Ifill: One bad result doesn't make you a bad team

PAUL IFILL
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2014

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OPINION: Even the greatest fortune-teller would not have predicted what unfolded at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.

I was one of nearly 10,000 fans who expected another swashbuckling performance from the "new" Phoenix.

What we witnessed was anything but.

Like everyone, I left the ground searching for answers.

Every professional sportsman has days where they don't perform.

But it's rare for 11 to all have them in the same game!

It wasn't a reflection of the run we've been on, but credit to Melbourne Heart who have been excellent under returning coach John van't Schip.

Heart came with a gameplan to press us early, deny time and space and catch us on the counter.

Orlando Engelaar, in particular, was instrumental and showed why he has 15 Netherlands caps, while Patrick Gerhardt did a great job in stifling Carlos Hernandez's creativity - no easy task given the form he had been in.

It probably wasn't what the boys wanted to hear, but I thought the "Oles!" when we completed passes and the chants of "We want one!" showed the crowd still had a sense of humour.

Fair play to all that stuck around till the end.

Our coach Ernie Merrick believes in looking forward.

Although there are lessons to learn from the 5-0 defeat, I'm sure he hasn't dwelled on it and has been working hard to make sure we're prepared for tonight's game against the Mariners.

He would have reminded everyone that one result doesn't suddenly make you a bad team.

Ernie won't have wasted time analysing Sunday's game, instead focusing on positive reinforcement and showing footage of the things we've done well this season.

We match up well with Central Coast.

They're still coming to terms with a player exodus while the loss of left back Josh Rose (suspension) creates a selection headache for their coach Phil Moss.

Hopefully, whoever plays wide right will give Rose's replacement a tough time because it's definitely an area to exploit.

I reached the first major milestone on my road to recovery on Tuesday when I kicked off the moon boot and slipped into my specially-made orthotics.

The kids refer to them as "daddy's heels" and they're definitely not flattering!

It's basically a two-inch heel added to the back of my normal training shoes.

Taking my first step in the physio's room on Tuesday was quite scary.

I had very little confidence that the surgically repaired achilles tendon would hold up and nearly all the boys crowded around urging me on.

After hobbling across the room, there was plenty of cheering and clapping from the boys which was a nice moment.

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I was pleased to read the Phoenix are looking at moving into a proposed new 'boutique' football stadium in Petone.

I don't know the ins and outs, but it would be a massive step forward to have a top class training and playing facility.

It is also exciting that Juventus are coming to play the A-League All Stars in August; a coup which follows last year's game against Manchester United.

Along with Manchester City's investment into Melbourne Heart, it shows the league is on an upward curve.

Next season also features the start of the FFA Cup, based on the FA Cup.

This is a great initiative from Football Federation Australia and I hope it captures the imagination of fans as amateur teams pit wits against professional ones.

Speaking of the FA Cup, my old team Sheffield United will play the winner of Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton in the quarterfinals.

Every United fan will, unusually, be hoping for a Wednesday victory to set up another 'Steel City' derby.

The game is one of the best derbys I've had the privilege of playing in.

During my 18 months at United I played in two and won both.

The second comes with an interesting story.

When signing for United my team-mates warned me that manager Neil Warnock was a strange character who sometimes based his teams on his wife's dreams!

As the new boy I took this with a pinch of salt.

The day before the second derby I was named in the starting XI, but on the way into the ground on match day I received a call from the fitness coach, asking me to stop by the manager's office.

I had that instant sinking feeling, knowing I was likely to be dropped.

Neil asked me to sit down and said: "Listen son, I don't really know how to tell you this, but Sharon (Neil's wife) has had a dream and I'm not going to play you today."

I burst out laughing, but Neil spoke again.

"No seriously son, I'm not playing you, I'm going to play Quinny (Alan Quinn)."

Amazingly, we won the game 1-0 in front of 30,000 fans, as Quinn became the first player to score a goal for both sides of the city in a derby match.

I probably should've asked Neil's wife for the lottery numbers that evening!

- Fairfax Media

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