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Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick quits

AAP logoAAP 4/12/2016 Cathy Walshe

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick's resignation has kick-started a frantic early-season hunt for his replacement with former Sydney FC captain Mark Rudan among the frontrunners.

Merrick told players of his decision after Sunday's 2-0 loss to Adelaide United left them bottom of the table with two wins and six losses from eight games this A-League season.

With a run of home games looming, beginning on Saturday against Central Coast in Hamilton, Merrick said the time was right for him to step aside.

"I think this will give my successor the best opportunity to take the team forward," said the 63-year-old Merrick.

Assistant coach Chris Greenacre and goalkeeping coach Des Buckingham have been appointed joint head coaches until Merrick's replacement is found.

Greenacre, a former Phoenix striker, filled a similar role for five games after Ricki Herbert's resignation in 2012.

A statement from the Phoenix on Monday said a "thorough process" was underway to find a new head coach.

Wellington Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison and Merrick will front a media conference on Tuesday at midday in Wellington, with no comment available from the club before then.

Among the candidates for Merrick's job is Rudan, who has just completed a four-year stint at Sydney United culminating in their National Premier League title win.

He is currently assistant coach for Australia's under-20 side.

Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx, linked with Brisbane Roar ahead of the 2015/16 season, is also among the candidates.

Tribulietx is in Japan, as Auckland prepare for their Club World Cup playoff against Kashima Antlers on Thursday.

Former Phoenix assistant coach Luciano Trani, who has also spent time at Melbourne City, Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United, and foundation Phoenix captain Ross Aloisi - currently assistant coach at the Roar - are also in the mix.

Merrick said in a statement that he had taken the team as far as he could.

"I take full responsibility for position the team is currently in.

"I feel that I have not performed well enough as head coach, as we have a very strong squad that should be higher up the table."

Merrick, who led Melbourne Victory to A-League titles in 2007 and 2009, took over from Herbert in May 2013, and his initial two-year contract was renewed in March 2015 for another three years.

A Wellington Phoenix statement said Merrick, 63, had been a "consummate professional" during his time at the club.

He had been instrumental in overhauling the way the team performed on the field and how it conducted itself off the field.

Merrick had also played a significant role in developing young players through the Phoenix academy, with many now breaking into the first team and representing New Zealand at international level.

"The club understands the decision and thanks Merrick for the hard work and dedication he has put in during the past three years."

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