Striker's berth vacant as Herbert continues search

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 19/05/2012

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Ricki Herbert is confident the Phoenix will have enough firepower to compete for the next A-League title even if he is unable to sign a foreign striker to replace Chris Greenacre.

Phoenix and All Whites coach Herbert returned from England this week where, in between his New Zealand Football duties, he was on the prowl for a new club front man.

Veteran import Greenacre has almost certainly played his last game for the Phoenix and is currently in England on a Uefa A-Licence coaching course.

Herbert said Greenacre was likely to remain at the Phoenix as a coach, working with the club's eight incoming academy players as well as assisting him with the first team.

While in England, Herbert met several agents and managers – including Tottenham's Harry Redknapp – and said he would have a better idea in a fortnight whether he could lure a foreign striker to the Phoenix.

"A number of the clubs I went to, there was discussions around potentially what we can do, maybe players on loan.

"With the academy starting up this year that'll give us some chances to maybe get some young boys offshore as well.

"The back end of the year, it's always a time where players are making decisions, managers are making decisions, keeping players, moving them on. So I would think in the next fortnight we may have something more productive to talk about."

The signatures of All Whites Jeremy Brockie and Mark Paston this week mean the Phoenix have 14 players on the books for next season, while imports Dani Sanchez and Alex Smith are also expected to return.

Even if he can't land a gun striker, Herbert was confident Brockie and Paul Ifill were capable of scoring enough goals to threaten the title.

"I'll probably play Jeremy at the top with Ifill," he said. "He's got good pace, scored nine goals in the league in a team that didn't make the finals. You're probably looking at Jeremy getting a dozen goals and getting Ifill up around that double-figure mark as well."

The Phoenix are hoping for big things from winger Lucas Pantelis, who missed the entire 2011-12 season with a knee injury.

He would free Sanchez to play in his preferred position as an attacking central midfielder.

Herbert said the Phoenix were not interested in former A-League player of the year Carlos Hernandez, who is not wanted by new Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou. The Costa Rican playmaker is reportedly asking for at least A$250,000.

"We've got to work within that salary cap and it's not easy to get everybody into it, so at this stage it would be a no."

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Herbert plans to have a first-team squad numbering 20, with the eight academy players available to step up to the A-League if required.

As well as re-signing Sanchez and Smith, Herbert wants to sign a new right back, a striker, a young midfielder and a young centre back to cover Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund.

"If we did get a striker from abroad then we'd probably lean towards playing a front three."

Meanwhile, uncapped Auckland City duo Ian Hogg and Adam McGeorge have been added to the All Whites squad, while Ryan Nelsen's injury-enforced omission has been confirmed.

The All Whites play friendlies against El Salvador (May 24) and Honduras (May 27) in the United States in preparation for the OFC Nations Cup (June 2-10) in the Solomon Islands.

Due to club commitments, Dan Keat, Chris Killen and Winston Reid have not been released for the El Salvador and Honduras games, while Tony Lochhead (honeymoon) and Rory Fallon (pursuing coaching badges) have been excused for the US leg.

- The Dominion Post

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