Chris Greenacre has Phoenix in good heart

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 13/10/2012
Chris Greenacre
Phil Reid/FAIRFAX NZ
MR POSITIVITY: Phoenix assistant coach Chris Greenacre.

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Chris Greenacre remembers walking out on to Maine Road as Oasis' Roll With It blared from the speakers before his Manchester City debut in 1997.

Fifteen years on, the song would provide an appropriate soundtrack to a challenging week as Greenacre prepares to make his head coaching debut.

The 34-year-old Englishman has been handed something of a hospital pass.

Appointed Phoenix assistant coach after three seasons toiling away up front, Greenacre will take the reins in Melbourne against the Heart tomorrow.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert plans to watch the game at the All Whites' hotel in Christchurch after giving up on attempts to get to AAMI Park on time.

And the club will be without seven internationals on World Cup qualifying duty, leaving Greenacre with two rookie goalkeepers and a revamped defence.

"Oasis are my favourite band so that sticks fondly in my memories. I think you guys [media] are all saying it's a write-off but after the performance we put in against Sydney ... it's not ideal circumstances but it's what we're dealt with," Greenacre said.

"At this club we've got a habit of being under the pump a lot of the time for various reasons but we're going there to get three points.

"We're not going with a negative attitude.

"Yeah, Ricki's not here and we're missing one or two players but we've got a good enough squad here that's more than capable of going to Melbourne and getting points on the road."

Greenacre scored 19 goals in 84 games for the Phoenix.

It is not a great strike rate but his work ethic, positivity and professionalism rubbed off on everyone at the club and Herbert had no hesitation making him his latest right-hand man.

Greenacre holds a UEFA B coaching licence but will have a simple message to Jacob Spoonley, Luke Rowe, Michael Boxall, Cameron Lindsay, Scott Basalaj and Tom Biss before kickoff.

"Initially go and enjoy it," Greenacre said.

"You're playing in the A-League, everyone will remember their debut. It's the best time of your career, and I wish I could have my time again and be out there with them.

"It's a great opportunity, playing against a good side at a great stadium, great fans, what an occasion to go and show New Zealand and the rest of Australia what you're capable of."

Greenacre admitted being in charge had come "a little earlier than I expected" but he had been in touch with Herbert throughout the week.

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The biggest question mark surrounds the defence, where either Spoonley or Basalaj will start in goal, and Rowe, Lindsay and Boxall will also make debuts.

"But throughout pre-season, we've been trying to get a system in place where everyone knows their roles and responsibilities within that," Greenacre said.

"So because we're well-drilled on that, it's kind of not a problem."

The Phoenix, 2-0 winners over Sydney FC, and the Heart, who upset the Victory 2-1 in the Melbourne derby, were perhaps the most impressive teams in round one.

Under their own rookie coach - former Socceroos star John Aloisi - the Heart played an aggressive pressing game and launched quickly on the counter-attack.

The tempo will be different tomorrow and experienced Heart midfielders Fred, Richard Garcia and Matt Thompson will fancy their chances of dictating terms against the heavily depleted Phoenix.

"I'm just hoping with the strength we've got going forward, with Paul [Ifill] and Louis [Fenton], and those types of players, we can counteract that, hopefully, on the counter, and cause them problems because they do commit numbers forward," Greenacre said.

"That may be a weakness in their armoury which we could exploit.

"We've certainly got the players that can do that and given the space that they do leave there, people like Paul and Louis thrive in those positions.

"So hopefully that will be something we'll look to exploit."

- The Dominion Post

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