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Laughter a tonic for post-Merrick Phoenix

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/12/2016 Daniel Gilhooly
Image of Vince Lia © Tony Feder/Getty Images Image of Vince Lia

Laughing or crying were the only options left for the Wellington Phoenix in their first training session without departed coach Ernie Merrick.

Laughing felt better.

Foundation player Vince Lia says a light-hearted session under interim coaches Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham hit the spot for a group left reeling by Merrick's sudden resignation on Monday.

Lia says he can't remember a tougher two days at a club which has experienced its share of lows in his 10 seasons.

Some five-a-side games, mixed with gaudy language and humour was the start of the curing process, the 31-year-old said.

"There's time to have a laugh and times to work. I think today was one of those times where it was more about enjoying football," Lia said.

"Obviously we're down the bottom, we haven't been enjoying it as much as we like so it was getting what's in our system out."

Lia echoed the sentiment of captain Andrew Durante, who says the players felt responsible for the exit of a coach they say was liked and respected.

They had failed to reach the standards set before the season began, Lia said, and are primarily to blame for losing six of eight games to reside in last place.

Lia believes many of the players will now look for direction from the senior leadership group - comprising himself, captain Andrew Durante, goalkeeper Glen Moss and midfielder Michael McGlinchey.

Motivation will be high to perform before a new coach is appointed - probably before Christmas - starting with Saturday's game against Central Coast Mariners in Hamilton.

"It's the unknown now, everyone starts again and you're battling for your lives again," Lia said.

"We're a very good team. We have been under-performing but we believe that we've a team that can make the top six definitely, and push for the top four."

Providing additional hunger will be a desire to honour Merrick.

The veteran Scot had transformed the Phoenix with superior approach and playing method to his predecessor Ricki Herbert, Lia said.

"He's completely transformed the club.

"He can be proud of what he achieved. It's just disappointing the way it's all ended and we feel like we let him down."

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