OPINION: Gareth Morgan got tongues wagging this week by demanding that Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert adopt a more attractive and attacking style of football to draw in the fans.
While his comments have divided opinion, I've got no problem with Morgan having his say, as ultimately he pays the bills along with the rest of his Welnix business partners.
The one aspect I'd question was making his demands in such a public forum. Behind closed doors certainly, but on Radio Sport, I'm not so sure.
I'd be surprised if his words have not undermined Herbert's position as the person solely responsible for matters on the pitch. While the players would never admit to it, there'd be an element of questioning who is really making the crucial tactical decisions.
Herbert's reply will have done nothing to ease any doubts. He described Morgan's comments as "bright and positive news". Jeepers Ricki, you've just been given a firm back-hander across the face and that's your reply?
He also said: "We put 32,000 people in the stadium so I kind of think there's been a reasonably good brand of football."
As one online comment aptly read: "Ricki might want to stop hiding behind the fact he got a sell out crowd in 2010. 7350 last weekend on a beautiful Wellington day tells a story".
The way I see the issue of poor attendance is this. The Phoenix got bumper crowds in their first few seasons because it was a new and exciting experience.
There was a novelty factor that has since worn off, so the club has to find other ways to motivate punters.
As Morgan rightly suggests, the first port of call is by putting an attractive and exciting package together on the pitch. If this is done right, it shouldn't come at the expense of winning matches as many fear. In fact, it should enhance the Nix's chances of winning. They'll have more possession, and be able to carve out more scoring opportunities.
At present the Phoenix can be a tough watch as they lack the willingness to get the ball down and play through the thirds. They rarely fashion goal-scoring chances through scintillating ball speed and movement.
This can change though, and Herbert needs to be given the opportunity to prove he's capable of implementing such an approach.
If he achieves it and the fans still don't come, then clearly the style of football isn't the issue, and those upstairs will need to re-evaluate on a much bigger scale.
Danny Hay is a former All White
- Sunday News
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