The New Zealand club were the talk of the competition late in the season and had a good run in the finals only to be beaten by Sydney FC in the Preliminary Final.
Finished: 4th regular season (Knocked out of finals Week 3)
Record: Wins – 10; Draws – 10; Losses – 7; Points – 40
Top goalscorer: Paul Ifill (13)
What went wrong? Not a hell of a lot. The Phoenix enjoyed a fairly consistent season and were able to grind out results that saw them qualify for the finals for the first time.
What went right? The New Zealand club had a successful season which saw them finish with a home final, attract healthy crowds and generally pick up the state of football in the island nation.
Finally, they constructed a quality squad which only got better with cohesion as the season went on and they were extremely close to playing off in this year’s Grand Final.
tribalfootball.com’s Player of the Year: Paul Ifill. 13 goals, the ability to win a match off his own boot and third in the Johnny Warren medal voting is enough to get our nod.
Crowds: Home average – 11,552. Biggest – 32,792 (SF v NJ) Lowest – 4115 (Rd 10 v NJ) On average the numbers for the Phoenix look great but they were majorly boosted by the home match played in Christchurch (19,258) and the two finals which both yielded huge crowds of 24,278 and 32,792.
Throughout the regular season, crowds were as expected at about the 6,500 to 9,000 range but the Wellington public really got on board towards the end of the season and those numbers bode well for season 2010/11.
The coach:Ricki Herbert produced a master display of coaching/managing this season.
Doubled with the task of getting the New Zealand national team into the World Cup (which he successful achieved), he led his club into the finals and improved the overall state of the sport in the country.
Surprises:Their rapid rise up the table was the biggest surprise and the fact they managed to produce winning scores despite being without former star striker Shane Smeltz.
Disappointments: Probably the fact they didn’t make the Grand Final. The Etihad Stadium crowd would be absolutely rocking this Saturday night with the addition of a few thousand Wellingtonians but it wasn’t to be and that would have to be the biggest disappointment for the season.
Also the injury to goalkeeper Mark Paston who is facing a race against time to make New Zealand’s World Cup squad but Liam Reddy was an apt replacement.
Where to from here? The Phoenix simply have to consolidate on their 2009/10 season and again push for the finals next term. Crowds are sure to increase but early results in 2010/11 will need to be positive.
They will want to re-sign key defender Jon McKain along with Michael Ferrante, Adrian Caceres and Eugene Dadi and maybe even add a quality midfielder to really mix it with the top couple of teams.