Wellington Phoenix 2018/19 season preview

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After narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon last season, the Wellington Phoenix come into the 2018/19 A-League campaign with high hopes of being surprise packets.

That will be a tough task, though, as they have the smallest and arguably weakest squad in the league, with an inexperienced coach at A-League level. Don’t think that will stop Mark Rudan as he and Steven Taylor will be key leadership figures in the Phoenix dressing room.

Last season
A-League: 9th
FFA Cup: Round of 32

They’ll win the league because…

Of their experienced men. Although Mark Rudan has zero A-League coaching experience, he has previously played in the A-League and has been coaching in the NSW NPL since 2011. He will demand the very best from his players and that’s something the Wellington Phoenix will need if they are to lift silverware this season.

On top of that, experienced players Steven Taylor, David Williams, Mitch Nichols, Nathan Burns and Roy Krishna will be key leadership figures and central to success this season.

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They’ll be cellar dwellers because…

They have the smallest squad in the entire league. Housing just 18 senior players means any injuries or suspensions sees them left very short. The potential bonus to this is a tight, well drilled group of players, but the downfall of only having two players not taking part in a match day will see them bottom of the ladder again this season.

Talk around the water cooler…look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information.

New Phoenix recruit Armando Sosa Peña (also known as Mandi) will become just the 4th Spanish player in Nix history to don the yellow and black after Dani Sanchez, Alberta Riera, and Alex Rodriguez. Interestingly, all of the previously mentioned players were also midfielders.

The off-season brought…

A new era for the Phoenix. New head coach Rudan will be applying his work ethic to the squad – new recruit Steven Taylor even admitted it had been one of the toughest pre-season’s he had since he arrived at Newcastle in 1995.

Key player

Steven Taylor. The 32-year-old Englishman comes to Wellington with a wealth of experience playing 215 games with English Premier League club Newcastle United. He and Andrew Durante will make an experienced pair of central defenders for the Nix, who are coming off their worst defensive season in history, conceding 55 goals in 27 games. Expect Mark Rudan to set up defensively with Steven Taylor playing a crucial role in the sides defence.

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One to watch

Sapreet Singh. The 19-year-old Kiwi emerged as one of the breakout talents in the A-League last season. Earning his first start in February, he became a regular for the Nix, and has scored 4 goals in 13 appearances. The attacking midfielder has signed a 3-year senior contract, so expect to see him dazzling the A-League this season.

Ins and Outs

IN: Steven Taylor (Peterborough United), Filip Kurto (Roda JC), David Williams (Haladas), Mitch Nichols (unattached), Michal Kopczyński (Legia Wasaw, loan), Max Burgess (Sydney Olympic), Mandi (UD Almeria)

OUT: Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners), Matthew Ridenton (Newcastle Jets), Matija Ljucic (Belenenses, Portugal), Andrija Kaluderovic (Delhi Dynamos, India), Goran Paracki (Neftchi, Azerbaijan), Keegan Smith (Tasman United, NZ)

Full Squad List

Goalkeepers – 1. Filip KURTO, 20. Oliver SAIL

Defenders – 5. Ryan LOWRY, 6. Dylan FOX, 16. Louis FENTON, 19. Tom DOYLE, 22. Andrew DURANTE, 27. Steven TAYLOR

Midfielders – 8. Mitch NICHOLS, 13. Liberato CACACE, 14. Alex RUFER, 15. Michal KOPCZYNSKI, 18. Sarpreet SINGH, *MANDI (yet to receive squad number)

Forwards – 9. Nathan BURNS, 10. David WILLIAMS, 21. Roy KRISHNA

Feature Image Credit: Cameron McIntosh

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Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith
Football writer and radio presenter. Loves everything football (well, except Italian's diving since '06).

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