Whatever Happened To – Chris Greenacre

In the seventies and early Eighties it was North America and for a few years in the Nineties it was Japan, then came the MSL revolution and the destination for aging or forgotten footballers went full circle and America was once more the desired destination. Nowadays, with the ever increasing expansion of the global game, footballers (and managers) have a myriad of options when deciding on their retirement plan including China and our very own A-league.

In this occasional series I will be highlighting football personalities who you may have forgotten who are now plying their trade Down Under. This time it is ex-Stoke centre forward, Chris Greenacre, who will perhaps forever be associated in Stoke’s fans eyes with the manager who brought him to the Brit, Steve Quiterel:

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Arriving in the Potteries, Greenacre was heralded by Stoke’s new boss as the answer to the team’s lak of goals but, as so often happens when a striker pulls on the famous red and white, Greenacre failed to deliver. Often the reason for his failure is attributed to injury but in his three full seasons at the club he managed to play seventy-five leagues games, scoring a less than impressive seven goals. Pushed out by fans favourite Ade Akinbiyi, Greenacre left for Tranmere Rovers before finding himself on the other side of the world with Wellington Phoenix.

Although troubled by injury Greenacre did well(ish) in New Zealand and has since become assistant manager at the club, initially to Riki Herbert and recently to Ernie Merrik.  Now that Merrik has stood down after a typically Stoke like start to the season Greenacre could become coach to New Zealand’s only A-League football team.

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Who Next For The Nix?

With Ernie Merrick’s departure the big question in New Zealand is who will be his replacement, here I look at some of the rumoured candidates (my rating of each of the managers’ suitability for the role are in brackets):

Frank Farina (5/10)

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Experienced and at Brisbane showed he is willing to put his faith in youth but dour is the word to best describe some of the teams he has managed. Would likely solve some of the problems affecting the current Phoenix team but long term he would have to be very successful for the fans to accept his style of play.

Mark Rudan (8/10)

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The favourite and another who is used to developing young players, he is the currently working with the Australian Under 20s. Lacks top flight managerial experience but was successful in the Australian lower leagues. His lack of managerial experience may be seen as a negative but can also be seen as a positive as he would likely jump at the chance to manage in the A-League.

Chris Greenacre (4/10)

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Has been assistant coach to both of the previous Phoenix managers as well as finishing his career with the Nix and therefore knows the club well. This familiarity may be a hindrance though if the board wants to make a clean break with previous regimes

Ramon Tribulietx (7/10)

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Easily the most successful coach on the list, who else can say they have guided their club to third place in the World Club Championship? He knows the New Zealand game inside and out due to his time managing Auckland City and his appointment would show his fellow Stirling Sports Premiership coaches that there is a pathway into the bigger leagues.

Neil Emblen (6/10)

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Another who is well versed in New Zealand football as he is assistant head coach for the All Whites. Would be a long shot but his time at Waitakere United proved he can be successful.

Ross Aloisi (3/10)

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Assistant manager at the Brisbane Roar he would be another long shot who probably only makes this list because of his time captaining the Phoenix in their debut A-League season.

Ricki Herbert (6.5/10)

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Would appointing Herbert be a step backwards? Easily the Phoenix’s most successful coach he has proven he knows how to be successful in the A-League and will know how New Zealand football works from his time as the All Whites coach. Could be considered a safe pair of hands but how often does a successful coach returning to his old club work out?

Next Phoenix Manager Must Look To The Future First

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?

Hope and Hypocrisy

At the weekend the Wellington Phoenix lost 2-1 to Melbourne City but rather than being despondent the Phoenix fans should look at the way their team played and realise come the end of the season they should be in the play-offs. Yes, the Phoenix left Melbourne empty handed but all that separated the two teams was an unlucky ricochet.

I know Eddie Merrick and Andrew Durante are complaining about the Melbourne City penalty which eventually won the game but if you look at the penalty awarded to the Phoenix and the one awarded to Melbourne there is a little bit of hypocrisy at play here:

There is no doubt that Barbarouses’ shirt was tugged but personally I am annoyed by the theatrical dive from the Phoenix player who after beating his man would have been able to attack the Melbourne goal if he had stayed on his feet, instead the curse of the modern game came into play and Barbarouses dived. In the end the Phoenix got what they deserved but if the referee hadn’t have given the penalty they had wasted a great chance of a goal and more importantly the next time Barbarouses goes down I will be questioning whether there was any contact?

Similarly, I can see no reason why the Melbourne City penalty wasn’t given. Rossi is the player who pulls at Fornaroli’s shirt and whilst it is true the Melbourne player grabs hold of Rossi’s shirt this is after the foul has been committed and you could argue was only done to steady themselves.

There has been a lot of discussion this season over the quality of the refereeing in the A-League and whilst there have been some shockers the number and severity of these are not to dissimilar to any league around the world. Manager’s like Merrick need to be careful that these constant attacks don’t become background noise because when a true miscarriage of justice does occur, just like Barbarouses’ diving, it is going to be difficult to judge whether it is real or just another boy crying wolf!

Wellington Phoenix – Deja Vu

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!

The Problem With Rabbit Snares

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We all know the problems our Australian cousins have had with rabbits over the years. Introduced alongside the first European settlers the European rabbit quickly became the number one invasive pest and Australians have been looking for ways to eradicate them ever since.

Now it appears pest control has begun to impact the beautiful game with rabbit snares being set on football pitch to catch the more adventurous bunny. If you don’t believe me then how else would you explain Andy Keogh’s tumble to the ground against Wellington Phoenix at the weekend?