FOOTBALL

Phoenix Skipper wants fans to help him celebrate

Tuesday 20 March 2012, 4:43PM
By Wellington Phoenix
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WELLINGTON

Wellington Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante hopes the fans will turn out in force on Sunday to help him celebrate playing 100 games for the club.

In the final game of the regular season the Phoenix take on Hyundai A-League leaders Central Coast Mariners and Durante predicts it will be a great spectacle.

"It has all the ingredients of a blockbuster," Durante said.

"We will still have a chance of taking third spot on the ladder and can also have a say in who wins the premier plate. A-League games don't come any bigger than this.

"Unfortunately we weren't at our best against Melbourne Victory but we are back home now and teams don't like coming here.

"If we can get 20,000 it would be absolutely fantastic because when you get a big crowd at the Westpac it really lifts our players."

When the Phoenix made the finals in the 2009-10 season crowds of 20,000 and 30,000-plus turned up for the two home playoff games and it is something that still makes the hairs stand up, according to Durante.

"I won the grand final with Newcastle Jets in 2007 (and was named man-of-the-match) and that is the highlight of my career," Durante said.

"But those two playoff games at Westpac are also treasured memories.

"The drama as they both went to extra time, and one to penalties, was breathtaking."

Durante finds it hard to believe he will reach the 100-game mark on Sunday.

"To play 100 games for a club is a great honour and to be captain as well makes it even more special." he said.

"I didn't know what to expect when I arrived but I have loved Wellington.

"I arrived on a two-year contract and had no plans to stay longer than that but the place, and the group at the club, grew on me.

"It is a great group of players. We had a lot of things that were out of our control going against us this season, but we haven't let it show on the field.

"We've stuck together through some tough times and we deserve to be where we are.

"It is great being in the semis but we want to be a grand finalist, and to that end it was important to get a home game to kick the final series off.

"I know our away form has improved this season but playing at home in front of a big, partisan crowd is important.

"But we can't get sucked in by what we have achieved so far. We need to put in a good performance against the Mariners to get us in the right frame of mind for the playoffs."