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Sunday, 26 November 2017 12:30 am

Phoenix optimistic about reaching A-League finals

POSITIVE THINKING: Manager Ernie Merrick speaks with the press. IMAGE: Matthew Lau

POSITIVE THINKING: Manager Ernie Merrick speaks with the press. IMAGE: Matthew Lau

WELLINGTON Phoenix are on course to reach the finals of the A-League after a successful Football United tour, says Ernie Merrick

Merrick’s confidence will be tested immediately in the inaugural FFA Cup pre-season knock-out tournament against Adelaide next week.

“The players set the targets, and what they have set is they want to be in the finals.

“Once we get into the finals, we’ll sit down, take stock, and set our goals from there onwards,” the Phoenix manager (right) said after training on Friday morning.

“The Football United tour was just wonderful for the club, the fans and the players,” he said of the event hosting English clubs West Ham and Newcastle last week.

“It was great preparation for the proper league, but the bottom line is they’ve got to really carry that on now and play with that level of confidence [and] that sort of inter-passing.”

The Phoenix fly to Adelaide on Sunday for the inaugural 2014 FFA Cup kick-off on Tuesday. There are 32 Australasian clubs in the competition.

“It’s all for nothing if we don’t play that style [and] that brand of football even better in the A-League, so the FFA Cup against Adelaide is very important to us,” he added.

Merrick says he is waiting on the McGlinchey saga to finally come to a conclusion, and is happy with the strength in depth of his squad.

Michael McGlinchey was off limits to the media after training, his playing future is still unresolved with the matter due to go to arbitration.

McGlinchey has been locked in a contractual tug-of-war between the Phoenix and former club Central Coast Mariners.

Key striker Jeremy Brockie believes he can lead the frontline of attack this season.

“Obviously I’ve shown before that I can get into the 15 [goal] range.  You always probably need one striker to dominate the goal-scoring tally and I’m happy to take that pressure.”

Brockie scored 16 goals in the 2012/13 season with the Phoenix, but only managed five last season in the same number of appearances.

“I pride myself on scoring goals and that’s what I’ll be doing again this year,” says Brockie.

The Football United tour concluded last week with Newcastle maintaining their winning record on tour by defeating The Nix 1-0, after a header from Man of the Match Yoan Gouffran.

KEEPING SPIRITS UP: Sam Allardyce (left) and Winston Reid share a laugh after defeat. IMAGE: Matthew Lau

KEEPING SPIRITS UP: Sam Allardyce (left) and Winston Reid share a laugh after defeat. IMAGE: Matthew Lau

West Ham ended a disappointing outing with a lacklustre 3-1 defeat to Sydney FC.

All Whites and West Ham captain Winston Reid (left) was disenchanted with his team’s performances.

“We came down here and we expected to do well, we didn’t do so well and now we’ll go back home and we’ll try and work on some things.

“Thank you to New Zealand for having us down here, and I look forward to coming back,” says Reid.

The Phoenix’s victory over West Ham in Auckland makes them the first New Zealand football club to defeat an English Premier League team.

New Zealand-bound Newcastle United supporters – Liam Sweeney and John Alder – were acknowledged in front of nearly 31,000 football fans last Saturday at Westpac Stadium.

They died with 296 others on the Malaysia Airlines plane shot down over Ukraine.

Included in the acknowledgement was the Kapa Haka performed by students of Seatoun’s Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna school (below) before kick-off in the centre of the pitch.

A moment of silence was held prior to the matches in Auckland and Dunedin respectively.

Newcastle players and staff wore t-shirts saying “In Memory Of John & Liam” when they entered the pitch.

Tributes were also made at minutes 28 and 63 (the respective ages of Liam and John) with a minute of applause for each and were both honoured on the big screens in the stadium at the time of applause.

KAPI HAKA: Performed by Seatoun’s Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna school. IMAGE: Peter Mcdonald

KAPI HAKA: Seatoun’s Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna school. IMAGE: Peter McDonald

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