Wellington Phoenix fans cheer their team as it plays the Brisbane Roar at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. Photo by Peter McIntosh
Michael Brown of APNZ looks at five reasons why it can be
hard being a Phoenix fan.
1. Great expectations
The Phoenix can be a bit like the Warriors - invariably when
you get excited about them, they disappoint. Wellington might
go on a good run, like they did recently with seven points
from a possible nine, and then put in an abject performance
like their dismal 1-0 defeat to Sydney FC that undoes a lot
of the good work. It can work the other way, too. Write them
off at your peril. It's why anything can still happen this
season but, when they talked at the start of the campaign
about finally pushing for a first title, the people expect.
The argument the Phoenix play a dull style of football might
be a little over-blown - Central Coast play a similar style
but few criticise them because of their lofty position on the
table - but they aren't exactly exponents of totaalvoetbal
like the Dutch of the 1970s or play tiki-taka like Barcelona.
Instead, they rely heavily on defensive strength and on
getting the ball into wide areas and delivering crosses into
the box. So far it has netted only 13 goals in 10 games (six
have been scored by Jeremy Brockie) and three came in one
match against Newcastle. Coach Ricki Herbert is largely
conservative by nature and often plumps for safe hands like
Vince Lia and Alex Smith rather than take risks. It has been
grating for fans to watch two of this country's most exciting
prospects head offshore to further their football careers.
Kosta Barbarouses made only 21 appearances in three seasons
in Wellington before playing a critical role in Brisbane's
A-League success and Marco Rojas really only got a run with
the Phoenix because Paul Ifill was injured.
3. Home life
For 24 games between October 2008 and November 2010, the
Phoenix couldn't be beaten at home. Teams hated coming to
Wellington and contending with everything it threw up - the
wind, an international flight, landing in Wellington, the
wind. Now, however, the fear is gone. Already this season
they have been beaten twice in four games at the Cake Tin.
It's something that's affecting crowd numbers. The club have
often said they need 10,000 at each home game to break even -
they are averaging 8117 this season - and they are following
a largely downward trend from the 12,057 who turned up for
the season opener against Sydney FC.
4. Black sheep
Every family has one and it's like the Phoenix are the black
sheep of the A-League's family. From being overwhelming
favourites for the wooden spoon at the start of every season
to dwindling crowds and the style of football, Wellington
fans are constantly having to defend their team. Even the
opening images for the highlights show are devoid of
Wellington players. There's nothing like feeling wanted.
5. The chills
The fans group Yellow Fever have a tradition of taking their
shirts off when the Phoenix are leading with 10 minutes
remaining. While doing little for TV ratings, it's not easy
given game days are, more often than not, cold and bleak.
It's a good thing some fans are fairly well insulated.