The inaugural Phoenix captain, Ross Aloisi, is "shocked" by his former club's dramatic slide this season and would love to one day return to Wellington in a coaching capacity.
The retired Socceroo is now coaching West Adelaide in South Australia's club competition.
Like many A-League observers, Aloisi expected the Phoenix to be title contenders this season, yet has watched in horror as they sit last with six rounds to play.
"I'm shocked because they have the players to be in that top six," said Aloisi, who led the Phoenix in 13 games in 2007-08.
"From what I've seen, the brand of football that the club wants to play, I don't think they're on the same page."
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert's fate will be decided in an end-of-season review, although chairman Rob Morrison has said he will be retained in some capacity.
Aloisi said the club needed to get its ducks in a row after mixed messages throughout this season.
"Whether Rick's there ... I know he's got a two-year contract but we've seen coaches be moved on in the A-League and a lot of it has got to do with club philosophies and vision on how they want to play," Aloisi said.
"If they're not on the same page, I just can't see it working.
"I don't know what Rick's philosophy and vision is. In the past, it's a very direct game, a lot of running, a lot of tackling and wear teams down.
"Is that what the club want? I don't know because no-one's really come out and said this is the way we want to play."
The Phoenix have signed former league MVP Carlos Hernandez for the next two seasons and it is hoped the Costa Rican can spark an underwhelming midfield.
But Aloisi queried whether he would fit in with the Phoenix style.
"Hernandez can create something out of nothing, he scores fantastic goals, he's sensational on the ball. But the question is his fitness.
"He's always struggled with it and his workrate is not there. Every player that's playing for the Phoenix needs to be able to run and defend as a unit. Personally, I don't see that happening."
Aloisi pointed out he wasn't sticking the boot into Herbert or the Phoenix but was speaking as a passionate supporter and observer of the club.
As the only professional football club in New Zealand the potential was tremendous but the Phoenix were being left behind by a rapidly improving league.
Aloisi, whose brother John is head coach at Melbourne Heart, said he was probably one or two years away from being fully ready to coach at A-League level.
His mentor is Football Federation Australia's advanced coaching manager Rob Sherman, who has previously worked as New Zealand Football's high performance manager.
Aloisi said he would jump at the chance should a club like the Phoenix come calling.
"Whether it's as a head coach, or as an assistant, I don't know. But one day I'd really love to be back with the Phoenix.
"It's a club that's close to my heart and whatever I do, I do with a lot of passion.
"If I was to coach, or have a meeting for a job interview, I would propose to the club my vision and philosophy, which is an attacking brand of football and possession-based.
"That's where the game is going so you've got to sign the right players and have a clear vision."
- The Dominion Post
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