Phoenix eye return to ALM normality

Wellington head coach Ufuk Talay contemplating their elimination final defeat.
Wellington head coach Ufuk Talay contemplating their elimination final defeat.

With their A-League Men campaign over, Wellington Phoenix will relish what should be a permanent return to their New Zealand base ahead of next season.

The Phoenix, who finished sixth this season, were knocked out of the finals with a 1-0 elimination final defeat to Western United on Saturday night.

The defeat brought with it a close to two seasons based in Australia, plus the end of the 2019-20 season in a NSW hub.

Wellington have played just four games in New Zealand across the past two seasons, including two this year.

"We had that feeling towards the back end of last season as well, that we were going to go home and play this season there," coach Ufuk Talay said.

"So, hopefully, things don't change too quick with COVID. I can't see that happening.

"But it's nice to know we'll be playing home and away. It will be nice to be able to train in Wellington, sleep in our own beds, get ready for a game at home.

"Not looking forward to the travel; I think the group will have to adjust again to the travel. We've been accustomed to travelling shorter distances while we've been based in Australia.

"It's nice to know that we're going to be back and have a bit of normality."

Despite COVID-19 affecting all three of his seasons at the helm, Talay said he still had plenty of fuel in the tank.

Not everyone is necessarily sticking around.

Reno Piscopo has interest from both Europe and elsewhere in the ALM, while James McGarry and Jaushua Sotirio have been linked to Newcastle.

But a large chunk of the Phoenix's squad is signed up, with Talay eyeing a gun striker to help take Wellington to the next level.

"We've got a few important positions that we need to fill with visa spots. At the moment we're looking at a few players," Talay said

"For me, it's no rush with the visa players. Visa players are important in the sense that they need to add value to the team.

"They need to have a point of difference. We've got 14, 15 players signed at the moment and we'll continue to build.

"To get to the next level for us, it's consistency with the players. We lacked probably a goalscorer this season.

"We shared the goals around with a few players but we lacked a real clinical player up front and that's something we're looking for."

Australian Associated Press