Monday was obviously the day for resignations in this corner of the world with John Key stepping down as the New Zealand Prime Minister. Whilst this may have come as a bit of a shock to some the other key resignation (no pun intended, honestly), was perhaps a little less of a surprise. Since he has been at the Phoenix it is fair to say his side have underperformed. I am not one of those Nix fans who believe we should be up near the top of the table, not yet anyway, but the Phoenix’s current position propping up the bottom of the table is unacceptable.
It became clear as the season progressed that Merrik was struggling to find answers to these problems as he reached for the old faithful for a manager under pressure, he started blaming the refs. Now whilst the refs may have made a few mistakes in the A-League this season I don’t believe the Phoenix have been specifically targeted and, as any Stoke fan will tell you, criticising the man in the middle only leads to a spiralling level of distrust between the club and the officials.
Earlier in the season I wrote that the Phoenix’s early season form needs to be taken in context, they started out with matches against you expect to be challenging for the title at the end of the season, but I also warned that the Phoenix are not putting in the hard yards when the opposition have the ball and, just like Stoke, they do not have a striker you would back to constantly find the net.
Whoever takes over from Merrik has to address these issues and whilst the allure of managing in the A-League may be attractive to some candidates the clubs position will surely put some of the better candidates off. What the Phoenix’s board has to do is give the new manager the rest of this season to evaluate the club’s personal and come up with a strategy to make the Phoenix competitive for future seasons.
It is conceivable that the Phoenix can still make the play-offs and if they do any team can beat another on a given day but if this does happen, and personally I feel it is a long shot, it cannot be brought about due to a short term solution being put in place. If you look at Sunderland, they seem to be perennially in trouble only to be saved by a change in manager after Christmas before starting the following season in a similar fashion, this is because a short term solution is exactly what it says on the tin, short term!
The fact that there is no relegation from the A-League means the constant threat of relegation, which teams like Sunderland face, is not there and in giving any new manager six months breathing space he is able to not only identify his transfer targets early but is able to run his eye over the younger players currently playing in the Stirling Sports Premiership.
Any Nix fan will tell you that supporting the Phoenix is unique because not only are you supporting your club but your national football federation and if I was the Phoenix fans to get behind the new manager, no matter who he is, but also to be patient. There are good players coming through the system and the Young Nix are in the top half of New Zealand’s top flight. It will be up to the next coach to identify and bring through those Young Nix players they feel are good enough and to integrate them into the senior squad. What better way to do this is there than to have these players in and around the first team squad for the rest of the A-League season?