Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has extended the contracts of Spanish midfielder Albert Riera and defender Michael Boxall by a year.
Riera, 30, was originally told he was being signed as midfield backup but soon found himself in the starting line-up.
"I was quite happy to come to the club as backup because I knew it would give me the chance to show what I was capable of and to fight for a starting spot," he said.
"I was surprised to go straight in but I am enjoying it, and that is down to Ernie.
"He is so positive and talks to players a lot.
"In one game we were really struggling in the first half and thought we would be told off at halftime. Instead, he came in and told us to start smiling and to enjoy ourselves.
"He is a top-class coach and a top-class person."
Merrick has given Boxall, 25, a new lease of life.
Boxall rarely got a look-in last season, and he accepts that he was not blameless.
"My mindset has changed a lot from last season," he said.
"I have put in more work and it is good to see it paying off and people paying attention to it.
"I had a conversation with Ernie about where the club is heading and where he sees me fitting in, and I liked what he said.
"The change of coach seems to have done me a world of good."
Boxall, a central defender, has had to play in the unfamiliar role of fullback in recent games but is adjusting well and keen to continue.
"With the players around me, and Ernie guiding me, I think I can do the job he wants," Boxall said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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