Wellington Phoenix season preview: The Kiwi teen 'not too far behind Singh' according to Ifill

The winds of change have swept through Wellington Phoenix. Can the new-look Kiwis rally under Ufuk Talay's charge?

We caught up with Phoenix club legend Paul Ifill to discuss the road ahead for the team from the New Zealand capital.

Read on as Ifill gives his verdict on Phoenix's squad overhaul, how to replace Roy Krishna and makes a bold prediction for a young Kiwi star.

Last season: 6th
Paul Ifill's predicted position: 5th-6th

A-League.com.au's three things to watch

1. Ufuk Talay's first year at the helm

Talay becomes a Hyundai A-League head coach for the first time at Wellington after serving under Steve Corica as Sydney FC assistant.

Former Wellington coach Rudan guided the Phoenix to the Finals Series in his first season at the helm but, after his departure to Western United, the Phoenix will hope Talay can replicate the success Rudan achieved last season.

2. How Phoenix replace goals of Krishna and Williams

Roy Krishna led a devastating Phoenix frontline last season, combining with David Williams and Sarpreet Singh to produce 35 goals and 12 assists altogether.

But all three players have departed the Phoenix in the off-season, leaving a gaping hole in attack Talay will hope to fill with his new recruits in the upcoming Hyundai A-League season.

3. How the new squad gels

Phoenix had as little as seven players on their books at one stage in the off-season as Talay stripped the squad down to bare bones. 

With the new campaign only weeks away, Talay’s squad has now taken shape and he’ll be hoping his band of new recruits can produce a tune for him when the season begins.

STORYLINES: Everything you need to know before 2019/20 Season kick off

The first five fixtures

Western United (H)
Sydney FC (a)
Perth Glory (H)
Melbourne City (a)
Melbourne Victory (a)

Click here to see the full 2019/20 fixture list

Mark Rudan
Former Phoenix stalwart Mark Rudan returns to Wellington with Western United on October 13

Ifill's key match-ups: Western United, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory

"With what’s happened with (former Phoenix boss) Rudan leaving and taking a couple of players, that Western United game is going to be one to whet the appetite for quite a few I’m sure.

“It’s nice going to good stadiums, Brisbane Roar is always nice to go to and it’s nice going to Perth... but I think the main ones are Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory.

“We always liked to play Sydney and Melbourne, they were the big ones because they were the teams that had dominated for the first few years of the A-League or certainly the time I was there.”

Ifill's players to watch

1. David Ball

"Roy Krishna was a massive loss. You literally cannot replace him.

“Where do we get the goals? David Ball is obviously one.

“I’ve seen quite a lot of him and he’s a very good finisher, a very smart player, so I think he’ll go well in the A-League.

“He looks a very tidy finisher and I think he’ll find the A-League a little easier than he’s used to. I think you might see him getting double figures which would be nice.”

2. Steven Taylor

“Steven Taylor was there last year and you know what you’re going to get with him; he’s a very experienced guy who brings that leadership and will take on from where (Andrew) Durante left off really.

“He’s the one for me, if he has a good season defensively the rest will just follow him.”

Steven Taylor
'If he has a good season defensively the rest will just follow him'

The squad

In

Luke DeVere (Brisbane Roar) Story
Stefan Marinović (Bristol City) Story 
Walter Scott (Perth Glory) Story
Jaushua Sotirio (unattached) Story
Ben Waine (Academy) Story
Callum McCowatt (Eastern Suburbs) Story
Cameron Devlin (Sydney FC) Story
Ulises Davila (Delhi Dynamos) Story
Liam McGing (Sutherland Sharks) Story
David Ball (Rotherham United) Story
Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi (Onehunga Sports FC) Story
Tim Payne (Eastern Suburbs) Story
Matti Steinmann (Hamburger SV) Story
Reno Piscopo (Renate FC) Story

Out

Filip Kurto (Western United) Story
Max Burgess (Western United) Story
Roy Krishna (unconfirmed) Story, joins ATK in India Story
Nathan Burns, Antony Golec, Justin Gulley, Michal Kopczyński, Ryan Lowry, Cillian Sheridan (released) Story
David Williams (unconfirmed) Story
Andrew Durante (Western United) Story
Tom Doyle (unconfirmed) Story

Ifill's squad verdict

“Reno Piscopo needs to be a decent player, he really needs to hit the ground running and fire some goals in to sort of fill the void I suppose.

“I don’t want to heap too much pressure on anybody, but I’ve stuck with it all the way through and I like Callum McCowatt.”

“I actually think McCowatt is not too far behind Sarpreet Singh, and looking at what Singh has done that’s a massive call.

“Without heaping too much pressure on him I think he’s one to watch under the radar.”

ALEX RUFER: Ready to lead Phoenix's new generation

Wellington Phoenix's 2019/20 Squad

Stefan Marinovic, Oliver Sail, Liam McGing, Luke DeVere, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Louis Fenton, Walter Scott, Steven Taylor, Tim Payne, Cameron Devlin, Ulises Davila, Liberato Cacace, Alex Rufer, Callan Elliot, Sam Sutton, Matti  Steinmann, David Ball, Jaushua Sotirio, Callum McCowatt, Ben Waine, Oskar van Hattum.

Phoenix
Ufuk Talay has overseen a huge rebuilding job in the Kiwi capital

The boss: Ufuk Talay

“I’ve heard good things about him from the coaching side of it from the players I know at the club.

“What I do like is he’s come in and said he’s going to give the young Kiwis an opportunity.

“Rudan was somebody who was looking to do that while he was here and if Talay can carry that on then that’s brilliant for the Phoenix.”

TALAY: The bold, revolutionary plan to start a Phoenix dynasty

Ufuk Talay has a bold plan to lead Phoenix to Hyundai A-League glory
What I do like is he’s come in and said he’s going to give the young Kiwis an opportunity'

Ifill's prediction

“This is heart and head stuff... I hope top four, but I think fifth or sixth if I’m honest.

“In my opinion there’s a couple of teams that have recruited very well, they look strong and were strong before.

“My only worry is where the goals are going to come from so, if somebody like Ball can take that up, then let’s hope for that top four, but I’m thinking probably fifth or sixth.”

The kits

Partnering up with Paladin Sports, the Kiwi club have formed a brand new design for the new season, incorporating the modern faded stripes through the shirt complemented by the traditional features of a Phoenix shirt. 

The famous black and yellow colours remain alongside 'E Rere Te Keo', recognising Wellington as the home “the resounding call” of the Wellington harbour, taniwha Ngake, urging the team to strive to work even harder heading into the new season.

The home strip consists of a yellow shirt, black shorts and yellow socks with the away strip being a reverse with a black shirt, yellow shorts and black socks.

NEW STRIPS: Every club's kit for the new season

Buy a membership

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Buy tickets

You won't want to miss Talay's exciting new-look Phoenix side in action. Book your seat to a Phoenix match here.

Alex Rufer
Phoenix midfielder Alex Rufer