Wellington Phoenix's Andrew Durante (left) holds back Melbourne Victory's Scott Galloway.
Wellington Phoenix's Andrew Durante (left) holds back Melbourne Victory's Scott Galloway. Ross Setford

Phoenix focused on enjoyment in wake of Merrick's exit

FOOTBALL: Wellington Phoenix players have tried to put some fun back into their lives after the departure of coach Ernie Merrick.

Anchored to the bottom of the A-League table, the embattled club hosts the Central Coast Mariners at FMG Stadium Waikato tonight with assistant coaches Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham taking charge.

"It was important when we first came back (into training) that it was light-hearted and that we got enjoying our football again,” captain Andrew Durante said.

"I guess that's something that we'd struggled to do for a little while, with our results, so Greenie and Des just wanted to lighten it up a little bit.

"The first session was good fun and got the boys flying around with a bit of banter, which is always nice, and then the last two or three sessions have been about what we're going to do to beat Central Coast.”

The Phoenix have already done that once this season - one of two wins amid six defeats from eight games.

"I think the leadership group has really grabbed this,” Durante said. "We all had a look at each other, and then we put our hands up and said that maybe we weren't good enough, and maybe we didn't do the things we should have done as well as we should have.

"That's been the emphasis this week and you'll see a good reaction against Central Coast. The boys are fired up. We've been kicked down a bit, given where we are in the season, and from everywhere - journalists and everything - and we've got to take that and use it as motivation.”

It's the second time Greenacre has had to step up after Ricki Herbert left the Phoenix during the 2012-13 season.

"It's been a tough week but the blueprint that Ernie's left behind at the football club's going to be going for years and we're just picking it up from there,” Greenacre said.

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