Soccer: Ifill impatient for success

By Michael Brown

Paul Ifill of the Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images
Paul Ifill of the Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images

Mention the idea of a three to five year plan at the Wellington Phoenix to Paul Ifill and the winger lets out a rueful chuckle.

He is not a fan. Ifill will be 36 in three years and doesn't have time to wait for an elusive A-League title. He doesn't believe he should have to wait, either.

It's a plan made public by co-owner Gareth Morgan, who outlined that he was happy to accept short-term pain if it meant long-term gain.

"For me, that's a hard thing to take,'' Ifill said. "I love this club and I would love in three to five years for us to be having a great new season, me still part of it coaching somewhere and saying, `great, it's worked, we have all these kids coming through playing for the national team'.

"But I am a professional sportsman and I want to win the league next year, the year after if I'm still here. I want to win the league this year. That's what I am in the game for.

"It has to be a balance. You need to be able to say in the short term we are still trying to win the league. The longer-term plan is a business that is making money, which I understand, and a structure that works and brings through the youngsters. It would be great in three to five years if they're not having to go overseas and pay big money for imports.''

Ifill is one on 'big money' and has repaid that through some match-winning performances and his professionalism. He has not, however, enjoyed this season at all for a number of reasons ranging from Morgan to injuries and their position on the table.

"It's been the least enjoyable of my four years here, that's for sure,'' he said.

The Phoenix have a chance to try to turn things around against Perth at Eden Park tomorrow and take some solace from the fact that, although last, they are only four points outside the top six.

It's likely the `total football' will be largely parked as the Phoenix chase competition points rather than ones for artistic impression. The players got together before the 1-1 draw with Newcastle last weekend and decided results had to come first.

It was reflected in their performance against the Jets, when they adopted a more-safety-first approach and played long balls if they had to - the goal came from a long ball from defender Ben Sigmund.

"We just spoke and said we still want to play this brand of football [coach] Ricki [Herbert] wants us to play in terms of keeping the ball on the deck a lot more but we thought if the ball is at risk in dangerous areas and it needs to go forward, it goes forward,'' skipper Andrew Durante said.

Morgan's utterings have put considerable pressure on the players, not to mention angered fans, and his announcement the Phoenix wanted to play total football was not only misplaced but also unrealistic. Total football means that every outfield player can play in any position on the park and that's not something any team, perhaps except Barcelona, are capable of doing.

"I think this whole total football has been a little misunderstood,'' Durante said. "We are trying to be a better footballing team.''

New signing Isaka Cernak will start against Perth, possibly at the expense of Dani Sanchez, and Ian Hogg will replace the suspended Tony Lochhead. Stein Huysegems could also come in for Tyler Boyd but there is some uncertainty around the makeup of the front three with Jeremy Brockie's wife due with the couple's first child.

- APNZ

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