SEVERAL Wellington Phoenix players will be in for some special attention when the capital club takes on Brisbane Roar in a pre-season match in Hamilton on Saturday.
Those players won’t have to worry so much about the attention of the opposition players but rather on the attention that Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert will be paying them.
With assistants Luciano Trani and Jonathan Gould pitchside, Herbert plans to take his place in the stand at Waikato Stadium for the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 pre-season match, allowing him ample opportunity to focus on key areas of the Phoenix’s performance.
“I’ve asked Luc and Gouldy to play the players that have been training here in Wellington, those guys who have been fulltime with the Phoenix for the past couple of months. We’ve also got a couple of triallists with us for this game, so I want to have a good look at them.
“I’m looking for a good competitive game but it’s less about the result than seeing where we sit in the broader scheme of things before the season starts in August.”
That will mean some chopping and changing in terms of personnel as Herbert seeks to assess on-field combinations and manage his squad’s workload – especially that of the Phoenix’s All Whites contingent – ahead of an extended 30-match Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season.
“There needs to be some balance for some of the international players to make sure they’re ready for the start of the season. There are a couple of players specifically I want to watch – especially the triallists – because it’s an important time for us to identify where we are and what particular areas we may need to concentrate on in terms of recruitment.”
The full Phoenix squad, including All Whites stars Mark Paston, Leo Bertos, Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead and Tim Brown will be making the trip to Hamilton for the game. While the club has retained the core of its squad from last season’s successful campaign, there are some new additions in striker Dylan Macallister and young Wanganui defender James Musa.
Macallister has looked sharp in warm-up matches for the Phoenix alongside the British strikeforce of Paul Ifill and Chris Greenacre and will be one player Herbert will be watching closely at Waikato Stadium against the Roar.
“Dylan’s looked very good and is certainly the type of player the club’s been looking for in terms of a target man up front. I’ll be monitoring things closely to see how Dylan, Chris and Paul can combine in that front third.”
Herbert and the Phoenix are looking forward to their first-ever match in Hamilton.
“I think it’ll be great,” the Phoenix and All Whites boss said. “It’s an area that I wouldn’t say has been overlooked (in terms of football) but hasn’t had the opportunities in the past. Hopefully we’ll get a big crowd off the back of what happened at the World Cup and the club’s glad to be getting out and about around the country.”
Herbert and the Phoenix squad will make a special public appearance in Garden Place in Hamilton from 9.45am on Saturday. The match against Brisbane Roar kicks off at 2pm.