Landmark Game For Herbert

Ricki Herbert will become the Hyundai A-league’s most capped coach when the Wellington Phoenix play Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park tomorrow night.

Ricki Herbert will become the Hyundai A-league-s most capped coach when the Wellington Phoenix play Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park tomorrow night.

It will be Herbert-s one hundred and fifty second A-League game, including five with the now defunct New Zealand Knights, and surpasses the 151 games chalked up by former Melbourne Victory boss Ernie Merrick.

As he looked back on the past five years following a training session today Herbert said it was hard to believe how it had happened.

“When I think back to the Knights it was simply an opportunity to coach a professional team for five games and that would be it,” he said.

“I was working full time for New Zealand Football and was just thrown into the Knights to see the club through to the end of the season.

“I went into an environment where players- contracts were ending and the club was being wound up.

“It all made for a very disgruntled group but it gave me a taste of everything that you can come up against in a professional football club.”

Of his five games in charge the Knights won three and drew one after losing the first.

The unbeaten four-game streak didn-t go unnoticed and when Wellington businessman Terry Serepisos founded the Phoenix he chose Herbert to coach and manage the side.

“We quickly developed a quality relationship which was necessary as we only had three months to put a club together,” he says.

“I laid a foundation by getting national team players back to New Zealand because I thought it would provide a cultural base.

“Six years on we still have that base and I am incredibly proud of our culture and it hasn-t gone unnoticed by other clubs and players.”

Herbert says there have been many highs and lows during his tenure at the Phoenix.

“I have had some very low periods, whether over a result or position in the league, but I have always retained my faith in the club and it will be forever in my heart even if I-m not at the club at some point.

“When you look around the world, being part of forming a football club just doesn-t happen and I am privileged to have been able to do it.

“Yes, we-ve probably recruited some wrong players; yes, we-ve made mistakes on the field, but when you sum it up it has been an exciting five years and successful when compared to other professional football ventures in New Zealand.

“There is now stability around the club. We are a salary cap club and are working hard to develop, sign and recruit the best possible players to win the A-League which is our next massive challenge.”

On the field highlights for Herbert are the back-to-back playoff games against Newcastle Jets and Perth Glory at Westpac Stadium.

“I think we had 24,000 for the first game and 32,000 for the second,” he said.

“The performances were top drawer and the crowds were sensational. Those games cemented Wellington Phoenix as a brand and professional football in New Zealand.

There are so many people I have to thank for the last five years, but special mention should be made of the staff who showed tremendous loyalty during the down times.”