Only two Wellington Phoenix representatives - coach Ricki Herbert and captain Andrew Durante - were permitted to speak to media yesterday.
Both were asked plenty of polite questions, but the only answers of any interest all related to the club's part-owner Gareth Morgan. No shock there, nor in the way Herbert and Durante chose to respond to the inquiries.
Morgan, and his views, are over-shadowing anything happening on the pitch, which is quite an achievement given the Phoenix are last in the league and coming off a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Sydney FC.
Perhaps it's all just been a stunt to distract attention away from the football? It's been a supremely successful ploy, if that's the case.
No-one really cared about the Phoenix's style of play before. It was ugly, but regularly effective, and you either sat through it or changed the channel.
Many people sympathised with Morgan, when he first mentioned that the club's owners wanted Herbert and the team to sex it up a bit. The idea made sense, even if the timing seemed daft.
But where Morgan lost fans, and might never get them back, was when he bagged them for expecting something more than the string of defeats the team has suffered since total football became public knowledge.
In doing so, he also left Durante and Herbert to defend him at a time when they have enough problems of their own.
"I've been through so much of Gareth's talk over the last month that I have honestly completely blocked it out," Durante said.
"I've heard about the comments [regarding fans], I haven't read the comments myself and I'm actually in a pretty good place right now.
"I've actually been in a pretty tough place with all these comments and having to answer for owners, so I'd rather not say much about that.
"But obviously the fans are hurting from it. It's never nice to have those comments [aimed] at you, but as players we've decided we're not going to get involved in that and not talk about it.
"So the less said the better, for the playing group."
Which isn't to say that Durante doesn't sympathise with the club's supporters or wants them to know how much he and his players respect them.
"If I can just say my part to the fans: get out there, support the team, you'll see a much better performance from us and we don't want to let you down," he said about tomorrow's clash with the Newcastle Jets.
"Regardless of what Gareth said, as players we want you guys out there. Yellow Fever and everyone involved at the Cake Tin are very important to us and if we're going to get out of this, we kind of need everyone pulling in the same direction - fans included.
"I love the fans, the fans are great. We're not much of a club without fans so, like I said, get out there and support us because we need it."
His answers regarding Morgan's attack on the intelligence of fans were in stark contrast to Herbert's.
"Oh look, to be honest, one, I don't read the media and I don't listen to it so, um, whatever's happening out there's . . . We're focused on the football side," Herbert said.
That was his direct quote. Herbert was later asked about Morgan again and had this to say.
"Look I don't see his comments, I don't read the media. No, look, I think it's. Like I say, we've got a game on Sunday and that's where our focus is."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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