The five biggest challenges for Wellington Phoenix's new coach

Wellington Phoenix's newly-appointed coach, Darije Kalezic, has no history in the A-League and is tasked with reviving a club which has been without finals football in two seasons and has been unable to retain it's star players,

Darije Kalezic

Darije Kalezic Source: Getty Images

Darije Kalezic has his work cut out as he takes over at Wellington Phoenix but the club has been smart enough to provide him with an assistant, in Rado Vidosic, who knows the A-League very well.

The Phoenix have lost midfield playmaker Roly Bonevacia to Western Sydney Wanderers and on Monday released dynamic winger Kosta Barbarouses at the player's request.

Kalezic is going to have to act fast to adequately replace those two and others who have left, but he does have a reputation for identifying and developing young talent and picking the right established players to do a job.


These are the five biggest challenges confronting Wellington's new coach.

1. Finding star players - and hanging on to them

The Phoenix have in recent years been a club where their best signings have come and gone in a hurry.

Nathan Burns helped get his career back on track by scoring plenty of goals in his only season there, in 2014-15, before departing for Japan. Kosta Barbarouses joined the club in a wave of publicity on a rich, two-year deal last season and is now gone after the first year.

Roly Bonevacia did stay for three years, but now he has left as well.

Wellington must find big-name players and convince them to stay and help the club develop as a consistent force over an extended period of time.

2. Fixing the defence

Wellington have conceded 100 goals in their 54 games during past two seasons, at an average of 1.85 per game. It's a nice, round figure, but it obviously isn't going to get the job done.

Last season (46 goals) was at least an improvement on the previous season (54), but when you consider Sydney FC's admittedly remarkable effort in conceding just 12 goals in 27 games on the way to becoming champions, it's a stark reminder that it's a long way to the top.

3. Understanding the A-League

Some foreign coaches have had great success in the A-League. Pierre Littbarski, for instance, arrived from Germany to steer Sydney FC to the championship in the very first season, 2005-06.

Then there have been the not-to-successful stories like Irishman Jim Magilton, who had a short stay in control of Melbourne Victory in the second half of the 2011-12 season.

It didn't work out for Kalezic at his most recent club, Al-Taawoun, in the Saudi Pro League in 2016. Hopefully, for Wellington, it will work out much better. Fortunately, the long off-season will give him plenty of time to prepare.

4. Signing a playmaker

Roly Bonevacia's departure to Western Sydney Wanderers leaves a big hole. Wellington still have Gui Finkler, but they need more. They need someone in the middle of the park who can control the game for them and get things moving in attack.

They have room to find a foreign player to do that, with the departures of Bonevacia and Alex Rodriguez freeing up visa spots, but they need to move quickly to find the right one.

5. Winning over the fans

Poor crowds have threatened the club's very position in the A-League in the past. The lack of crowd support has been embarrassing at times.

It's a never-ending challenge in often wet and windy Wellington to convince the fans to come to games in numbers, but those are the cards the club has been dealt.

The challenge for Kalezic is to do his part by finding the right players and then getting the Phoenix to play a solid, attractive brand of football that consistently gets results.

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4 min read
Published 8 June 2017 at 1:19pm
By Greg Prichard