Former All Whites captain Danny Hay says the Wellington Phoenix have become stale under Ricki Herbert and need to start looking for a new coach.
The ninth-placed Phoenix put in one of their worst performances in losing 5-0 to A-League leaders the Central Coast Mariners on Thursday.
Hay said the club's senior players also needed to shoulder some blame but Herbert, the league's longest serving coach, had run out of ideas.
"As a player you can become stale," said the former defender who played in the English Premier League with Leeds United.
"It's like anything in life, if you eat boiled chicken every night, it's going to get pretty dull. They look directionless and rudderless.
"They've gone ragged now and there's not a huge amount of tactical awareness or structure."
Hay said the Phoenix owners should cast their net far and wide to find a replacement but if they wanted a Kiwi then former All Whites Gavin Wilkinson and Simon Elliott were possibilities.
Wilkinson has held a variety of playing, coaching and management jobs at MLS club Portland Timbers since 2001.
"Gavin would be an ideal choice. He's a Kiwi, he's had experience at a very high level of coaching and the most important thing is he's hungry."
Former Fulham midfielder Elliott served as head scout for MLS club Chivas USA last year but was not retained for the 2013 season.
"But Simon's got great qualities and is someone you'd have to consider. They are two Kiwis but there's incredible coaches around the world who would love the opportunity and would enjoy our fantastic lifestyle in New Zealand."
The Phoenix started the season with ambitions of a top-two finish but things have unravelled in dramatic fashion.
Herbert, who has coached the Phoenix since their inception in 2007, has talked about a "blip year" and a "three-to-five-year plan". That didn't wash with Hay, who said the club's loyal fans deserved better.
"That's not good enough because in one breath you're trying to encourage fans to come through the gate and then in the other, well, you're going to have to endure crap football for the next three or five years.
"With some ambition and fresh ideas, things could actually be turned around pretty quickly," he said.
New Zealand football great Wynton Rufer said the confidence of the Phoenix players was shot.
He declined to comment on whether Herbert deserved to keep his job but admitted he would already be looking for work in other countries. "Ricki's in Disneyland compared to that, meaning he's lucky," Rufer said.
"If he was in Europe he would have lost his job long ago because it is just ruthless. We all had big expectations at the start of the season and it's turned into a bit of a nightmare.
"It's not my decision because they've got their owners who are no mugs. Whether or not they know anything about football . . ."
The Phoenix went to ground yesterday and did not return calls.
But Herbert sprayed his players after their insipid display on Thursday.
"I thought we were hopeless tonight ... we were dreadful," Herbert said. "It was an embarrassing night for the club. It wasn't acceptable."
Mariners coach Graham Arnold was unhappy for a different reason.
"It could have been 10 [goals]. I was disappointed with the execution."
Team Wellington have gained two players and lost two for tomorrow's must-win national league game against Auckland City.
Adam McGeorge and Tom Doyle are both out with suspension but they regain Luis Corrales and Alec Solomons.
Kickoff is at 4pm at Wellington's David Farrington Park.
- The Dominion Post