Positive signs amid Phoenix's disaster season
There's not much which hasn't been said or written about the Phoenix's season of woe, although there have been some positive signs during the last couple of weeks as they try to avoid the wooden spoon.
We like a challenge in this business so here goes an admittedly audacious attempt to find five positives from what has been a dire season:-
1. Jeremy Brockie
Or should that be JEREMY BROCKIE. Such has been his outstanding goalscoring form in such a poorly performing team, Brockie's name deserves to stand out in capital letters.
Brockie is the joint top scorer in the league, sitting alongside Mariners striker Daniel McBreen with 15 goals. He has scored more than half of the Phoenix's 27 goals, which indicates a) he's had a tremendous season and b) the other so-called goalscorers haven't.
Many wondered, this writer included, whether Brockie's best position was wide right but he's shown that he is capable of poaching goals in typical striker's fashion, as well as maintaining his penchant for the spectacular.
He's been a great buy for the Phoenix, who will be hoping for more of the same next year. It seems such a shame that a stellar goalscoring season will go so unrewarded, apart from possibly picking up the golden boot award.
The upside from such a shoddy season is that there will be changes ahead of next season.
It's already started with coach Ricki Herbert now out the door and several current players will also be in their final weeks with the club.
While nobody likes to see blokes out of a job and wondering about their future, this is professional sport, and a fresh start is required. If the Phoenix are going to transform their "brand", they'll need new blood, particularly in the attacking areas.
The squad assembled for the past few years was solid and capable of making the playoffs, but you never got the feeling it was a title-winning team.
The stock-standard mid-table finish this season might not have seen the necessary changes made.
3. Welnix have learnt valuable lessons
It’s been a baptism of fire for Rob Morrison, Gareth Morgan and the Welnix crew in what was their first full season as Phoenix owners.
They'll have learnt plenty about what is required, or perhaps more pertinently what not is required, for a successful, title-winning professional football club. Certainly, let's hope Morgan has
Not completely undermining the coach and players in public, or attacking the fans, is a good starting point.
These guys are no mugs so we can only assume they will be better for this experience. The introduction of the club's academy this season was certainly long overdue and much needed.
4. Carlos Hernandez signing
Ricki Herbert's best work this season was luring the Costa Rican international to Westpac Stadium from next season.
Of course, there will be question marks about the attacking midfielder's fitness and form, and they won't be answered till next season.
But at face value it's a top signing - Hernandez was a star at Melbourne Victory before he left for Asia and was one of if not the most exciting players in the A-League.
Paul Ifill once commented Hernandez was the player he would pay most to watch in the A-League. Not a bad endorsement. He certainly gives reason for some hope.
5. The season's almost over
Five was always going to be a struggle, so we've had to settle for the fact the end is nigh. Two more matches to go, away to Perth Glory this Sunday and home to Melbourne Victory two weeks later.
The Phoenix are probably going to have to win both matches to avoid the wooden spoon so fans should brace themselves for the worst.
For once, the pundits in Australia who continually pick the Nix to finish last might be on the button. But the signs were much better in the 1-0 win over Melbourne in Dunedin and Sunday's 2-1 loss to league leaders Western Sydney in Parramatta.
Interim coach Chris Greenacre appears to be getting a reaction from the players, and good luck to him.