Soccer: Merrick takes aim at commentator

By Daniel Richardson

Ernie Merrick believes having Fred de Jong commentating Phoenix games is a conflict of interest. Photo / Getty
Ernie Merrick believes having Fred de Jong commentating Phoenix games is a conflict of interest. Photo / Getty

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick believes having New Zealand Football high performance director Fred de Jong doing television commentary on his side's games and criticising current All Whites is a conflict of interest.

Merrick was particularly riled following comments from de Jong ahead of last Sunday's 1-0 loss to Adelaide United at Westpac Stadium where Wellington came into the game on the back of a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Jets in Newcastle the previous week.

Merrick recalled Jeremy Brockie to the starting side for the game against Adelaide in place of Roy Krishna and said he was not impressed with the commentary when he reviewed the game that was broadcast on Sky TV.

"I have to say I was pretty disappointed by the criticism [Brockie] received from Fred de Jong before last week's match where Fred said really he shouldn't be in the side and we should have retained the other players in that position,'' Merrick said after Phoenix training today.

"I was really disappointed that the head of high performance in this country would criticise an All White like that. And he wasn't the only All White [de Jong] criticised. He also criticised our defenders. He criticised Ben Sigmund, our captain Andrew Durante and Michael Boxall and to me, that's not the place of a high performance manager of the national set-up.''

Merrick stressed he supported New Zealand Football but didn't feel it was fair that de Jong spent time in the commentary box.

"To me he's very much got a conflict of interest making comments on how our players perform and I'm a very loyal person to our players and extremely supportive of all our players, especially All Whites who have really been outstanding when they've gone and played [for New Zealand] in Japan [last month], came back fatigued and never missed a beat with the Phoenix.''

Whether it's a conflict of interest or not remains to be seen given de Jong doesn't influence All Whites selections in his role.

Nobody from New Zealand Football was available to comment on Merrick's concerns today despite repeated requests from the Herald, while a spokesperson from Sky TV didn't return calls.

Sky's lead football commentator Andrew Dewhurst said it wasn't a matter he could speak about.

"I'm just the other voice in the box,'' he said.

Merrick wanted to make it clear there was no bad blood between him and New Zealand Football.

"I've never officially had any contact ever from New Zealand Football but I do think they're a good organisation. They're on the right track, there's a new CEO and there's changes there and I think I will do everything I can to support New Zealand Football.''

The eighth-placed Phoenix play their penultimate game of the A-League season on the road against Sydney FC on Sunday.

- APNZ

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