Western United’s raid of Wellington wasn’t all Mark Rudan’s doing, according to Phoenix great Andrew Durante, revealing that his coach urged him to think twice before switching clubs.
Durante said Rudan deserved credit for reviving a flatlining Phoenix last season.
His comments came as United announced former Italy international Alessandro Diamanti as its captain ahead of its A-League debut in Wellington on Sunday.
Rudan has been slammed in New Zealand for pinching former Phoenix captain Durante, goalkeeper of the year Filip Kurto and midfielder Max Burgess after just one year coaching the club, but Durante explained how his own deal unfolded.
“I can’t speak on behalf of Max and Filip, but as funny as it sounds, Mark didn’t have a hell of a lot to do with my move,” Durante, 37, said.
“I’m quite close with (United board member) Lou Sticca, who was in charge of recruitment. When I knew they were in, I rang Lou to congratulate him and we stayed in touch.
“I told him I was thinking about life after football and potentially coming home to Australia. That was the conversation that really started it.
“Once Mark got announced (as coach), it was the cherry on top. It’s funny that Mark gets pinned for pulling everyone out of (Wellington), but he actually really tried to make me think about it.
“He said, ‘You sure you want to do this, Dura? It’s a big decision to leave with what you’ve built there.’ I needed to change. It was fully my decision to move on.”
Durante, who represented New Zealand after becoming naturalised, said Phoenix was a shambles until Rudan arrived.
“There’s going to be people in the crowd that will jeer and boo Mark. But the year before he got there was a disaster on and off the field,’’ he said.
“We struggled with crowds, struggled to connect with the community, performances were poor and cries to kick out a New Zealand team had never been stronger.
“Mark took a big gamble taking on the job. In my opinion he completely transformed the club on and off the pitch.
“No foreign Phoenix coach had bought into the culture of the country, the Maori culture as much as Mark.
“Mark put Wellington on the map. The fans really need to remember that.”
THE LOCAL DERBY
MELBOURNE VICTORY V MELBOURNE CITY
Victory was knocked out of the FFA Cup in the round of 32, leaving coach Marco Kurz without a competitive game in two months leading into the Round 1 derby. The positive is it has been undefeated since, against both A-League and NPL opposition.
City had a string of competitive games on its path to the FFA Cup final, albeit mainly against NPL teams. Nonetheless, the matches have enabled English winger Craig Noone to hit the ground running with four goals in as many games, while several teammates have played themselves into form for Round 1.
Socceroos attacker Robbie Kruse (hamstring) was ruled out on Tuesday and back-up goalkeeper Matt Acton (shoulder) remains sidelined. Matt Sutton will take his place on the bench.
Austrian defender Richard Windbichler’s minor hamstring injury has left him fighting to win a first XI spot, as coach Erick Mombaerts rewards a winning team. Otherwise, City has had a clean bill of health.
Victory’s attacking stocks are thin. Striker Kenny Athiu, who has impressed in the pre-season, is away after he was called up for South Sudan’s African Cup of Nations qualifiers. Albanian midfielder Migjen Basha arrived on Tuesday after a visa delay and is unlikely to be risked this weekend.
Striker Jamie Maclaren’s absence on Socceroos duty leaves City with a conundrum. Uruguayan Adrian Luna, Young Socceroos forward Moudi Najjar and Olyroos attacker Lachie Wales are vying to start. Javier Cabrera is pushing Ramy Najjarine for the right wing role.