Merrick’s successor must save the Nix

Matt Connellan Columnist

By Matt Connellan, Matt Connellan is a Roar Expert

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11 Have your say

    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.


    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

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • December 8th 2016 @ 8:25am
      Paul said | December 8th 2016 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      The Nix have to go. The football community in Wellington didn’t rally to save the Nix and it only rallied in Australia as a protest against the FFA. We have too many applicants coming up for too few spots in the HAL so the Nix MUST go and find their own way in NZ football

    • Roar Guru

      December 8th 2016 @ 9:01am
      Kaks said | December 8th 2016 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      Couldn’t care less..

    • December 8th 2016 @ 9:02am
      Realfootball said | December 8th 2016 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      Matt, do you really expect FFA to apply the same “metrics” to Central Coast and the Jets they do to Wellington. Two Australian clubs versus a New Zealand club?

      Of course they don’t, nor should they.

    • December 8th 2016 @ 11:25am
      Franko said | December 8th 2016 @ 11:25am | ! Report

      The FFA should hold the view that if the Nix want to keep stumping up the cash to play in the league we will allow it, but if they can’t pay their own way they may as well be Wollongong.

      As for next coaches:
      Mark Rudan
      Ramon Tribulietx from Auckland City (who nearly had the Brisbane job in the bag)
      Luciano Trani
      Scott Miller

      • December 8th 2016 @ 12:08pm
        Lionheart said | December 8th 2016 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

        apparently Ross Aloisi has thrown his hat in the ring too

    • December 8th 2016 @ 12:05pm
      Lionheart said | December 8th 2016 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

      I’m in two minds about the Phoenix. One mind says cut them loose, and other times my ANZAC spirit kicks in, we always look out for NZ. They’re our friend, we help each other when in need.
      Either way, the NZ FA have to step up and do more for the Phoenix, especially as the ‘Nix are seen as critical to football in NZ. The NZ FA don’t seem to do much at all to help them.
      Being in Oceania doesn’t help their A League presence, but it does give NZ a fast track to a lot of tournaments, like the coming Club World Cup and the Confederations Cup, and women and age group equivalents, so football in NZ is doing very well thank you.
      Do they really need our help? I really don’t know. Their national team has more A League players than from elsewhere but they still have Wood at Leeds and several others play in England, France or the US MLS,
      I would feel much better about the Phoenix if NZ and Oceania was part of Asia, and if NZ FA got behind their only professional team.
      I was angry when the NQ Fury was dumped, but won’t be so much upset if the ‘Nix go.

      • December 9th 2016 @ 1:48pm
        The Auteur said | December 9th 2016 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

        “One mind says cut them loose, and other times my ANZAC spirit kicks in, we always look out for NZ. They’re our friend, we help each other when in need.”

        We have no duty to assist in the development of another country’s football association.

        The opportunity cost of sending $2.5 million is far too great to being going to a New Zealand team instead of an Australian one. An Australian club at the very least will provide 23 spots for potential Socceroos. The Nix cannot ever offer that.

    • December 8th 2016 @ 12:22pm
      Realfootball said | December 8th 2016 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

      I honestly think that the only thing that can really save the Nix is an Auckland team. Increase the NZ footprint, harness the endless antipathy between Auckland and Wellington to engage the NZ sporting public.

      Otherwise the Nix are just a useless appendage, left behind by evolution.

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