There is a long way to go but the Phoenix's ambitious coaching experiment seems to be working.
The appointment of Chris Greenacre as assistant coach for the 2011-12 season while still on the playing staff, looked to be a risky move. It left the Wellington bench looking thin.
Coaching rookie Greenacre had to step into the shoes of the vastly experienced Luciano Trani, lured away to Adelaide. The striker was on a steep learning curve but also had to focus on his principal role of leading the line and scoring goals.
"There was a lot to learn but I think we are getting there," says Greenacre. "I have a foot in two camps and so far it is going well."
Club and striker have made a promising start. A Greenacre goal secured a 1-1 draw at the Gold Coast before taking care of Newcastle 2-0 at home last week. The result against the Glory last week was disappointing (0-1) but the performance was impressive, with Ricki Herbert hailing it as their best ever in Perth.
"I was concerned at the start," admits Greenacre, "wondering how the lads would adapt to me and how it would affect me on the pitch. Ideally it would be great to learn in a youth team environment but Ricki [Herbert] asked me and I couldn't resist."
"Chris has done well," says teammate Vince Lia. "There is a bit more pressure on him now but he has the total respect of the playing group and it hasn't affected his play so far. He has copped a bit of grief though; on the bus we always tell him - 'players down the back, coaches at the front'."
At the time the move seemed motivated by financial expediency more than anything. Greenacre presumably got a pay rise but the franchise did not have to stump up a separate salary for an assistant coach. For away trips, the Englishman can travel as coaching staff, leaving a spot for another player. As part of the coaching staff, only half his salary counts towards the salary cap.
The Phoenix have yet to appoint a goalkeeping coach which leaves them with Herbert, physiotherapist Wayne Roberts, strength and conditioning coach Lee Taylor and Greenacre in a part-time capacity.
In contrast, Sydney have nine technical staff, defending champions Brisbane Roar have 10, including two assistant coaches, a goalkeeping coach, a club doctor and three sport scientists.
Even taking into account that the Australian franchises have more teams (below the first team) it still seems an ominous disparity but Greenacre is ever optimistic: "We have got to be professional and juggle what we have got," says Greenacre.
"We need to adapt to situations and it isn't always ideal but that is the way it is."
They miss the exhaustive analysis provided by Trani, who would have a wide-ranging database on opposition players, tactics and strategies; Greenacre can't replicate that but still finds himself spending hours on the computer at home. He says he has taken something from every manager during a long professional career and has learnt the most from mentors like Tony Pulis (Stoke) and new Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cottrell.
Greenacre says his new role has not affected his ability in the number nine shirt.
"I'm feeling fit and sharp," says Greenacre. "Nothing has changed really - I have to be strict sometimes but the lads have accepted me. We still argue in games as we always have and I am not involved in selection so try to remain neutral from that point of view."
Greenacre will miss the ammunition provided by Marco Rojas but is backing others to fill the void left by the wonder winger now at Melbourne.
"Obviously it will be difficult to replace him," says Greenacre, "but Paul [Ifill] and Leo [Bertos] have their opportunity now to replicate what he did for us."
Greenacre looks after the front third, including attacking set plays, corners and free kicks.
One of his main aspirations this season is to see the team become more patient in possession, especially away from home. There were some promising signs last week but today threatens to be all about defence.
Despite a star studded roster there are serious issues at the Victory, which striker Archie Thompson hinted at during a candid post match interview after the draw with Heart. Aside from being winless, Melbourne are also yet to score a goal. Phoenix fans will be hopeful that today is not the day that everything clicks for them.By Michael Burgess Email Michael