Rudan's message for the Phoenix doubters

Mark Rudan has a message for all the doubters: write the Wellington Phoenix off at your own peril.

The new Phoenix coach has made no apologies for his no-nonsense stance since his arrival in New Zealand's capital in May. 

And during the club's unveiling of ex-Premier League hardman Steven Taylor yesterday afternoon, he issued his most emphatic statement of intent so far.

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“I was quite clear about what I want to change at this football club - the mentality, the level of professionalism, the no excuses," Rudan told the press.

"That’s what we’re about this year. We’re going to be taken seriously. Too often in the last few years people have spoken about this football club, where are they going to finish? Down the bottom somewhere. Never in the top six. Not this year.

"And if you want to take us as easy beats or a team that you can dismiss, good luck. Please do it."

Wellington Phoenix fans Auckland


The post of Wellington Phoenix coach has been something of a poisoned chalice since Ernie Merrick's departure in December 2016.

Merrick ended his tenure in round nine of the 2016/17 Hyundai A-League competition, leaving assistant coaches Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham at the helm.

Wellington were rock-bottom at the time but finished in seventh as a result of the tinkering on display by the Phoenix co-coaches, who ensured the club were looking stoically to the future by the end of the campaign.

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Darije Kalezic then arrived in Wellington bearing the promise of a new dawn for the Phoenix. The Bosnian-Herzegovinian initially made all the right noises but did not last the full season.

Kalezic's exit left the Phoenix back at square one. Greenacre, who had been the right hand man of both Ricki Herbert and Merrick in previous years, had ended up with reins again.

Perhaps indicative of the complacency that had sunk in at Wellington, this was the third time the former Phoenix striker had taken charge on an interim basis in his six years in the dugout.

There's no doubt the Phoenix ship has been rudderless for some time. But in Rudan, the club now boast a leader who can unite and inspire the Wellington faithful like no one has before.

The club has cried out Rudan's hunger and ambition for a long time, and Phoenix fans will likely be enamoured with the 42-year-old's off-field performance so far.

Young, articulate and commanding - this is a man positively hell-bent on transforming Wellington into title challengers, and a man the New Zealanders can rally behind.

Rudan has mapped out the early stages of Phoenix's rebirth with utmost conviction, evidenced by his stance on player recruitment. 

Wellington's threadbare squad received its first addition of the off-season following the arrival of Taylor yesterday, but the Phoenix coach has unwavering belief in his methods.

“Perhaps some of you may be thinking why are we taking our time, we haven’t we signed anyone?

“Well I make excuses apologies for that. I minimise risk as much a possible we need to get it right and every single one of our signings right.

“This club’s got a lot to prove. Everyone’s got a lot to prove."

Wellington's prospects have been restricted by conservatism too often in recent years, but the culture of the club is being rewired at Rudan's behest.

This season could be the year the New Zealand club finally reach their potential.

Mark Rudan