So farewell then Ricki Herbert.
He was there at the conception of the Wellington Phoenix and after over 150 games he’s called it quits. A true pro knows when to jump rather than getting pushed.
Up until now Ricki Herbert was the Phoenix. Before the first ball was kicked the Yellow Fever had formed and the first thing they did was to sell a range of Herbert Retro 1982 afro shirts. He was the club.
And there were some good times. The obvious high point being that run to the Preliminary Final in 2010; two play-off games at the Ring of Fire to huge grounds. The second of those was in front of a sell- out crowd of over 35,000; for a club game of football. They were extraordinary days indeed.
But that was three years ago now, and fans of the Wellington Phoenix have been reminded of the old adage that managers fall into two categories; those who have been sacked and those who are about to be sacked. Welcome to the realities of professional football.
It has not been an easy season for Herbert and the Phoenix. The A-League gets more difficult every year, and the club has treaded water since those heady days of 2010. The side-show of the owners wanting a new style of play, and Herbert was clearly not part of those plans, did not help. The A-League is a rapidly improving competition. And on top of all this were the injury concerns, and loss of form for Paul Ifill. Just quietly, he held the attacking side of the side ever since he joined. To have him on the sidelines was critical
So the fact that Herbert was not going to be around for the 2013-14 season was no real surprise, although the nature of its happening certainly was.
The spin around the timing of the announcement, while clearly spin, does carry some weight. Herbert can concentrate on this important year of All Whites World Cup qualification; a role in which he has had his greatest success.
The announcement was made last Tuesday morning. First of all; well done to The Truth newspaper and website for breaking the story. Old-fashioned journalism is still alive.
But later it was revealed that Andrew Durante, skipper of the Phoenix for a few years now, found out about it on Twitter. That is really shabby from a manager in any profession.
And it is even more shabby when you think of all the hoops that Durante has gone through to ensure that he is available for the All Whites campaign to qualify for the 2014 World Cup; and hopefully beyond. That is the campaign that Herbert is running by the way, and the one he is about to focus on.
They will have to finish the season riding home in an ambulance. Sometimes teams in this situation go on a late rally, but those playing for new contracts are not really those who you would turn to in times of trouble. And Greenacre has only known one mentor.
Those players off contract at the end of this season include foundation players Mark Paston, Leo Bertos, and everyone’s favourite Tony Lochhead. Also looking for jobs are Spain’s Sanchez, the underused James Downey and the gamble of Ben Totori. There are a few heroes from South Africa 2010 in there, but that is also a fair bit of fan vitriol scraped up in that assortment; the club is certainly clearing itself out for a new broom. There is a good chance that none of those will be offered new contracts.
To find a replacement is not that straight forward, although note how Auckland City mentor Ramon Tribulietx has been transformed in the media over the last week to Ramon Tribulietx from Barcelona as he has publicly declared his interest in the role. It is the little things that count.
But despite that packaging the new Phoenix manager is unlikely to come from these shores. It will be an interesting search.
So now it’s all up to Welnix. Having dictated the new style of football they now have the opportunity to implement this. And whoever takes over in the Phoenix needs to be given the ability to shape his side. One luxury they do have is that there is plenty of time to find the correct replacement.
Don’t forget; the manager’s job is the one role that is not constrained by the salary cap. We live in interesting times.