Coach Ufuk Talay reiterates long-term commitment to Phoenix.
Unlike his predecessor, Ufuk Talay intends to see out his Wellington Phoenix contract.
Talay reiterated his commitment to the Phoenix on Thursday, despite being linked as a possible replacement for sacked Western Sydney Wanderers coach Markus Babbel.
Talay was name dropped by the Sydney Morning Herald as a contender to replace Babbel, who became the third A-League coach to face the sack this season.
But the first-year coach, who has worked wonders since replacing Mark Rudan, ruled out a return to Australia within the next 18 months, saying he wants to build on the “great foundations” he has laid in Wellington.
“I’ve got another year on my contract,” Talay said.
“Obviously that was all subject to licensing, that was in the contracts of most our players, but moving forward I’ve got another year on my contract.”
Talay has proven to be an excellent hire by the Phoenix, re-energising the squad with youthful domestic talent and quality imports.
The club currently sits fourth on the A-League ladder and looks set for a return to finals football.
“My family is all good, we’re enjoying it here, I’m enjoying working at Wellington Phoenix. I’ve come in and tried to build a great foundation with young players, a foundation not just for this season but moving forward.
“I think the club is a great club and we’ve got full support of everybody with the board and I appreciate the efforts and energy they have put in to [get us] to where we want to go.
“I’m very happy where I am at this stage and it’s still a long way to go in this season so my focus is to get us to where we want to get to at the end of the season.”
Smarting from last weekend’s defeat to Brisbane Roar, the Phoenix will be looking to return to winning ways when they host strugglers Newcastle Jets at Sky Stadium on Friday night.
The last-place Jets are currently without a permanent coach and have not won since round eight, but Talay said they will not be taking them lightly, particularly after their slip-up against the Roar.
“It’s never good to lose but for me it’s good that the game has come around pretty quick, it’s a shorter week and the preparations have ramped up,” Talay said.
“Newcastle are not an easy team, they played in a grand final a couple of years ago and they’ve got some very experienced players and a team doesn’t become a bad team overnight so we need to be very well prepared and go out there and do the job.”
The Phoenix will be without key midfielder Matti Steinmann, who is serving a one-game suspension after picking up five yellow cards. But despite the German’s unavailability, Talay said he will not rush Alex Rufer (knee injury) back, with new signing Brandon Wilson or Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi to make their starting debut alongside Cameron Devlin.
Hudson-Wihongi has made four substitute appearances in his inaugural season while Wilson is yet to feature since his arrival from Perth Glory.
“Matti has played a very good role for us, it was going to happen at some stage so he’s done well to get this far on four yellows but that’s why we brought in Brandon Wilson and we still have Te Atawhai to play in that role.
“If we really need to change things we can put Tim Payne in there, so the depth is there in the squad and that’s why you have the players.”
After coming off the bench in the second half against the Roar, fit-again forward David Ball is also poised to start against the Jets, with Jaushua Sotirio the most likely player to make way.
Despite returning from an unsuccessful trial with Championship club Reading, All Whites midfielder Matthew Ridenton has been left out of the Jets squad and won’t travel to Wellington.
A-League round 16, Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets
Sky Stadium, Wellington; Friday 7:15pm