Wellington Phoenix agree terms with Europe-based manager for head coach role
The Wellington Phoenix have signed a Europe-based coach to fill their vacant head coach position.
The unidentified coach will arrive in early June, having been chosen from a shortlist of eight.
Phoenix general manager David Dome confirmed the news on Friday afternoon.
"We have a signed contract with our preferred candidate and pending flights and immigration we look forward to presenting our new head coach in Wellington, early June.
"In the interim our new head coach has been talking to our football operations department, assessing our current squad of players and potential new signings from across Australasia and beyond.
"Currently off-contract players have been evaluated by our prospective head coach over previous weeks and any departures come with our best wishes.
"At present, we have 15 players from last season's squad contracted for the next campaign, with three or four more to be confirmed in coming weeks.
"With a deep knowledge of European football, experience of developing young talent and a wide network of scouting contacts our prospective head coach is excellently situated to attract quality players to our football club and we look forward to announcing several key signings over the months ahead."
The shortlist included the coaches who took the team through most of their last campaign, Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre. They cultivated a six-win, six-draw, seven-loss record in 19 games in charge after Ernie Merrick's resignation in December.
The pair remain well regarded at the club, with the possibility they stay on as assistant coaches or move to different roles within the organisation.
Also on the shortlist was one other New Zealand-based coach, two Australia-based coaches and two more from Europe.
Recruiting for the head coaching position started on April 8 once the Phoenix's chances of making the A-League finals were over.
The Newcastle Jets were able to sack coach Mark Jones and hire Merrick during that time, leading to questions about how long it has taken to appoint a new Phoenix coach, especially with off-contract players being snapped up around the league.
The Phoenix appointment has taken longer due to the interaction with European coaches in different timezones, as well as attempting to ensure Buckingham and Greenacre still have roles at the club.
Adelaide United and Melbourne City both remain without managers as their respective searches continue.
As Dome pointed out, the new coach has already looked at the lie of the land in terms of the squad he would be walking into.
They still have a core of a squad capable of challenging for the finals, although key additions were needed, especially in central midfield, goalkeeper and at right back.
The off-contract Spaniard Alex Rodriguez could do a job in that midfield role, but he takes an import spot which the new coach may want to use to get someone else.
Several players have already reportedly signed new deals. Hamish Watson was said in March to have signed a two-year deal, while Ryan Lowry confirmed on Instagram that he would be back at the club for another two seasons.
The club has said Lowry's extension was triggered by a clause in his initial one-year deal. It would be highly unusual that playing eight first-team games triggered a two-year extension, but not beyond the realm of possibility.
So if Rodriguez goes, and the new manager doesn't offer new contracts to Vince Lia and Lewis Italiano, then he would have two import and four local spots left to fill in the squad, although at least one of those has to be a goalkeeper after Glen Moss' departure.