Spark of positivity from Phoenix

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It cost the Wellington Phoenix nothing to announce that Adam Parkhouse was leaving the A-League club.

OPINION: In isolation the subject heading of “Wellington Phoenix and Adam Parkhouse come to a mutual termination” mightn’t look like much.

In reality, Friday’s press release was quite a big deal.

Not in the news sense. Parkhouse, with the greatest respect, was a squad player who filled in where and when required and the early termination of his contract is neither a great loss nor a shock. 

No, this mattered because it was the kind of perfunctory information real football clubs release as a matter of course, but which the Phoenix have felt no compulsion to. It wasn’t in response to specific questions about Parkhouse, no-one had shamed the Phoenix into offering it up and the release didn’t include a swipe at anyone in the media.

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And you haven’t been able to say that too often in recent months.

The Phoenix brand, in case those at the club haven’t noticed, isn’t in rude health. Last season, in terms of recruitment, results, quality of football and crowds, was abysmal.

Rusted-on football fans might have an endless supply of faith, but the rest of us don’t and the Phoenix face going the way of the Wellington Sevens. A vibrant event in its day, the sevens became an embarrassment to Wellingtonians, who wanted it gone.

The Phoenix don’t want to become the sporting franchise that its local fanbase are too ashamed to mention. 

Again, though, you wonder if the club are aware of that and how vital it is to get this offseason right and build a squad, and a public following, that will sustain us all through the 2018/19 campaign.

Go back to the unveiling of new coach Mark Rudan and you had Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison conclude the announcement by having a go at a journalist. When star recruit Steven Taylor was paraded for the cameras recently, Rudan reacted with annoyance and then arrogance when a question was asked about player contracts.

Rudan won’t get a second go at making a good impression. Nor will the World Cup-generated interest in football, and excitement at the signing of Taylor, last forever. 

Offseasons are a time of tremendous optimism, but the club haven’t done a huge amount to help foster it.

Instead, for every unknown Polish goalkeeper who’s arrived, young New Zealand players, who the club and fans had invested a bit in, such as Matthew Ridenton, Logan Rogerson and James McGarry, have gone elsewhere. Unusually for young players, Ridenton and Rogerson were quite vocal in their displeasure with the Phoenix too.

Given how the club trumpeted the arrivals of McGarry and Rogerson, in particular, it would’ve cost them nothing to say that the pair were moving on. That’s why the release about Parkhouse was so welcome. 

People want to support the Phoenix, they want to see them do well. Wellington needs a strong football presence. Heck, the whole country does given the recent calamities at New Zealand Football.

But we also need a club that’s good to deal with, that’s open, that welcomes publicity.

Who wouldn’t lap up photo opportunities and stories featuring Taylor getting to know Wellington or coaching a few junior players? Let’s see Rudan trying to charm all and sundry the way Ernie Merrick did.

The simple three-line press release announcing Parkhouse’s departure was a sign that the Phoenix care about its fans and have some interest in transparency. 

Let’s hope it’s just the beginning.

– Stuff


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