Enjoyment has been the buzz word around the Wellington Phoenix camp this week as they prepare to travel to Western Sydney Wanderers.
The Phoenix ended a four-game winless streak with a 1-0 victory against Melbourne Heart last weekend.
It capped off a turbulent week for the club which saw foundation head coach Ricki Herbert resign and assistant coach Chris Greenacre step up to take charge for the remainder of the season.
The manner of the victory was light years away from the confidence-sapped performances that characterised the final weeks of Herbert’s reign.
“I just wanted to give them that free licence to go and enjoy playing again. They seemed to have lost that,” said Greenacre, who started Manny Muscat at right-back and moved Leo Bertos into his preferred wing position against Heart.
“I kept saying to people, ‘just release the shackles’. It was important that they got back to being confident and enjoying playing again. That’s all it was about last week in the preparation for the game.”
The Englishman wants the same approach heading to Parramatta Stadium, where the Wanderers are on an eight-game winning streak and sitting top of the table after a 1-0 win against Central Coast Mariners last weekend.
“What have we got to lose? We’re bottom of the league so go and enjoy playing,” said Greenacre.
“There’s going to be a good crowd at Western Sydney. Their fans have been fantastic so go and enjoy yourself playing in front of 20,000 or whatever it may be.
“We all know the run that they’ve been on. But if we go there and apply ourselves the way we did against Melbourne Heart then I don’t think we’ll go far wrong.”
Striker Stein Huysegems is suspended for the match after being sent-off for a second bookable offence against Heart.
Greenacre has several options to partner the club’s leading goal-scorer, Jeremy Brockie, up front.
Paul Ifill had probably his best game of the season last weekend and could fill the role, while Corey Gameiro could move up to his preferred position after taking on a slightly deeper attacking role against Heart. Tyler Boyd is another in the mix.
The Wanderers’ rise to the top has been impressive in just their first year in the competition – and without the glamour signings rival clubs have made, Shinji Ono aside.
They have the meanest defence in the competition having conceded just 18 goals so far and although they are the fifth best attacking team their goals have been spread around with Mark Bridge (eight), Shinji Ono (six) and Youssouf Hersi (five) the main contributors.
But Greenacre believes confidence has also played a big part in the Wanderers’ recent run of good form.
“To be honest, once you get on a run of results like that confidence just breeds throughout the club. You get that winning mentality,” he said.
“We’ve been in that position here where we went 15-20 games unbeaten at home. Suddenly you just think that when you go out you’re going to get a result.
“They are just in that head space at this moment in time. They know they’ve got a good chance of winning the game at the weekend, purely on their own confidence and what they’ve proved all ready.”