Wellington Phoenix: Playoffs Look to Be a Realistic Target

illya mclellan@illya mclellan @illbehaviorNZSenior Analyst IAugust 7, 2008

Rising from the ashes of the Auckland Kings and the New Zealand Knights, the Wellington Phoenix are causing a few eyebrows to be raised as they look to their second season in Australia's professional football A-League.

In terms of footballing history the Wellington Phoenix are a club that does not have a lot to look back on. The club was formed only last year after almost not finding the financial backing to even come into being.

The first season was up and down as they adjusted to the league. Though there were a few standout performances they finished well out of the playoff spots.

With the new season near they look to be progressing well toward becoming a real contender though after the completion of the A-League preseason competition and their runners-up status.

The reason for optimism is clear. They completed the preseason cup undefeated in normal time and took the final to the wire before losing on penalties.

During the final itself they were only denied the win through the heroics of the Melbourne Victory's Anchorman Theoklitos, who quite literally had a blinder.

New signings McKain, Bertos, and Lei Lei Gao all contributed well to a strong performance, with McKain at the back showing some silky touches not normally seen from a central defender.

Bertos and Gao also caused problems for the Victory defence with several good crosses and some tricky maneuvering.

The introduction of crowd favourite Daniel in the second half set pulses racing straight away as the Brazilian sparked a series of attacks that almost led to the break through.

The performances of these players would of course not be worth mentioning if they were not backed up by confident play and ball retention from their teammates.

With this only the beginning of the team's time together it looks as though Phoenix Manager Ricky Herbert is living up to his billing as one of New Zealand's top coaches.

From what I have seen so far it looks to me as though the Phoenix fans will have much to cheer about this season and I would not at all be surprised to see the team challenging for top honours in only its second season as a professional club.

In these situations it is always easy to get carried away speculating on the possible success of a team. But there seems to be a buzz in the air in footballing circles in Wellington and it has a lot to do with the rise of the Phoenix.