Durante leader of fantastic four

ANDREW DURANTE will wear the captain’s armband for the Wellington Phoenix in their second season in the Hyundai A-League.

ANDREW DURANTE will wear the captain-s armband for the Wellington Phoenix in their second season in the Hyundai A-League.

The hero of the Newcastle Jets- championship-winning team last season, the inspirational defender will have plenty of leadership support during the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 competition with the club-s innovative decision to appoint three vice-captains.

Tim Brown, Richard Johnson and Jon McKain will provide back-up to Durante as part of a wider on-field and off-field leadership group.

Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert said the Durante, 26, had been earmarked early on as captaincy material.

“When we signed Andrew we saw him as leader on and off the pitch. His quality on the pitch was obvious given what he achieved with Newcastle and that was a big reason we wanted to sign him, but it-s his approach as a professional that is most impressive.

“He wants the best, he wants to be successful and he wants to play in a successful team. He-s got a great demeanour about how he goes about things and he-ll be very well respected by the playing group.”

Herbert said Durante would bring different leadership qualities to the Phoenix than season one skipper Ross Aloisi.

“As characters they are different and both bring different strengths. Ross was a determined, no-nonsense player who had a lot of experience leading teams to finals, whereas Andrew hasn-t been a captain at professional level.

“But I think what he can bring to the club in leading by example will certainly benefit the players around him. Given the time we-ve had during the pre-season I-ve seen the presence he-s had and he-s grown in that role.

“The priority for Andrew is around his performance and leadership flows from that. He-ll bring his skill, quality, organisation, professionalism and experience and that will rub off on others in the group.”

The club-s decision to appoint three vice-captains is an innovative move.

The vice-captaincy trio brings impressive experience and leadership qualities. Brown in current All Whites captain and was vice-captain for the Phoenix in season one, while Johnson and McKain are seasoned professionals at club and international level.

“I think it-s a good decision by the club and great that it was made collectively,” Herbert said. “[Phoenix owner] Terry Serepisos, [chief executive] Tony Pignata and I saw value in adding another tier of leadership and responsibility on and off the pitch, rather than putting it all on Andrew-s shoulders.”

Despite having never captained a team as a professional player, Durante was looking forward to the challenge of taking the leadership reins.

“To be fair I've never captained a team before but I guess I've always been seen as a leader. The club obviously sees leadership characteristics in me and I'm honoured to be the captain of the Phoenix.”

Having the experience of three vice-captains to call on would be invaluable, he said.

“I think it's going to make it a lot easier for me, the onus won't be just on me and if there is a decision to be made I can talk to the other three boys and we make a group decision.”

The first test of Durante-s leadership will come on Sunday when the Phoenix take on the Central Coast Mariners in a 2008 Pre-Season Cup clash at Westpac Stadium. The match kicks off 4pm NZT (2pm AEST). Tickets for the match cost $15 for adults and $5 for children and are available from the Wellington Phoenix FC store on the corner of Cuba and Dixon streets in Wellington city. Tickets will be also available for purchase from the venue from midday on Sunday.