The future starts now for the Wellington Phoenix, with four games of the A-League season remaining, and seven first-team players missing for Sunday’s game against Brisbane Roar.
The Nix have managed just four wins since October, and are finishing the season under interim coach Chris Greenacre after Darije Kalezic’s departure this month.
They’ll tackle the seventh-placed Roar with a depleted squad: Roy Krishna is on duty for Fiji, while Michael McGlinchey, Tom Doyle, Sarpreet Singh, Matthew Ridenton and Alex Rufer are away with the All Whites in Spain for their friendly against Canada.
First-choice goalkeeper Tando Velaphi has also been ruled out with a season-ending ankle injury.
Nevertheless, Greenacre has faith that his youthful squad, featuring a handful of academy players, will step up.
“I’ve got no problem throwing any of them in — they’re more than capable of stepping up,” he said on Saturday.
“Kids don’t have any fear factor, all they want to do is play. They’ll run all day for you, and give you everything they’ve got.”
For Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante, off contract at the end of the current season, the situation is an all too familiar one during his 10 years in Wellington.
“It’s tended to happen throughout my time at the football club, and to throw in a few injures as well is obviously not great,” he said.
“But there’s a chance for some young academy guys to come in, make some debuts with nothing to lose.”
Durante is still in the process of re-negotiating his contract at the Nix, and says a sense of unfinished business has left him keen to continue.
“I still feel like I can add value inside the team for next season,” he said. “The initial talks have been really positive so I’m just trying to finalise stuff.”
Making next season’s playoffs is an absolute essential for the Phoenix, he says.
“We’re kind of at the crossroads of a really tricky time,” Durante said. “We need to be showing everyone across the ditch and here that we’re improving, that we’re a team that deserves to be inside the league.”