Merrick’s successor must save the Nix

Matt Connellan Columnist

By , Matt Connellan is a Roar Expert

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    There aren’t many in football with as much integrity as Ernie Merrick and he leaves the Phoenix having done a fantastic job.

    The emotion was clear at his farewell presser yesterday.

    Co-interim coach Chris Greenacre spoke of Merrick always putting the team first, and skipper Andrew Durante relayed how Glen Moss had said “this one’s on us boys” after Merrick dropped his bombshell to the players following the Adelaide loss.

    But for all his goodwill and excellent intentions, Merrick came up short on the pitch. He has fallen on his sword in as noble a way as possible, and a huge task awaits whoever takes control.

    The Phoenix squad is very good.

    Kosta Barbarouses, Gui Finkler and Roy Krishna is a fearsome attacking trio, and Roly Bonevacia could be one of the best in the league if he showed his ability week-in, week-out.

    roy-krishna-wellington-phoenix-football-a-league-2016

    Moss and Durante are seasoned campaigners, while the young NPL graduates Jacob Tratt and Adam Parkhouse have blossomed with regular top-level football.

    For some reason – and it appears even Merrick couldn’t pinpoint why – it just hasn’t happened this season.

    They are at rock bottom.

    This is exactly what the club didn’t need after the community rallied to “save the Nix” last season.

    The FFA’s famous “metrics” will come into play again when they review the long-term future of the club, particularly with expansion slated for 2018-19.

    Has Wellington ticked the boxes?

    Not really.

    Crowds are average, results are poor. For the Phoenix to receive the boost it needs to justify (in the FFA’s eyes anyway) their position in the competition, they need to be winning football games.

    As with any side, the crowds will flock and everyone will be in a better position to negotiate a better television deal.

    But the FFA feels no civic duty to keep a team across the ditch. Not like places such as Newcastle and the Central Coast, who appear to be immune from the same “metrics” applied to our friends from Wellington.

    Whether you agree with the FFA’s stance or not, that’s how it is and that’s how Wellington’s “contribution” to the A-League will be measured.

    There’s plenty of time to turn things around and Merrick’s decision to walk out could well be the catalyst for fresh vision, impetus, and some new ideas to get the best out of a quality squad.

    But his successor must come to the table armed with these ideas and ready to make his mark on the squad and the league.

    There was much talk about the future of football in Wellington yesterday and about how the Phoenix are making great strides in youth development and the promotion of Kiwi talent.

    I’m all for the Nix, a pathway in New Zealand football should exist, and they’re also one of the few clubs to take a punt on Australian NPL talent.

    But it’s also clear that the FFA aren’t fans.

    So the new boss needs to turn things around quickly and start producing some good looking “metrics”.

    The future of the club depends on it.

    Matt Connellan
    Matt Connellan

    Matt Connellan is a reporter for Fox Sports News. He was previously a football writer for SBS The World Game and a sports reporter for SBS World News Australia. Matt cut his teeth at some of Australia's great suburban football grounds as Football NSW's NPL Editor and he considers himself an authority on state league cevapi rolls. Find him on Twitter: @MattConnellan