Soccer: Why it's hard to be a Phoenix fan

By Michael Brown

The Phoenix can be a bit like the Warriors - invariably when you get excited about them, they disappoint. Photo / Getty Images.
The Phoenix can be a bit like the Warriors - invariably when you get excited about them, they disappoint. Photo / Getty Images.

Michael Brown of APNZ looks at five reasons why it can be hard being a Phoenix fan.

1. Great expectations

The Phoenix can be a bit like the Warriors - invariably when you get excited about them, they disappoint. Wellington might go on a good run, like they did recently with seven points from a possible nine, and then put in an abject performance like their dismal 2-1 defeat to Sydney FC that undoes a lot of the good work. It can work the other way, too. Write them off at your peril. It's why anything can still happen this season but, when they talked at the start of the campaign about finally pushing for a first title, the people expect.

2. Style

The argument the Phoenix play a dull style of football might be a little over-blown - Central Coast play a similar style but few criticise them because of their lofty position on the table - but they aren't exactly exponents of totaalvoetbal like the Dutch of the 1970s or play tiki-taka like Barcelona.

Instead, they rely heavily on defensive strength and on getting the ball into wide areas and delivering crosses into the box. So far it has netted only 13 goals in 10 games (six have been scored by Jeremy Brockie) and three came in one match against Newcastle. Coach Ricki Herbert is largely conservative by nature and often plumps for safe hands like Vince Lia and Alex Smith rather than take risks. It has been grating for fans to watch two of this country's most exciting prospects head offshore to further their football careers. Kosta Barbarouses made only 21 appearances in three seasons in Wellington before playing a critical role in Brisbane's A-League success and Marco Rojas really only got a run with the Phoenix because Paul Ifill was injured.

3. Home life

For 24 games between October 2008 and November 2010, the Phoenix couldn't be beaten at home. Teams hated coming to Wellington and contending with everything it threw up - the wind, an international flight, landing in Wellington, the wind. Now, however, the fear is gone. Already this season they have been beaten twice in four games at the Cake Tin. It's something that's affecting crowd numbers. The club have often said they need 10,000 at each home game to break even - they are averaging 8117 this season - and they are following a largely downward trend from the 12,057 who turned up for the season opener against Sydney FC.

4. Black sheep

Every family has one and it's like the Phoenix are the black sheep of the A-League's family. From being overwhelming favourites for the wooden spoon at the start of every season to dwindling crowds and the style of football, Wellington fans are constantly having to defend their team. Even the opening images for the highlights show are devoid of Wellington players. There's nothing like feeling wanted.

5. The chills

The fans group Yellow Fever have a tradition of taking their shirts off when the Phoenix are leading with 10 minutes remaining. While doing little for TV ratings, it's not easy given game days are, more often than not, cold and bleak. It's a good thing some fans are fairly well insulated.

- APNZ

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