Confusion reigns as Herbert exits Phoenix

JONATHAN MILLMOW
Last updated 11:30 27/02/2013
Ricki Herbert
Getty Images
CONFUSION OVER EXIT: Ricki Herbert is gone but there are more questions than answers over his exit.

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OPINION: It's 10am at Westpac Stadium and the caretaker coach of the Wellington Phoenix Chris Greenacre is putting out the cones for training.

Media manager Russell Gray is grumpy. His mate Ricki Herbert has resigned (before he was sacked) and word got out before Gray had his ducks in a row.

"I didn't sign up for this," Gray says.

He was employed as the kit man but when things got tight under former owner Terry Serepisos, Gray inherited a second title.

He maintains he and Herbert spent Monday drafting a press release but someone leaked it to the Yellow Fever and the cat got out of the bag.

As the media gather, a tale emerges of how the players became aware the coach of nearly six seasons had fallen on his sword.

Captain Andrew Durante had rung radio commentator Jason Pine asking if media reports were correct.

The Phoenix warm-up. It is business as usual, right down to Paul Ifill needing codeine for his wretched legs.

Ninety minutes later the players finish up, form an unruly circle, listen to a few words, clap their hands and then head to the dressing room. It has been an uneventful session, a bit like their season really.

Herbert is stubborn to the end. No press conference, no communication with his players.

It smacks of someone leaving in a hurry and not on their terms.

The owners have left the explanations to general manager David Dome, who has come prepared. His answers are hollow and rehearsed.

Did Herbert resign before he was sacked?

"No, like we said, Rob's (Welnix owner Rob Morrison) always said from day one that we were always going to review Ricki's role at the end of the season and that's what we were working towards," Dome said.

Will his conditions stay the same?

"That's confidential between the club and Ricki."

WHY isn't Herbert fronting a press conference today?

"Ricki wants to take some time off, no doubt about it, it's been a big decision for him.

"He wants to spend some time with his family, he hasn't had a lot of time with his family over the last couple of years really.

"So he's taking a little bit of time off to enjoy the sunshine in Wellington and regroup."

Does that just drag out the process?

"Not for us it doesn't, no."

So will Ricki be at the game tomorrow (tonight against Newcastle).

"No, he won't be here tomorrow night."

Greenacre talks fondly of his mentor, Durante arrives last and conducts himself impressively.

Durante confirms he was in the dark about Herbert's departure.

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"I haven't spoken to him yet, no."

Wasn't that extraordinary given he was the captain?

"Yeah, look that's not my decision, that's Ricki's decision, you can talk to him about that."

Does that reinforce the feeling that Ricki is a poor communicator?

"He's been fine talking to the players, me personally, I speak to him quite a lot.

"When times are tough, I sit down and have coffees with him quite often.

"So if you're asking me about communication, look it's been fine.

"Obviously it's been a quick decision by Ricki. He's spoken to the board yesterday and that was the decision. I haven't spoken to him as of yet, but I'm sure I'll speak to him today."

- Stuff

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