2011/12 Review: Wellington Phoenix
(knocked out of the finals by Perth 3-2)
Change in position from 2010/11: ↑ 2
Win-draw-loss record: 12-4-11
(34 goals scored, 32 goals conceded)
Highest goalscorer: Paul Ifill (8)
Average attendance: 8,780
Off the park, the Wellington Phoenix’s 2011/12 season couldn’t have got off to a worse start. Owner Terry Serepisos was forced to sell the club due to financial issues, new owners stepped in just weeks before the season kicked off, and the playing squad was barely reaching the minimum required size with a matter of days before their season opener against Gold Coast United. A pre-season knee injury to new signing Lucas Pantelis exacerbated the squad issue, with the former Adelaide midfielder confirming he was to miss the entire season. However, the last minute signings of American midfidler Alex Smith and ex-Phoenix player Nick Ward pushed the squad up to the acceptable size, just in time for the season to begin.
On the park, and the Nix’s season didn’t get off to a great start. 1 win in the opening 10 games had the Phoenix languishing towards the foot of the table. However, a mid-season purple patch, winning 9 of the next 13 games, pushed the Phoenix well and truly into finals contention. In the end, the Phoenix sewed up fourth place and a home final, a fantastic effort considering their poor start to the season. Winning a nail-biter at home against Sydney FC in the first round of the finals meant the Phoenix would travel to Perth the following week, where they went down gallantly in extra time in what was one of the most thrilling finals matches in recent history.
Most Valuable Player: Ben Sigmund. 28 games, 3 goals, 5 bookings.
It was a fantastic season for the Wellington centre half, missing just the one game due to suspension. Sigmund was like a wall in front of the Phoenix goal this year, putting in interception after interception, winning defensive headers and putting in second and third efforts to win the ball. Add to that the fact that he chipped in with 3 goals for the season, all of which were vital goals scored in the last 15 minutes of games, and you have a fantastic all-round performance by one of the A-League’s best defensive players. Sigmund’s eventual selection in our Team of the Season was no surprise, having been selected in 6 Team of the Week teams during the A-League season.
Rising Star: Mirjan Pavlovic. 15 games, 2 goals, 1 booking.
This was a very difficult category to award to a Phoenix player. The reason is that the Phoenix have just 4 players in their entire squad under the age of 24, and only one of them played over 7 games for the season. That player was Mirjan Pavlovic. Now, by no means is Pavlovic a top-flight player just yet. But he definitely has the talent to be one. His quickfire double against the Jets in week 12 was his standout performance, in a season where he was recovering from a broken forearm. His finishing in front of goal is still not quite there, but his positioning and speed are two attributes that, when you add good finishing skills to them, will result in one dangerous A-League striker.
Most Underachieving Player: Chris Greenacre. 29 appearances, 5 goals.
On the surface, awarding the Most Underachieving Player to Chris Greenacre may seem a little harsh. But let’s look at the facts. Greenacre made the step up this season to take on the role of an assistant coach as well as his playing duties, but despite playing in all 29 of the Phoenix’s games this season, and being on the pitch for more minutes than he was in his last two seasons, Greenacre could only manage just 5 goals. That’s a hit rate of about one goal in every six games this season, which for a striker of his calibre, is just not good enough. Compare that to his partner in crime Paul Ifill, who scored 8 goals in 22 appearances at a hit rate of roughly 1 goal every three games, and it shows what a disappointing return it was for the Englishman.
Most Underrated Player: Andrew Durante. 28 games, 1 goal, 6 bookings
Missing just the one game this season due to a culmination of yellow cards, Andrew Durante is the epitome of the word ‘underrated’. Forming a solid partnership with Ben Sigmund this season, the Phoenix skipper was immensely important to the Phoenix’s run to the finals this season, both with his strong defensive performances and his leadership on and off the field. The Phoenix conceded the third-least amount of goals this season, a stark improvement on last season where they conceded the fourth-most. That has a lot to do with the pairing of Sigmund and Durante.
What do you think? Did we get our selections right? Have your say on Wellington Phoenix’s season below…