All Whites legend Ivan Vicelich feels the Wellington Phoenix won't need to look too far for their next head coach.

The Phoenix have started interviews for the job, with the process expected to take about three weeks.

Incumbent co-coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre have been interviewed, as well as several other candidates based in Australasia.

Vicelich, who has played more matches for New Zealand than anyone else, believes Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx is ideally placed for the next step in his career.


"He is definitely ready," said Vicelich. "He has proven it so many times, in so many situations. He has been able to take teams from a semi-amateur environment in New Zealand and compete with - or beat - big clubs from around the world. He knows how to get the best out of players and is an expert at studying opposition teams."

Vicelich has a unique perspective. He played under Tribulietx for almost a decade and has spent the past two seasons beside him as assistant coach at the Sandringham club. Vicelich also had a string of coaches in his decorated career - including seven seasons in the Dutch Eredivisie - and said Tribulietx compares favourably with anyone.

"He's up there with all of them," said Vicelich. "He's one of the best coaches I have ever had."

Tribulietx, 44, would be an astute choice. He brings a European mentality, but knows the football scene in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific inside out, having spent more than a decade here.

Unless the likes of Graham Arnold or Ange Postecoglou decide they want to live in Wellington, Tribulietx appears the best qualified contender across Australasia. He's a safe choice, but also the most likely to succeed.

Europe-based candidates may materialise but they bring inherent risks, as many "names" from the northern hemisphere have struggled with the challenges of the A-League.

21 Apr, 2017 8:55am
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Tribulietx also has a vast network of contacts throughout Europe.

The Spaniard also has a legendary work ethic. Former colleagues at Auckland City still marvel about his preparations for the 2009 Club World Cup, as he studied United Arab Emirates champions Al-Ahli. Tribulietx woke at 3am every Sunday for more than two months to watch live streams of their games. It paid off. Tribulietx, and Auckland City, knew every Al-Ahli player inside out and won 2-0, eventually finishing fifth.

The Miracle in Morocco - where Auckland City trumped the champions of Africa (ES Setif) and North America (Cruz Azul) and took Argentinian giants San Lorenzo to extra time - was a remarkable high but Tribulietx has kept progressing.

In last year's Club World Cup, his team pushed J-League champions Kashima Antlers to the limit, then at the Nike Lunar Cup in January, both the South Korean champions and an all-star Hong Kong XI were beaten.

"There are difficulties at this level as players are working nine to five and they miss trainings for different reasons that wouldn't happen in a professional environment," said Vicelich. "The demands are different, so to have the ability to play an attractive style of football and win games as well ... he's accomplished all that."

Tribulietx appeals as a sensible long-term choice. He's settled here and understands the challenges of football in this country. He has refined Auckland City's style of play over a long period of time, yet is flexible enough to take a horses for courses approach, and has continually reinvigorated his squad.

His teams have common, enviable traits: strong defensively, good in possession and they invariably find a way to win.

And Tribulietx's touch would also help the development side of the capital club. Young players such as Clayton Lewis and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi have thrived under his tutelage.

Perhaps the most important point is the simplest - Tribulietx seems born to coach. He has the Midas touch, the innate ability to get the best out of individuals and a collective. Sure, it would be a step up, though Auckland City has long been professional in everything but resources, with their players training five to six times a week, even though many hold down jobs.