonna be signed at a similar time to Justin Gulley but an injury ruined that prospect… though not sure why they can’t just sign him now that he’s fit and playing again. He’s another CB/CM option and it shouldn’t be a transfer if he’s coming from ‘amateur’ footy. Ah well, s’pose it’s one kiwi footy player’s gain over another. TAHW’s only out there helping Auckland City towards a potentially undefeated Premmy season so no dramas.
Also keep an eye on the possibility that Max Burgess gets a start either in place of Sarpreet Singh (to give him a bit of jolt) or as an attacking option in central midfield for Rufer, in a position which Burgess has played a fair bit off the bench this term. He looks a handy player, ol’ Burgie, but hasn’t shown a whole lot more than some typical energy, a huge preference for his left-foot, and a willingness to run at defenders. He’s quick too, to be fair. Guessing that Rudes has seen much more in training though because he’s been in every single matchday squad except one so far and fourteen of his fifteen appearances have been off the bench. Safe to say he’s been paying his dues and this could be an opportunity to get a better look at him.
That’s one whole situation. The other is the revelation that some media buggers made a big mistake in saying Filip Kurto had signed for two seasons. Turns out it’s only the one. So… yeah, if his mates in Europe have access to yootoob then they’ve got one hell of a highlight reel there ready to go and get him a decent deal at a decent club back in those places. Considering he’s been the player of the season so far… I know, take a moment and process all that. Perhaps sit down for the rest of this. Take a cool glass of water and list the things in your life you’re thankful for.
He might re-sign anyway or he might not. It was always weird that an import would out of the blocks put his name on a two year deal. But there is a useful solution here which is signing a kiwi goalie and freeing up an import spot for elsewhere in the side next season. I mean, it doesn’t matter where you use your imports as long as you get quality out of them. Goalie is as important as any other position, possibly more. So bringing in a local keeper only makes sense if you can bring in somebody close to that level of ability. And naturally everyone’s gonna throw out the name: Stefan Marinovic.
Not a fan of that, personally. Marinovic is an excellent keeper, a bloody great one, but he trialled with Hull City and Rangers recently. This is one of the premier dudes in the All Whites, fourth member of the big four as far as I’m concerned and the other three play for Burnley, West Ham, and PSV Eindhoven. Bringing him back to Aotearoa shrinks the Flying Kiwis crew by one and unnecessarily so – I’d much rather see him battling away in Europe where he’s got the potential to have a decent club career.
Anyway, there’s another bloke who’d be way more suited: Jake Gleeson. He’s a Wellington lad and after eight years or something like that with the Portland Timbers he’s been released now into apparent obscurity. Like, no idea what he’s up to right now. Can’t find any info. Hit up the DMs if you know where he is.
Gleeson’s basically used up his MLS coins at this point. Either he finds a gig as a backup, which he’s done way too much already, or he drops down a division which he’d be too good for, or he heads to alternative shores and the Wellington Phoenix are as good a gig as any. Timing’s not ideal with a few more months before this role would even be available, if indeed Kurto does leave for a better gig elsewhere. Which is the same drama with Marinovic since he was released at a similar time late last year and that’d mean basically 12 months without playing first team football, longer for Gleeson who’s been both injured and dropped. But Jakey Boy would be a great keeper at A-League level for sure. Might be just what his career needs.
And that’s enough for today. Whack an ad whenever you read something decent on the site.
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