No team fell as hard as Wellington Phoenix did in season 2012/13 and it's hard to describe their campaign as anything other than an abject failure.
What a difference a season makes! If you asked any pundit to tip Wellington into the wooden spoon at the start of the season, you would have been laughed at, mind you most probably tipped the Premiership-winning Wanderers for the unwanted piece of kitchenware, but I digress.
Wellington's season was a shambles; it started well enough though, with Wellington going through the first three rounds undefeated, and despite suffering three straight losses in rounds four-six they were still in good shape at the end of Round 13… then they imploded.
Pressure from the club-s management was piled on the team to play ‘pretty not gritty- football and it backfired in spectacular fashion.
The result of the unhealthy obsession that has swept the Hyundai A-league of ‘playing it out from the back- definitely didn-t work for Wellington, in fact more than any side in the league they floundered because of it.
It-s no knock on their roster but players like Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund will always be known for being tough defenders to get around rather than skilled unlockers of an opposition defence and to ask them and their teammates to adjust to a new football philosophy mid-season was quite simply ridiculous.
The end result was Ricki Herbert giving up the coaching gig and Chris Greenacre stepping in, to coach the final few games of the season, but by then Wellington were only a ‘mathematical- chance of making the playoffs.
Defence 49 goals conceded in 27 matches, compared to just 32 conceded last season says a lot about Wellington-s season.
Despite having three of the same back four as the previous year the Phoenix were caught out time and time again at set pieces and through the middle of the field. All four key defenders found themselves being burned by the pace of opposition attackers throughout the season and it led to plenty of goals.
Westpac Stadium was no longer a fortress and age as it so often does seemed to catch up with first choice keeper Mark Paston, the All Whites star deciding it was time to hang up the gloves after being replaced in the cage by Glen Moss mid-season.
Midfield The defence has to take a lot of the blame for Wellington-s poor season but the midfield hardly set things alight either. Manny Muscat and Leo Bertos both played in defence and the mids with limited success, while Paul Ifill dropped into the midfield at times as well, but the truth is the quality just wasn-t there and as a result the team suffered.
The one shining light was the emergence of Louis Fenton. The youngster showing the Phoenix Academy is beginning to bear some serious footballing fruit. Fenton started the season with a bang and kept up the pace throughout, delivering the goods on a weekly basis. His hard running in defence and attack proving invaluable, if there is one criticism it-s that his finishing is sometimes lacking, but the future looks bright.
Attack The bright spot was clearly Jeremy Brockie. Ditched by the Jets at the end of the previous season, Brockie went on to bang in 16 of the club-s 31 goals, not a bad effort at all and to be fair to the Phoenix their attack wasn-t the worst in the competition.
Stein Huysegems started brightly then fell away before a late-season resurgence, playing the unselfish role Chris Greenacre had played at the club for so long and youngsters Tyler Boyd and Corey Gameiro showed plenty when they were on the scene, but what Wellington really missed was a consistent year from their experienced players.
They needed more from Huysegems and also Paul Ifill who admitted the early and middle part of his season simply wasn-t good enough.
Coach Ricki Herbert might be a national legend but he knew when it was time to walk away. His team had gotten stale and failed to adapt. In truth though he should feel let down by the players he fought so hard for throughout his tenure.
Chris Greenacre came in with a handful of games to play and did a decent job, releasing the previously shackled Bertos and Ifill.
Ricki Herbert: 22 games, 5 wins, 6 draws, 11 losses; 21 points from a possible 66 Chris Greenacre: 5 games, 2 wins, 0 draws, 3 losses; 6 points from a possible 15
Wellington Phoenix Overall Grade: F