Sounds of silence at Phoenix

The Dominion Post - - Sport - FOOT­BALL

The silence is deaf­en­ing for foun­da­tion Welling­ton Phoenix mid­fielder Vince Lia.

A decade on from the Phoenix’s con­fir­ma­tion as an A-League foot­ball club, Lia re­mains the only player to have gone the dis­tance.

But, judg­ing by the noises, or lack of noise, com­ing from Martin Luckie Park head­quar­ters, the 32-year-old’s time in the cap­i­tal may be nearing an end.

‘‘I haven’t had any con­ver­sa­tions with any­one [at the club],’’ Lia said, ahead of Sun­day’s trip to Mel­bourne Vic­tory.

Pressed fur­ther on his fu­ture, Lia said: ’’I’m not sure, to be hon­est. Foot­ball is a funny game and that’s why peo­ple move on so of­ten. There’s lots of dif­fer­ent places to go. It’s a hard one for the club with­out a new coach signed, whether Chris [Greenacre] and Des [Buck­ing­ham] keep the job or not. I’ve had no chat.’’

With goal­keeper Glen Moss linked with a move to South Africa, the Phoenix could lose a com­bined 400-plus ap­pear­ances if he and Lia aren’t re­tained.

What­ever hap­pens, Lia isn’t ready to hang up his boots just yet, a month af­ter be­ing granted a tes­ti­mo­nial match. ’’[I’ll play] any­where mate, I just want to keep play­ing foot­ball.’’

Co-coach Buck­ing­ham was equally guarded about Lia’s im­me­di­ate fu­ture. Buck­ing­ham and Chris Greenacre are mak­ing their pro­pos­als to the Phoenix own­ers about who to re­tain and who to jet­ti­son, with three games re­main­ing and only a small math­e­mat­i­cal chance of mak­ing the play­offs.

‘‘There’s been a lot of dis­cus­sion around next sea­son,’’ Buck­ing­ham said.

‘‘One is the play­ers we want to keep. One is the turn­around of play­ers com­ing off con­tract, and more im­por­tantly re­cruit­ment for next sea­son. We’ve had those dis­cus­sions, we’ve put for­ward our rec­om­men­da­tions and we’re hop­ing in the next cou­ple of weeks there will be some move­ment.’’

Buck­ing­ham is equally un­cer­tain about his own fu­ture at the club, af­ter he and Greenacre took over from Ernie Mer­rick as in­terim coaches in Jan­uary. He said there had been no dis­cus­sions with the club about ap­ply­ing for the full­time role for next sea­son.

‘‘There’s been no fur­ther move­ment since the press con­fer­ence when we were an­nounced. We can only con­trol what we can con­trol, and that’s this week­end’s game in Mel­bourne with a fully fit squad and Ja­cob Tratt back in the fold which is great. Ev­ery­one’s in a good space.’’

In­deed, a 5-0 win will do that for a team, even as they face miss­ing the play­offs with­out a full­time coach con­firmed.

Last week­end’s romp against New­cas­tle, with­out their All Whites con­tin­gent, sur­prised even them­selves and means they tackle the daunt­ing trip to Mel­bourne with a spring in their legs. Buck­ing­ham re­ported no in­juries among the play­ers re­turn­ing from in­ter­na­tional duty.

It also means se­lec­tion headaches as re­turn­ing in­ter­na­tion­als ap­ply the heat, to face a team they suf­fered a 6-1 drub­bing against in Mel­bourne on Oc­to­ber 31.

‘‘The play­ers that came in [last week­end] stepped up and put in a re­ally good per­for­mance. I don’t think any­one saw 5-0 com­ing. They’ve done them­selves no harm at all and it’s go­ing to be a very hard se­lec­tion prob­lem,’’ Buck­ing­ham said.

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