Sit back and enjoy Phoenix fans; you’ve earned it

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There were 24,105 spectators at Wellington Phoenix’s 3-0 demolition of Western United. Let that sink in for a while; it’s a gargantuan number. A crowd this large has been earned by everyone in and around the club with blood, sweat, and tears.

The Nix have a history of adversity in the A-League. The denial of a ten year license extension. David Gallop’s declaration the Wellington Phoenix were ‘squatting’ on their license. #SaveTheNix. #NixOut. #Metrics. Mark Bosnich stating the Nix offered nothing to the league. Darjie Kalezić. The proposed sale of the license to a Sydney-based consortium. Mark Rudan’s ignominious exit. Covid. Wollongong as a home.

Oh, the above list? Only goes as far back as 2015. Don’t forget about Terry Serepisos.

During the darkest days of the Darjie disaster, just 4762 fans arrived to cheer on their team in a 1-0 loss to the Newcastle Jets. Fast-forward and six times that number filled the Cake Tin in a record-breaking attendance for this season.

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To every Phoenix detractor, I’m going to quote the one, and only Sam Kerr: ‘Suck on that one.’

When I think about May 22nd 2021, a day which will go down in Phoenix history, I only have one word; deserved.

A full stadium. A brilliant atmosphere. A game against true rivals. And a chance to see off a legend in Andrew Durante, even if he was playing for Western United.

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Clayton Lewis’s spectacular strike from just outside the box is what the fans of this club have earned. Reno Piscopo’s fantastic run through the heart of United’s defence and his thunderous slam past Ryan Scott is what the Yellow Fever deserved. Fenton’s assist for Hemed’s header was only fitting.

In the last twelve months alone, the Phoenix have given so much. When Covid initially struck, Wellington went over to Australia in the league’s ill-fated push to continue playing. Before they got out of quarantine, it went on hold and the trip back to NZ resulted in 14 more days stuck in a hotel.

Then the league restarted for real and another 28 days in quarantine followed, before the Nix’s best ever season fell apart at the moment where it mattered most.

Finally, to 2020/21, when the team stayed in Wollongong until last week. Staff and players were away from their families and deep in hostile territory which they had to try and make home. Wellington went 433 long days without playing at Sky Stadium. In head coach Ufuk Talay’s press conference, he made it apparent how much the day meant to him.

“There’s always moments in your career which stand out for you but this was a great occasion,” he said.

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“It’s just an amazing feeling. It was a great atmosphere. It’s something that we haven’t had all season.

“Every time we scored I got a little bit emotional because of how many people came out and supported us and how many people believe in this team.”

The best part? The future looks bright. Macarthur-bound Mexican magician and captain Ulises Dávila’s departure seems to be a foregone conclusion, but hotshot youngster Ben Waine, breakthrough keeper Oli Sail and goalscorer Lewis have all put pen-to-paper on new deals.

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So has Talay himself, easily the most vital cog to keep. He’s the first head coach since Ernie Merrick in 2015 to sign a contract extension. Wellington now have the foundations of a team penned in for next season, which should hopefully do away with the complete rebuilds that have become commonplace over the last few offseasons. The Nix can at long last enjoy some continuity.

The key now is retaining dynamic and exciting midfielder Cameron Devlin, and Premier League veteran center back Steven Taylor.

But even if both leave, the club will survive. It’s a simplistic and obvious statement to make, but it’s a statement I can now make with certainty. Previously it hasn’t been. The borders are open and look set (fingers crossed) to remain that way, meaning consistent A-League football should make a return to the New Zealand capital next season. When it does, Phoenix fans will not need to sweat about attendance each time. The Phoenix could utterly fail to build on this amazing crowd, and while it would be disappointing, the club is not going to die as a result.

It’s been a painstakingly long and goddamn frustrating journey to get here, but Wellington right now is in a good place. A place where you don’t have to feel constant stress regarding your club’s future. Because quite frankly, we’ve all earned a bit of proper excitement for our club.

Featured image credit: Wellington Phoenix

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Dan Moskovitz
The Football Sack's resident teen kiwi football nut. Loves everything football except defeats.
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