Wellington Phoenix legend Ben Sigmund says club needs a lift in professionalism
New Wellington Phoenix coach Darije Kalezic's first task should be to address the issues Kosta Barbarouses' departure has highlighted, according to club legend Ben Sigmund.
The 27-year-old departed his hometown team by mutual agreement for what the club described as "reasons not pertaining to football" on June 5. Within six days he had signed for his old club Melbourne Victory.
Part of the departure was due to his partner not settling in Wellington, but Barbarouses was also understood to be unhappy with certain aspects of how the club was run.
Sigmund told Total Football he would have preferred for Barbarouses to see out the final year of his contract, but now that he has left the reasons behind that need to be looked at.
"For whatever reasons it is, and maybe we don't even know, and that's something we've got to respect, that there could be something else behind this that we're only probably guessing and might know half of that, so we've got to tread a bit carefully, but I still would like to have seen him stay and then made his move at the end of his contract.
"Loyalty is a big thing and that's one thing that I prided myself on.
"I would also like to really get the truth out. Maybe it's something the club can work on, we don't know, and I think there needed to be a little bit more honesty because when you read the first article I just thought I'm not really sure about that and I'm sure that's what everyone else was thinking.
"Maybe there are some things that Kosta wasn't happy about, but what are they? And can we resolve them to make this club more professional to take it to a new level? That's what we've got to be looking at. Not just the players, the office staff, to the trainers, to the players, to anyone that's involved in the club."
Sigmund retired from the Phoenix in 2016 after making 181 appearances for the club over eight seasons. He still works within the club as a personal development manager and player mentor with the Phoenix Academy.
He said Kalezic appeared the ideal man to bring an outside perspective which would help improve the club as a whole.
"No-one knows him, no-one knows what to expect. He sounds like he's really strict and firm and professional, and I think going forward this is what the club needs.
"I really think he'll bring what he wants to bring to the club and hopefully no-one else will tell him how things should be done. He'll just do it how he wants to do it and play how he wants to play.
"It's not just on the field. I think the whole club in general I think we need to lift our standards as a professional club and I think he'll bring that and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do."
Professionalism was an issue which reared its head last season, especially over the weekend of February 18-19.
First, the first team lost 5-1 against Melbourne City, after which Roly Bonevacia, Tom Doyle and Ryan Lowry stayed out until the wee small hours on Sunday morning, despite being told by co-coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre not to. The trio were stood down for the team's next game.
That same Sunday, pro players Adam Parkhouse, Lewis Italiano, James McGarry and Logan Rogerson got a well-deserved serve from reserve team coach Andy Hedge for their performances in a 7-2 loss against Hawke's Bay United in the Stirling Sports Premiership.
"I'm hoping some of the older boys are a bit embarrassed by that because the attitude and application wasn't anywhere near good enough and not what we're expecting, certainly from the professionals.
"I think some of them have got to go home tonight, look at themselves in the mirror and have a think about what they actually want to do, because if they perform like that week-in week-out well they won't be professional athletes for very long."
It was a weekend indicative of how the club were going at that point, which was their lowest point of the season.
It's easy to be professional when you're winning. The real test comes when things aren't going your way and some of the squad failed in that department last season.
It will be Kalezic's job to ensure that doesn't happen again.
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