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Phoenix coaches focus on top-four finish

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/01/2017 Cathy Walshe

Nothing much has changed for newly confirmed Wellington Phoenix co-coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre.

The pair took over on an interim basis from Ernie Merrick following his resignation early last month, and have since guided the Phoenix to three draws and a win.

Their appointment on Monday for the remainder of the A-League season gives both coaches and players a little more certainty, but Buckingham says little will change when it comes to goal-setting.

"It's still top four," he said.

"We set out at the start of the season to finish within the top two. With the exception of Sydney and Melbourne Victory, who have consistently put results together, anyone in this league can beat anyone.

"We're definitely still in the mix for top four - we're still two points off fifth with a game in hand. We're scoring goals, we've kept two clean sheets in the last four games and we're in a good space to kick on now."

Under Football Federation Australia regulations Buckingham, who holds a Pro Licence, will be head coach.

Greenacre, a former Manchester City and Tranmere Rovers striker who scored 17 goals in three seasons with the Phoenix, has an A Licence and will be co-coach.

Buckingham said the permanent appointment meant he and Greenacre could take a long-term view instead of operating on a week-by-week basis.

"We've now got the next 17 weeks in the lead-up into finals to sit down with everyone on the same page, and we've got the time to implement the plan we want."

Phoenix general manager David Dome said the pair had presented a "very thorough" plan to the board before Wellington's 2-2 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers two weeks ago.

"They presented quite a different strategy to Ernie, building on a lot of the good work he'd put in place," he said.

"We're now seeing what they're bringing to the team in terms of new strategies, and looking further than that in terms of recruitment for next year and setting ourselves up into next season."

Dome said it was imperative that the Phoenix make the A-League finals this year, which meant a top-six finish at the very least.

"We're still targeting the top four, and we think Chris and Des can deliver that."

Wellington, who fought out a dour scoreless draw with defending champions Adelaide United on Sunday, sit eighth on the ladder, two points astray of fifth-placed Perth Glory.

Dome wouldn't look further ahead than the end of the season, but said Buckingham and Greenacre had the chance to secure the position long-term.

"They're certainly in the box seat - they're in the job, doing the job now and if the results come, why wouldn't we stick with the coaches we've got?"

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