Phoenix to ride NZ wave

Wellington Phoenix FC coach Ricki Herbert is confident his side can ride the wave of football euphoria currently sweeping New Zealand all the way to the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 finals series.

Wellington Phoenix FC coach Ricki Herbert is confident his side can ride the wave of football euphoria currently sweeping New Zealand all the way to the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 finals series.

The rugby-mad nation has jumped well and truly on the football bandwagon after the All Whites' remarkable undefeated run in the FIFA World Cup.

And the man that led the national team in their historic campaign in South Africa says the excitement surrounding football across the Tasman shows no sign of abating.

"(New Zealand football) is extremely buoyant at the moment which is great," Herbert said at the official launch of the Hyundai A-League season in Sydney on Monday.

"Off the back of that the A-League's going to start and hopefully the national team will play and the whole thing carries on."

"Right around the country, and we've taken the team to a couple of different venues, it's just been so well received. It's great."

Herbert, who made 89 appearances for the Kiwis as a player, says he always knew there was strong support for football in New Zealand but admits the level of support has exceeded his expectations.

"It's pleasantly surprised me because there's always been that sort of undercurrent of support there and it just needed some success to bring it out and really see what the support level was like, and we've done that now," he said.

The Phoenix have added Socceroos defender Jade North, Argentine midfielder Oscar Roberto Cornejo, and promising Australian striker Mirjan Pavlovic to an already strong roster in the off season.

And Herbert, who himself rejected several overseas offers to re-sign with the Phoenix for a further three seasons last month, is hungry for more success.

"I think to make the finals again," he said when asked his goals for the upcoming campaign.

"I think everyone wants to be a part of that and that's just the way the season pans out."

"It'll be tough and it's hard to predict (what will happen) but I think we've recruited well and we've got some good stability in the club so I don't think we'll be far away."

Asked if he'd prefer to be playing in Round 1, Herbert says it's probably a blessing in disguise to have the opening-round bye given his side's interrupted pre-season.

"Our pre-season's been a little bit disjointed because the boys have been away ... but we'll be ok, we played (Argentine side) Boca Juniors and played well (winning 2-1), so time will tell but we feel pretty comfortable."

And both of last year's grand finalists - Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory - can understand Herbert's optimism.

"I think Phoenix will be a bit of a dark horse because Ricky's a very good coach and he's added to what was already a good squad," Victory coach Ernie Merrick said.

"The support they'll get coming off being unbeaten in the World Cup (will be immense) and I think going over there will be a tough match for anyone."

Prize Sydney FC recruit Nicky Carle added: "If you're asking for a surprise package I think Wellington, they got into the finals last year and I think they've signed well again in the off season."

The Phoenix opens their campaign against Gold Coast in Wellington next Friday night.