Bertos set for new defensive role

Wellington Phoenix midfielder Leo Bertos said it is been something he has 'been messing around with during pre-season', but coach Ricki Herbert said the New Zealand international could easily make the switch to right-back in the Hyundai A-League.

Wellington Phoenix midfielder Leo Bertos said it is been something he has 'been messing around with during pre-season', but coach Ricki Herbert said the New Zealand international could easily make the switch to right-back in the Hyundai A-League.

While Tony Lochhead, Ben Sigmund and Andrew Durante have held a mortgage on the left-back and central defence positions for a couple of seasons now, finding a solution at right-back has been troublesome.

Jimmy Downey was signed to fill the void there but struggled with injury and form last season leaving Manny Muscat and Vince Lia to fill the role.

Herbert would prefer Muscat to play as a defensive holding midfielder, where he excelled in the 2010-11 campaign, while Lia is battling an ongoing ankle problem but is also seen more as a midfield option.

Bertos, who has predominantly played as an attacking right-sided midfielder, has started two recent matches against local Wellington opposition in the back four.

"It's something I'm seriously considering. I think he's been great at right-back," Herbert said.

"Athletically he's good enough. Internationally he's proved when he's been in a defensive role - if not in a flat back four but wider midfield role with defensive responsibilities - he's coped with it.

"It might take a little bit of time and he'll have a few ups and downs along the way. But he's got good pace. His distribution is really good. He's got strong qualities to play there.

"I think Leo could make that position his own. He's good enough to do it."

Bertos will face his first major test in his new position this weekend when the Phoenix take on Newcastle in Weston before jetting to India to take part in a tournament.

"It's not my natural game," Bertos said.

"I like to go forward and get on the ball and try and create stuff.

"But I think that part of my game I've still got to have in that (right-back) position. It's just the other part - stopping players getting past me and breaking them down and tackling - that I'm trying to work on at the moment. I'm doing okay.

"We'll see what happens when the season comes but I'll be happy to play there as long as I'm playing I guess."