Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess: Nix woes no luffing matter

After starring when he first arrived at the Phoenix, Roly Bonevacia's form has faded. Photo / Photosport
After starring when he first arrived at the Phoenix, Roly Bonevacia's form has faded. Photo / Photosport

Decision time is looming at the Wellington Phoenix. Some big calls must be made - some soon - to get the club tracking in the right direction because, for now, there isn't much room for hope.

In the words of one loyal fan, the Phoenix appear to be "luffing", caught in the doldrums and unable to throw up a spinnaker and get away.

A result tonight against the Western Sydney Wanderers would keep alive their finals hopes but the likelihood of making an impact in the playoffs appears more remote with each passing week.

And even if the Phoenix did scrape into the playoffs by placing sixth in the 10-team competition, it would be just papering over the cracks.

The clincher was the 3-3 draw against the Perth Glory two weeks ago. Giving up a 3-1 lead at home was bad enough but to any neutral observer, the Glory had more chances to take all three points.

The feeling persists that this club needs a major shake-up.

It's not necessarily a bad thing - it happens to sporting organisations all over the world - and there is a window to do it now.

Firstly, a decision needs to be made about the head coaches.

The appointment of Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham always looked a stopgap measure and the team's performances in the last three-and-a-half months have done nothing to alter that view.

Greenacre and Buckingham are both likeable fellows who have worked extremely hard. But they have not provided the tactics and structure to get the best out of a decent roster, and the Phoenix remain incredibly shaky defensively.

The pair don't appear to have the management experience required and the Phoenix simply can't afford to have coaches learning on the job.

Buckingham had a variety of roles at Oxford United, culminating in a brief stint as first team assistant, then football development roles with the WaiBOP and Capital federations before becoming the Phoenix goalkeeping coach. Greenacre is highly respected at the club but hasn't been able to get the best out of the attack during his tenure.

The other critical aspect is the playing roster. A lot of high-profile players come off contract at the end of this season, including Roly Bonevacia, Vince Lia, Glen Moss, Alex Rodriguez, Shane Smeltz and Louis Fenton. Bonevacia seems unlikely to sign a new deal and it wouldn't surprise to see others farewelled by the club.

Something is missing in the dynamic. Some players appear too comfortable, which is never a driver for peak performance, and some of the young players who have been in the system for two or three years have been unable to break through.

- NZ Herald

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Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday. He was named the 2013 New Zealand football writer of the year and was a finalist in the Sports Reporter of the year at the 2014 Canon Media Awards.

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