Football: No need for Phoenix to panic

The Wellington Phoenix have lost their past three games and have only one win from their first six outings this season. APNZ's Daniel Richardson looks at why there's no need to hit the panic button yet.

1. Stein Huysegems

The former Belgian international is a quality signing who has come at a bargain price. Huysegems is rumoured to be on about one-fifth of what Newcastle's Emile Heskey is getting paid, and the 30-year-old has netted three goals in his first six games. The Phoenix have lacked a reliable finisher during the past couple of years but Huysegems appears to fit the mould.

He missed a great chance to score during the 1-0 loss to Central Coast on Sunday but, other than that, has ticked every box so far this season. His work ethic off the ball is impressive, too.

2. Their fitness will improve

Paul Ifill is still good for only about 70 minutes and looks a touch off the pace following a couple of injuries he picked up in the pre-season. The former Barbados international isn't far away from being back to full fitness and being a 90-minute player again. Huysegems, who experienced a huge lay-off before joining the Phoenix, is also still one step behind the eight-ball. When both get up to speed, they will be an even bigger force in the A-League.

3. Experience

Four players in the Phoenix's regular starting XI - Andrew Durante, Tony Lochhead, Manny Muscat and Leo Bertos - have all played more than 100 games for the club and Ben Sigmund has notched up 95 appearances since 2008. That experience is invaluable and will be crucial during the next few weeks as the team look to burst out of their mini-slump. When the chips are down, teams need their old heads to come to the fore, and Sigmund and Durante must take greater control at the back so they can shore up a defence that has leaked a couple of soft goals this year.

4. They have been here before

Last season the Phoenix won only one of their opening seven games. Sound familiar? It's how this season is shaping up considering this week's tricky away trip to Newcastle. Last summer the Phoenix rebounded to finish fourth in the league and did their best to make waves in the playoffs, too. The club have the class on the field to get back to the post-season, but need to put it all together and harness the energy they played with during their opening night 2-0 win over Sydney FC, when they played the Sky Blues and Alessandro Del Piero off the park.

5. Westpac Stadium

The trip to Wellington to play the Phoenix at the Cake Tin used to be the most-feared away trip in the A-League. As Brisbane Roar coach Rado Vidosic pointed out, even the grass at Westpac Stadium is different to what players from across the Tasman are used to treading on. But in the past year Australian sides have played with confidence in Wellington, and the Phoenix need to return to the mentality that they simply never lose at home. They famously went undefeated through 24 games at Westpac during a near-two year stretch from 2008-2010, and they need to build a similar run during this campaign to ensure they don't drop points at home.


Add a Comment