Soccer: Ross the boss ready to roll

By Terry Maddaford

Ross Aloisi's departure from Adelaide United was far from amicable even though he had led the club to the minor premiership in the inaugural A-League season and the grand final this year.

He promises one day to tell the full story.

At the time he felt it was probably the end of a glittering career which had taken him to many corners of the footballing world.

That is, until his agent called and asked whether he would be interested in going to Wellington.

"I asked who was going to coach. He said Ricki Herbert. Within half an hour it was a done deal," says Aloisi. "What I saw in those last games last season convinced me he could coach. I asked around and heard a lot about him both as a coach and as person.

"Even then I did not realise how good he was. I have always wanted to learn more about tactics. He certainly knows what he is talking about. I can't wait for the season proper to get started."

Aloisi, whose wife and family have remained in Adelaide, says he knows his career will soon be over.

But he was surprised at how much he had learned and changed as a person.

"The captaincy was not mentioned at the time I signed. It is something which came up. I know Ricki has a close relationship with [All Blacks coach] Graham Henry and has spent time with him in leadership group discussions.

"He opened my eyes with some of the things he said and the direction he wants to take."

Herbert and former Adelaide coach John Kosmina have different styles, says Aloisi. Unlike Kossie, Ricki is softly spoken and communicates well. The players know exactly what's expected of them.

What was his initial reaction when the door was slammed in his face at Hindmarsh Stadium?

"I was shocked. I never wanted to leave Adelaide. I had another year on my contract," says Aloisi.

"Soccer has got really big in Adelaide. I loved being part of it. Now the Phoenix has become the second-most popular team with the Adelaide fans. Everyone wants to see New Zealand football succeed.

"They have seen the calibre of players Ricki has got in. He has the best of the All Whites, some Australians who have a lot to prove and four Brazilians who have quickly showed they can play."

Asked whether he agreed that a top-four finish - and a shot at the play-offs - was realistic, Aloisi doesn't hesitate.

"Every team aims to be there but for some it is not realistic. I don't feel that."

Aloisi is fulsome in praising All White midfielder Tim Brown, who will be his vice-captain.

"When I first played against him when we played Newcastle I wondered why the Knights had not picked him up. He is going to be a great player."

Of concerns that the Phoenix will be behind the 8-ball when the season kicks off, Aloisi is philosophical.

"If you were an Australian journalist I would not tell you this," he says, while awaiting training at a windswept and wet Adventure Park. "In Europe our pre-season was just six weeks. This is the longest break I have ever had. I don't think we will be disadvantaged at all by not playing as many games as some of the others have.

"After all, they don't hand the medals out until February."

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