Will Wellington go local?

Wellington Phoenix have started a a worldwide search for the man to replace Ricki Herbert. The challenge for the board is to be strong enough to give another Kiwi the opportunity to follow.

The new owners of Wellington Phoenix are facing a Road to Damascus moment as they ponder who their next coach should be.

Individually, the Welnix consortium members have varied levels of football knowledge, but they do seem to agree on one important point: the need to make sure the Phoenix are truly a New Zealand club, and not a Hyundai A-League club based in New Zealand. It's a crucial distinction.

Taking games to Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin over the past couple of seasons may have generated a mixed response, but it remains a significant statement of intent.

Wellington don't just want to strengthen their connection to New Zealand's football community, they know they have to.

If there were any doubts about the merits of this approach, cast a gaze towards Western Sydney Wanderers. To build the right foundations, you need to start from the bottom and work up. That's the key to long-term sustainability - to be inclusive.

If the Welnix directors get this, as they seem to have, then the choice of their next coach will reveal more about the depth of their understanding.

Officially, it's been a worldwide search for the man to replace Ricki Herbert. My hope is they settle on a candidate close to home.

Herbert, a former All Whites star, was a brave choice from founding owner Terry Serepisos. Despite the difficulties of this season, any reasonable person would have to admit his five-year tenure - both with the national team and the Phoenix - has been a success.

In a country which has doggedly retained links to its British footballing heritage, Herbert has broken through the glass ceiling to prove that Kiwis can coach.

The challenge for the board is to be strong enough to give another Kiwi the opportunity to follow. Appointing a local coach won't be popular among the chattering classes - in this part of the world it rarely is.

But take a look around the Hyundai A-League and see how quickly attitudes are changing. Eight of the nine Australian-based clubs now have former Socceroos in the dugout. English-born Mike Mulvey (Brisbane Roar) is the exception.

In Australia, after a long and often bitter debate, there is finally an acceptance that locals can coach. Based on coaches in the second-tier ASB Premiership, New Zealand is still struggling to make up its mind. Hopefully, Herbert's achievements will hasten the process.

The obvious question, of course, is who? No doubt the in-tray of Phoenix chief executive David Dome includes plenty of glossy CVs from a collection of foreigners. By contrast, the cupboard of Kiwi coaches seems relatively bare.

But if you look close enough, they're there - although some would be more of a gamble than others. But that's exactly what's required - a leap of faith.

The likes of Stu Jacobs, Danny Halligan, Shane Rufer, Chris Zoricich and Paul Posa all have various levels of experience in the ASB Premiership.

Wynton Rufer coached the Auckland Kingz in the NSL, and his academy continues to produce exciting young talent. Gavin Wilkinson (Portland Timbers) and Duncan Oughton (Columbus Crew) have coaching experience in the MLS. Ryan Nelsen (Toronto FC) is about to get it.

Former All Whites Danny Hay and Simon Elliot have little experience, but big ideas. Sean Douglas is the technical director of Football Victoria.

The common thread, you'd hope, is that they've all got the passion, and drive, to make a difference. Not just for themselves, not just for the Phoenix, but for football in New Zealand. In my view, that's a winning combination.