Herbert upbeat on verge of A-League record
Coach Ricki Herbert is happy with the foundation he has built at Wellington Phoenix as he gets set to celebrate an A-League record on Saturday.
Herbert will become the competition's most-capped coach when he oversees the Phoenix for a 152nd time against the Melbourne Victory in Melbourne. That will surpass the 151 games amassed by former Victory boss Ernie Merrick.
After five games in charge of the now-defunct New Zealand Knights, Herbert was appointed inaugural coach of the Phoenix in 2007.
The 51-year-old said there was a stark contrast between the health of game in New Zealand now compared to the turmoil when he began as a fill-in for the doomed Knights.
"I went into an environment where players' contracts were ending and the club was being wound up," Herbert said.
"It all made for a very disgruntled group but it gave me a taste of everything that you can come up against in a professional football club."
When Wellington businessman Terry Serepisos founded the Phoenix he chose Herbert to coach and manage the side.
Herbert remembered he had just three months to put a competitive team together.
"I laid a foundation by getting national team players back to New Zealand because I thought it would provide a cultural base.
"Six years on we still have that base and I am incredibly proud of our culture and it hasn't gone unnoticed by other clubs and players."
Herbert, also the All Whites national coach, admitted he had endured some "very low" moments at the Phoenix but he had no regrets about his decision to take on the role and stick with it, despite earning his share of critics along the way.
"Yes, we've probably recruited some wrong players; yes, we've made mistakes on the field, but when you sum it up it has been an exciting five years and successful when compared to other professional football ventures in New Zealand," he said.
"There is now stability around the club. We are a salary-cap club and are working hard to develop, sign and recruit the best possible players to win the A-League which is our next massive challenge."
While Merrick won two titles at Melbourne, Herbert has led his team into three finals campaign for no silverware.
The closest they came was in 2009-10 when huge home crowds watched playoff wins over Newcastle Jets and Perth Glory before they lost to Sydney FC in the preliminary final.
Herbert's A-League record reads 55 wins, 35 draws and 61 losses.