The bookies don't rate them but that will just give the Wellington Phoenix added incentive to perform. Ricki Herbert has had to manage his players in a different manner this pre-season with many of his Phoenix players also being involved in the New Zealand national team he also coaches.
A handful of new signings including goalkeeper Reece Crowther from Queens Park Rangers, Paul Ifill from Crystal Palace and Chris Greenacre from Tranmere Rovers have added something different to the playing list but it will be difficult to cover the loss of reigning A-League Player of the Year and Golden Boot winner Shane Smeltz.
His goal scoring ability and power around the attacking third will be sorely missed and it is hard to see where the goals will flow from.
But the underdog tag will sit easily with Herbert who will be happy to fly under the radar and take as many scalps as possible along the way and after finishing sixth last season (which would see them in the finals with the two additional teams this season), the belief is certainly there amongst the Phoenix camp.
Arrivals: Reece Crowther (Queens Park Rangers, England), Chris Greenacre (Tranmere Rovers, England), Paul Ifill (Crystal Palace, England), Marco Rojas (Hamilton Wanderers), Diego Walsh (Adelaide United)
Departures: Jeremy Christie (released), Vaughan Coveny (retired), Karl Dodd (released), Greg Draper (released), Richard Johnson (retired), Glen Moss (Melbourne Victory), Shane Smeltz (Gold Coast United)
Biggest signing: Paul Ifill/Chris Greenacre
Biggest loss:Shane Smeltz
Key men: Andrew Durante (captain), Daniel (attacking midfielder), Paul Ifill (striker), Chris Greenacre (striker)
Team list:Goalkeepers - Reece Crowther, Mark Paston
Midfielders - Leo Bertos, Daniel, Diego, Tim Brown, Michael Ferrante, Troy Hearfield, Vince Lia
Forwards - Costa Barbarouses, Chris Greenacre, Paul Ifill
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