Now that the season is over the real work begins for the Wellington Phoenix. A wholesale cleanout of staff and players has to be made and possibly even management and administration as well.
The Wellington club has been run efficiently commercially; it's a feather in the CEO's cap and the owners of the club that the Phoenix are one of only two clubs in the A-League that have not required a financial bailout.
However, it's time again to become a results-driven football team on the pitch. To achieve that people who understand football have to be involved with matters such as the contracting of coaches and players. The embarrassing behaviour and the quality of some of the signings made over the last few seasons would be comical if it were not so serious.
The Phoenix are a New Zealand team; New Zealand is a country proud of its unique culture and spirit. So why do we need to be looking overseas at failed Australian or international coaches who in most cases leave after a couple of seasons, or Australian players that are no better and in some cases inferior to our resident Kiwi players?
Former Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick who won the A-League twice with Melbourne Victory was unable to work his magic at the Phoenix, yet this season he has taken Newcastle Jets from last season's cellar-dwellers to runners-up. So his coaching ability cannot be questioned as to why he was not successful.
It wasn't by chance that the two All White teams who reached the World Cup finals in 1982 and 2010 were coached by New Zealanders and that the most successful Phoenix team was coached by former All Whites Ricki Herbert and Brian Turner and that the team then was mostly full of Kiwis. If we are going to have imports then the quality of Paul Ifill, Chris Greenacre, Michael McGlinchey, Manny Muscat and the redoubtable Andrew Durante has to be the norm and not the exception.
I see young and experienced Kiwi players who are being coached by quality New Zealand coaches every week of the year that have the ability and desire to succeed if given the opportunity. We are a small country and the football fraternity is a tight network and as such most know what is happening around the country. Another fact is that most of the influential football community have strong ties overseas either with clubs or former players. A Kiwi appointment would ensure a connection with coaches and players. Every major sport in New Zealand has a Kiwi coach so why not football?
The coaching appointment has to be top priority. Whoever it is, will have their work cut out to sign up a competitive squad for next season.
However, we do have a base of young and experienced players to build from.
They include Durante, who at 35 is still a vital cog in the organisation both on and off the field, Roy Krishna, McGlinchey and Matthew Ridenton, who at the tender age of 22 becomes one of the more experienced players in the team. Eighteen-year-old defender Liberato Cacace and Sarpreet Singh were the finds of the season.
These players should form the basis of the squad.
The next few weeks will throw greater light on the aspirations of the Wellington club with their appointments.