Season Preview: Wellington Phoenix

We preview the season ahead for Wellington Phoenix who will be looking to return to the finals in 2013/14.

We preview the season ahead for Wellington Phoenix who will be looking to return to the finals in 2013/14.

Team Wellington Phoenix will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2012/13 season that saw them sit bottom of the Hyundai A-League ladder. The Phoenix finished with the least amount of wins and let in 49 goals while only scoring 31 themselves.

In 2013/14 the only way is up and that is exactly where new coach Ernie Merrick is looking to take his side. The arrival of Costa Rican duo Kenny Cunningham and Carlos Hernandez will undoubtedly add a level of class up front and in the middle of the park that the Phoenix desperately need. Cunningham arrives from Bolivia-s top division while former Melbourne Victory midfielder Hernandez will be looking to again take the Hyundai A-League by storm after a year playing in India.

Phoenix captain and recently naturalised Kiwi Andrew Durante will again lead his troops out on the park after first being handed the armband in 2008. He will no doubt need all the experience he can muster to help his side improve on their recent defensive record and give his side the platform they can build off to make a run at the finals.

New Zealand U/20s captain Luke Adams along with the likes of Reece Caira and Luke Rufer will provide some spark and there is every possibility that the side's young guns will see a lot of time on the park throughout the year.

The side's final pre-season match against A-League opposition saw them claim a 1-0 victory away at the Newcastle Jets and will give them confidence as they prepare for the visiting Brisbane Roar on October 13.

Manager Dual Championship winner with Melbourne Victory Ernie Merrick is looking to build the New Zealand based side into a dominant force in the Hyundai A-League in the years ahead. Merrick has added a fair amount of youth to his side and obviously has one eye on the future, while also aiming to get his side from the basement to the finals this season.

Merrick has also added some strong internationals and hopefully reuniting with Hernandez can bring both player and manager the success they had when they were both in the navy blue. It is going to be difficult against a league of teams that are also continually on the improve but Merrick has proven to be a manager that can lead his side to the top and that is exactly what the club and its fans will be hoping for soon.

Star Player Having recently helped his side qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Kenny Cunningham arrives in Wellington ready to fire for the Phoenix. Costa Rican teammate Carlos Hernandez introduced Merrick to the thought of bringing Cunningham to the land of the long white cloud and obviously sees a lot of quality in the diminutive winger. Having most recently played in the Bolivian top division Cunningham will be looking to spark the Phoenix-s attack and along the way ensure he nails down a position in his national side as the World Cup approaches.

Fans Football fans across the Tasman might not have had a lot to cheer about last term but that didn't stop the “Yellow Fever” supporters of Wellington Phoenix making their home games one of the hardest road trips in the league. The group is certainly one of the more enterprising in the competition, with Yellow Fever running tours for away matches, events for travelling fans to their home games, publish a football fanzine - Park Life and run the number one football podcast in the country - In The Zone. With the arrival of Merrick, Hernandez and Cunningham the Phoenix fans can be optimistic about the season ahead.

Ins and Outs

In Lewis Italiano (from Perth Glory) Reece Caira (from Western Sydney Wanderers) Carlos Hernandez (from Prayag United, India) Luke Adams (from Derby, England) Kenny Cunningham (from Club The Strongest, Bolivia) Alex Rufer (from Wairarapa United, New Zealand) Josh Brindell-South (from Moreton Bay United, QLD NPL)

Out Isaka Cernak (to Perth Glory) Benjamin Totori (Oakleigh Cannons, Victorian Premier League) Tony Lochhead (released) Alex Smith (released) Dani Sanchez (released) Jimmy Downey (released) Lucas Pantelis (released) Mark Paston (retired)

Nix fan Nicki powers the game by "Four hour drives to home games, sit in with the Yellow Fever and sing all game long!" #PowerTheGame