Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Soccer: New boss must possess same ethos as Phoenix

The new Phoenix coach must help the team retain possession better. Photo / Hagen Hopkins
The new Phoenix coach must help the team retain possession better. Photo / Hagen Hopkins

As the hunt for their new coach begins in earnest this week, the Phoenix are looking for a mantra as much as a man.

The Wellington club are steadfast in their belief that the new manager must be capable of implementing their football philosophy - moving towards a possession-based game plan.

But the A-League franchise see this as just the first step. They want the playing model to permeate through the club (including the academy and youth sides) and any future coaches will slot in and follow that.

"They eventually want to develop a club-driven philosophy rather than a coach-driven philosophy," says one observer, "so that with future changes, there is not a massive upheaval."

Though you can't really make comparisons, it is the approach that Barcelona have followed for the past two decades.

When Frank Rijkaard departed the Nou Camp at the end of the 2007-08 season, the club apparently considered Jose Mourinho for the role before deciding that despite his record of success, the style of play he encouraged would not suit the club. They opted for Pep Guardiola.

Closer to home, Super Rugby's Crusaders have followed a consistent game plan for more than 15 years, while the first decade of the Brumbies was also notable for their entrenched style that didn't deviate significantly under Rod Macqueen, Eddie Jones and David Nucifora.

However, the decision - for the appointment panel, which includes Noah Hickey and Mark Chote as well as input from overseas consultants - won't be easy. While the Phoenix have some time to make a considered choice, they want to have their new man in place before the end of next month, as decisions need to be made around the retention of players who are off contract.

Big overseas names don't always work in this part of the world; former England international Steve McMahon didn't have much success at Perth, while ex-Ipswich manager Jim Magilton lasted just 12 games at the Victory, in admittedly difficult circumstances.

Ernie Merrick, if he is interested in living in Wellington, must surely be a contender. The long-time Victory coach won two A-League titles.

John Kosmina also has a good overall record (behind only Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold) but his three coaching spells (Adelaide twice and Sydney FC) all ended under a cloud.

The colourful Miron Bleiberg has also been mentioned as a contender, though the former Brisbane and Gold Coast coach has a record only marginally better than Ricki Herbert's.

It seems unlikely that the club will appoint a local to the position. While it would be ideal for the only New Zealand club to have a Kiwi in charge, it is not seen as a pre-requisite. Aside from names such as Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx and All Whites assistant Neil Emblen, it is a shallow pool, partly because Herbert often chose not to use local assistants during his long tenure.

However, it isn't necessary for success, and fans can take heart that the best eras of the Breakers and Warriors have come with Australians in the hot seat. If the new man is not from across the Tasman, maybe he will come from Britain or the renowned coaching factory of the Netherlands.

- Herald on Sunday

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