After the four opening rounds of the A-League it is beginning to feel like déjà vu for me as the team I support in the A-league, Wellington Phoenix, have endured a start to the season as horrific as that of Stoke City’s. Just like the mighty Potters, the Phoenix find themselves bottom of the table and shipping in goals but for all you Phoenix fans out there it must also be noted that, just like Stoke City, these opening four matches were against teams you would expect to be in the top half of the table come the end of the season.
Now the disheartening part, I fear the Phoenix are not going to rise like the Potters. At the moment the team in yellow and black are missing a holding midfielder, have no out and out goal scorer and are not doing the hard work when the opposition have the ball, again déjà vu. Stoke had all of these problems at the start of the season and have found answers but I am afraid I can’t see any for the Phoenix in the near future which is a problem not only for them but for football in New Zealand.
Wellington Phoenix are New Zealand’s only representative in Australia’s A-League and it is perfectly clear the Australian Football Association don’t want their trans-Tasman cousins involved but are unable to find a politically correct way of forcing them to jump ship. But if the Phoenix continue to underperform, and subsequently their attendances continue to fall, the club’s owners must surely start to reconsider their investment in the franchise and with no A-League presence talented Kiwi footballers would then have to leave the country a lot earlier in life if they are to follow their football dreams.
With so much at stake it was interesting then to read an article in the Stuff bemoaning the perceived bias of referees in the A-League against the Phoenix but having watched three of the Phoenix’s four matches this season I have to disagree. Whilst Alan Milliner’s performance on Monday was so bad I wouldn’t want him refereeing the Boy and most of his decisions did favour the Phoenix his performance I feel, and sincerely hope, is an exception rather than the rule. I can and do sympathise with those fans who feel the whole world is against them, remember I am a Stoke fan first and foremost, but sometimes you have to take a step back and try and see what is really going on behind the excuses. McGlinchy’s goal against Sydney was highlighted as a perceived bias but if you watch the replay the lineswoman got the decision spot on, there were in fact two Phoenix players offside when the ball was crossed!
Referees have traditionally favoured the home team, think Manchester United under old red nose, and being the only Kiwi team in an Australian league is going to highlight their mistakes but the referees are not the reason why the Phoenix are failing this season. The reasons are a lack of quality personnel, which can’t be rectified until January, and a lack of work rate which can and should be being looked at on the training pitch and until the Phoenix take a leaf out of the Stoke book from this season they are always going to be second best.
But having said all that remember the Phoenix have had a tough start to the season and next week they play host to last season’s wooden spoon winners, the Newcastle Jets. If the team can up their intensity and work rate maybe they won’t have to worry about whether the referee is favouring their opponents over them!