Why the Phoenix should be happy with a draw

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 11:23 23/10/2012
Paul Ifill
Maarten Holl/Fairfax Media
POSSESSION GAME: The Phoenix's Paul Ifill (left) competes for the ball with Brisbane Roar's Ben Halloran.

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OPINION: There aren’t many times the Wellington Phoenix are justified in being happy with a 1-1 draw at home, but Sunday was one of them.

Whether they like it or not, there is now an expectation that the Phoenix should pick up all three points every time they step out to Westpac Stadium, given the excellent record they have built in Wellington and the talent they have in the current squad.

But Brisbane remain the A-League’s benchmark team, and the fact is Wellington were at the back end of what has been a tricky start to the season with the international window last week having affected them far more than the other nine teams.

Ricki Herbert was therefore understandably happy to settle for a point against Brisbane, who, let’s remember, did put five goals past Melbourne Victory the previous week.

It maintained Wellington’s unbeaten start to the season - one win and two draws - which puts them in fourth, one point off the three leading teams.

Herbert would have taken that scenario if offered to him before the start of the season, not only because of the international window disruption but because Sydney, Melbourne Heart and Brisbane are three very good teams.

What wasn’t as easy to understand, however, were the claims coming out of the Phoenix after the match that they are in a ‘‘transition year’’.

That suggests they think they are in somewhat of a building phase, but the only transitioning this squad should be doing is going from a top four team to a serious title contender.

The Phoenix have had five years to ‘‘transition’’ and they’re actually at a stage where they should be delivering, if not some sort of silverware, then getting very close to it.

There is certainly nothing transitional about the playing roster and the coaching staff, and the off-field distractions and uncertainty provided by the change of ownership last year are well and truly behind them. Under the Welnix group, which has set up the long-awaited academy, there is now stability like never before.

From Mark Paston and Glen Moss in goal, to Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead and Leo Bertos at the back, to Manny Muscat and Vince Lia in the middle, to Paul Ifill up front and Herbert and Chris Greenacre in the coaching box, there is a helluva lot of A-League appearances for the Phoenix.

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Add to the mix the likes of former Belgian international Stein Huysegems (he looks to have an excellent eye for goal, by the way), All White Jeremy Brockie, experienced American Alex Smith and talented youngsters Louis Fenton and Tyler Boyd, and there appears to be very little, if anything, transitional about the Phoenix.

They’re a settled, experienced and very good A-League squad that is well led and highly capable of delivering results on a consistent basis.

We should not expect anything less, and we certainly shouldn’t expect this to be a ‘‘transition’’ year. That would be underselling themselves and their fans.

Let’s just hope the players don’t buy into that talk.

- The Dominion Post

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