‘In Talay we trust’ – Why Wellington’s greatest asset is their coach

-

When all seemed lost for Wellington Phoenix fans, Ufuk Talay has again found a way to bring his side back from the brink – despite the odds.

When Mark Rudan left Wellington after just one season in charge, many Phoenix fans felt as if they had just lost their best chance at a superb coach with championship intentions. However, when one door closes, another one opens, and for the Nix, it was another Australian who walked through that open door back in 2019.

Since then it is safe to say that Talay has cemented himself as one of Wellington’s most successful coaches in terms of winning. But what makes the no-nonsense leader so special is the circumstances in which he has achieved this success.

Talay has proven time and again that he can lead his side to overcome any hurdle that is placed in front of him and his side.

Embed from Getty Images

It all began just 23 days after Talay announced that he would be taking over Wellington, when star player and Johnny Warren Medal winner, Roy Krishna announced that he would be taking his talents and medal elsewhere.

So what did Talay go and do to fill the void? Just sign a relatively unknown Mexican import named Ulises Dávila. Yeah, I think most fans now know the name.

Not only that, during his first season, Talay made plenty of key signings to boost his team’s roster. Players such as Cameron Devlin, David Ball, Reno Piscopo and Gary Hooper all arrived thanks to the 45-year-old.

Talay’s unique ability to discover underused talent was a big reason why Wellington experienced one of their most successful seasons during his first year, finishing third on the table. 

However, the rollercoaster ride of challenges was just on its first lap, and Talay would soon need to overcome significantly more while leading his Wellington side.

Embed from Getty Images

Since July 2020, the Phoenix have played just two games in their home country. Covid has affected every team and member of the A-Leagues, however, being forced to base your side away from home for almost two years is something no other team has had to face.

Despite being required to move away from fans, friends and family, Talay has never complained about the move and its impact. More importantly, instead of fighting off the wooden spoon as many people predicted, the Nix have remained competitive despite their extended trip across the Tasman.

Even with just two games in New Zealand last season, Wellington missed the top six by just a single point. This was thanks to both outstanding tactical play, and the offensive flare of the players such as Dávlia and Tomer Hemed – another underrated import signing made by Talay.

However, it seems a smooth ride is never the way for the Nix and just as newly crowed Johnny Warren Medal winner Roy Krishna had done two years before, Talay’s own signing, Dávila packed his bags (and his medal) and left the side. This was despite record-breaking attempts by Talay and the club to keep the Mexican.

Embed from Getty Images

To make matters worse, fan-favorite, key defender and captain Steven Taylor also shockingly left the side. His departure came just before the 2021/22 season began, even though the Englishman had signed a contract extension just a few weeks before.

Throw in another season based away from home, the restricted ability to sign imports early on due to Covid-19 and the youngest roster in the league. It truly seemed as if Talay may have finally reached a hurdle no coach, no matter how good, could jump over.

But as we have learned time and time again, the former Sydney FC player has found a way to give his team and his fans hope. After a rocky start to the 2021/22 season, Talay is seemingly steering the ship in the right direction yet again for Wellington.

The Phoenix sit ninth on the ALM table, however, they have just unleashed their new Mexican import Gael Sandoval, who was pivotal in the Nix’s possibly momentum-swinging 2-1 victory over Western United.

Embed from Getty Images

Along with Dávila, Sandoval is only the second Mexican to ever play in the A-League Men. What do they both have in common? Yup, they were brought here by Talay.

Finally, even though Wellington are the youngest team in the competition, under Talay they have also been involved in their most successful FFA cup campaign. The Nix play their semi-final against Melbourne Victory on Saturday. If they do pick up a win, the club could be on course to win their first-ever trophy, even under the toughest circumstances. 

For all these reasons, as well as a healthy 41.27% win percentage, Ufuk Talay is  Wellington’s greatest asset. The good news for Nix fans is that their side will be under the watchful eye of the coach for at least one more season after he signed a two-year extension before the beginning of the 2021/22 campaign. 

Even with all he has come up against during his tenure, Talay has never failed to give his players and fans a reason to believe.

Embed from Getty Images

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

Harry Bartle
Harry is a young Journalist based in Wellington. He will be covering the Wellington Phoenix during the 2021/22 season for the Football Sack and has a love hate relationship with Ulises Davila

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required