Contenders line up to step into Herbert's shoes

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 27/02/2013
Ricki Herbert
CRAIG SIMCOX/ Fairfax NZ
REPLACEMENTS LINE UP: Ricki Herbert is gone but the Phoenix will have their choice of replacement coaches.

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The Wellington Phoenix will conduct an international search to find Ricki Herbert's replacement and despite the club's struggles there will be no shortage of capable candidates.

Former Phoenix assistant Luciano Trani wasted no time throwing his hat in the ring yesterday and former Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick is out of work and keen to return to the A-League.

Merrick coached the Victory to titles in 2006-07 and 2008-09 before being sacked in 2011.

He resigned as Hong Kong's national coach last year and in December told Melbourne media he hoped to resurrect his career in the A-League.

Rookie assistant Chris Greenacre will take the Phoenix reins for the rest of the season, starting tonight against the Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium.

But yesterday Greenacre said he was not ready to be a permanent head coach.

"I've got far too much to learn to be put in the ring of fire," he said.

Phoenix general manager David Dome said there was no shortlist drawn up and the net would be cast far and wide.

"I don't think we're going to limit ourselves, put it that way," Dome said.

"The reality is there's a lot of good coaches out there and we're not going to limit it to Australia, New Zealand. We'll go wide, we'll just see what's available."

The Phoenix received coaching applications "all the time" and Dome believed New Zealand's lifestyle would be an attractive selling point.

The new coach would be asked to deliver a possession-based style and in the meantime the club would continue with player retention and recruitment for next season and beyond.

"Whenever a new coach comes in, they're always inheriting players, regardless of when they come in so it doesn't change any of that."

Trani was assistant at the Phoenix between 2009 and 2011 before joining Adelaide United for family reasons and more secure employment.

But Trani, who was hired as the lead assistant, quit Adelaide last August after declining an offer to coach the club's youth team.

He is now coaching in Melbourne but has worked for the Phoenix, scouting opposition teams this season.

Trani led Adelaide to last year's Asian Champions League quarterfinals as official head coach and says he's "ready to go" in Wellington.

"I feel strong and confident about being able to do the role," Trani said.

"I was head coach for eight ACL games with six wins, one draw, one loss.

"I know the players, the landscape of New Zealand football and the A-League. Now it's official that Ricki's not there, of course I'm keen and wanting to take the job," Trani said.

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All Whites assistant Neil Emblen, who coached New Zealand at last year's Olympics, said he was unlikely to apply for the position.

Emblen said he was focused on helping Herbert prepare for World Cup qualifiers although if the Phoenix came calling, he would listen.

"It's a job I'd love to do in the future but I'm not sure the timing's right to be throwing my name in the hat at the moment.

"Everybody knows what I do and where I work. I'm not saying I'm big enough to not have to apply or anything like that but . . . I think I need to do the professional route, as a possible assistant first, and then go into the job."

Former Phoenix captain Ross Aloisi, now coaching in Adelaide, has also expressed interest, and there are many other possibilities.

Ante Milicic, the assistant coach at Western Sydney Wanderers, has strong credentials, as does former All White Gavin Wilkinson, who is general manager at the Portland Timbers but has coaching experience.

Former national skipper Danny Hay has endorsed both Wilkinson and former All White Simon Elliott, a Wellingtonian hoping to establish a coaching career.

Spaniard Ramon Tribulietx has had success coaching attractive football at Auckland City, and John Kosmina, Ian Ferguson and Miron Bleiberg are available after losing their A-League posts.

- The Dominion Post

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