The coaches | Herbert

Can Herbert continue Wellington's progession, or will Phoenix always be the nearly men?

In the lead up to season 2012/13, we're looking at the club coaches, their history, their challenges and what they have to do to make this season a success.

Ricki Herbert, Wellington Phoenix

Last season Ricki Herbert took his team and their fans on a memorable ride to the finals and though they didn-t go all the way, that roller-coaster game against Sydney FC stands out as one of the highlights of the finals series.

That was Phoenix-s third consecutive finals appearance, and there has been a steady progression under Herbert, from the lower rungs of the ladder to a top-four finish. But can the boys from across the Ditch ever go further, or does this represent a high watermark?

As outsiders in the competition, Phoenix face significant challenges in matching their Australian counterparts but Ricki Herbert does it with aplomb, balancing a mix of Kiwis, Australians and hit-and-miss imports.

Phoenix are made in Herbert-s image and there is a sense that without the All Whites manager at the helm they would struggle to remain so competitive. But does Herbert have the resources to push his club further on, or will Phoenix always be the nearly men?

History: Phoenix coach since the club-s inception in 2007, Herbert has done well in that time with often limited sides to get a point-scoring result 59 per cent of the time and has led them to the final for each of the past three seasons.

That progression keeps the Yellow Fever positive that Herbert is the man to keep Phoenix in the mix each season.

Challenges: Until recently, the main question was where will the goals come from? Phoenix have relied on Paul Ifill for the past couple of seasons; the Barbadian is still only 32 but he can-t do it all by himself.

So Herbert has gone back to the imported goods shelf, picking up some-time Belgium international striker Stein Huysegems. Much of Phoenix season rests on Herbert-s choice, his ability in front of goal. Phoenix were the lowest scorers in the top six for the last two seasons.

And it-s key that Wellington maintain the improvements to their away form from last season. The Cake Tin remains their biggest advantage but if they-re inconsistent on the road, they will suffer.

Target Position: Can Herbert keep up with the rapid improvement and recruitment of his Australia rivals?

Finals football are the aim but given the manner in which the rest of the competition has changed in recent seasons, Phoenix might just find themselves missing out this season.

Final Word: Safe as long as he wants the coaching role at the Nix. Herbert is a national icon with an astute football mind, he won-t be forced out the door at any stage and is in charge of his and the club-s destiny. His rivals resources might just squeeze him out of finals contention this season however.