Merrick has high hopes for new recruit Burns
Having overseen the rise of Bayer Leverkusen star Robbie Kruse, Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick hopes he can reignite the international career of new signing Nathan Burns.
Burns, 26, played seven games for Australia between 2007-11 and was once touted as the next Harry Kewell.
But while the attacker played 25 games for Greek Super League club AEK Athens between 2008-12, he was unable to set Europe alight in the same way former Merrick prodigy Kruse has done in the German Bundesliga.
"Robbie Kruse was a similar type player," said Merrick, after landing Burns on a two-year deal yesterday.
"He was playing as a winger and when I got hold of him at [Melbourne] Victory, I turned him into a goalscorer. It was pretty easy to do, he had all the skills and he's in the Bundesliga now. They're very similar types of players and the type I like to work with. They are both well schooled and competed at Australian age-group level all the way through. They're both very high standard and hopefully we'll get Nathan's Socceroos career back on track."
Burns joins the Phoenix from Korean club Incheon United.
He was loaned out to the Newcastle Jets for three months of the 2013-14 A-League season, scoring two goals in 12 games, and caused the Phoenix problems when the teams met in Napier.
"He's exactly what we were after," Merrick said. "A high striker with pace, great dribbling, one-on-one qualities, can also play on the wing and play as a No 10. Pacy, flexible, mobile and not a stationary sort of targetman. I like strikers to come from wide positions. This gives me great combinations in attack and midfield. Good depth, good quality and a lot of pace."
Burns will arrive in Wellington either this weekend or early next week.
The Phoenix now have 20 players on the books for the coming season and can sign up to 23.
Merrick also has one import slot up his sleeve.
All Whites midfielder Michael McGlinchey remains likely to join the Phoenix but he is yet to resolve his contract dispute with the Central Coast Mariners.
"I've got no comment to make on Michael McGlinchey," Merrick said.
"There's all sorts of rumours and stories. I'm still looking for a creative midfielder that's really good at keeping possession, a hard working No 10. And looking at cover in defence. That may not be a first XI type player but we're looking for depth and someone who can play centre back, maybe defensive midfield and a bit of fullback.
"I think we'll probably sign 22 players and that always gives you the option if the right person comes up. We've still got a visa spot so it gives us good flexibility, should we need a No 10 or a defender to be a visa player."
The Dominion Post