6 Dec 2016

Phoenix to appoint new coach before Christmas

4:47 pm on 6 December 2016

The Wellington Phoenix intend naming a permanent replacement for outgoing coach Ernie Merrick before Christmas.

Merrick who's coached the side in the Australian football league for the past three and half years announced his shock departure yesterday with the club languishing at the bottom of competition.

That 2-nil loss to Adelaide on Sunday was the final straw for Ernie Merrick.

At a team dinner later that night Merrick stood up and announced he was resigning which captain Andrew Durante says completely took the side off guard.

Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante

Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante. Photo: Photosport

"The players reaction was silence. No-one said anything, everyone was just trying to take it in. Then Ernie and the staff (team management) left the room and then Mossy (goalkeeper Glen Moss) stood up and said 'this is on us.'", said Durante.

"We have to accept we are responsible for this."

Struggling to hold back tears Durante said he had learnt a lot from Merrick.

"It's sad. He's been a great coach and a great role model for me and we let him down."

The Phoenix have won just two of their eight games this season but Durante says suggestions that the players had lost faith in Merrick are wide of the mark.

"You read social media and people come up with there own opinions, that he lost the changing room and the playing group (but) never. There was never any of that....we still believed that he could have got us out of this."

The Phoenix club chairman Rob Morrison says Merrick wanted to resign after the side's 6-1 hiding at the hands of Melbourne Victory in October but he persuaded him to stay on.

"Sometimes you can get most of your duck aligned but there's an 'x-factor' that you can't quite figure out and in this particular case (Ernie's) said, really honestly, 'I don't think I can find that x factor which is going to get these players winning.'"

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick

Ernie Merrick Photo: Photosport

Ernie Merrick is adamant he made the decision to call it quits.

"I made the call ...I didn't want anyone else to be blamed for it....(although) in the back of my mind I am going 'you should have held on for a little bit longer because it will work, but I've made the call and I will stick by it," said Merrick.

The Phoenix management have drawn up a shortlist of possible candidates to replace Merrick and intend naming a permanent replacement before Christmas.

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