After two A-League seasons based in Australia, the Wellington Phoenix have again embarked on one of the longest road trips in professional football.
The Phoenix men have travelled to Western Australia for their ninth round Isuzu UTE A-League match against the Perth Glory on Friday night.
More than 5000 kilometres separate Wellington and Perth and the trip hasn’t got any easier.
Coach Talay: ‘The schedule is what it is …’
“It was a long journey to be honest,” Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay told media on the eve of the distance derby.
“We got the four o’clock flight out of Wellington to Sydney and then there was a two hour wait in Sydney for the flight from Sydney to Perth. I think we got in around 10/10:30pm to the hotel.
“The boys had something to eat and went straight to bed. So it was probably around 11pm, which is around 4am Kiwi time, when the boys went to bed so it was a long day of travelling.”
The match is kicking off at 7:30pm local time (12:30am Saturday NZT) on Friday night and the squad’s leaving the team hotel at 4am on Saturday so the players can get back to Wellington in time for Christmas.
“We don’t organise the schedule,” Talay said. “The schedule is what it is.
“I think this is the first time under my tenure that the boys are actually going to get Christmas Day off, so I’m sure they’ll be pleased with that because previously we trained on Christmas Day.
“This is our job. We work during the week and our biggest work is done on the weekends. Now it’s holiday time and it’s an opportunity for fans to come out to the games.
“There are plenty of Christmases that will come in life for the players and there will be plenty of New Year’s Days and New Year’s Eves for the players as well so it is what it is.”
As well as acclimatising to the different time zone, the heat will also be “a good challenge” for the Nix.
It’s forecast to be a high of 34 degrees in Perth on Friday and still be in the high 20s come kick-off.
The Wellington Phoenix have lost just one of their past five matches and have had a draw and a win since the A-League paused for FIFA World Cup Qatar.
“It’s very important that we continue to build momentum after a good performance against a quality side like Adelaide.
“I’ve always had confidence and belief in my group. It was more about having some consistency within the squad and I think we’ve had that the last two weeks and that’s shown with the draw against Western Sydney and the win against Adelaide.
“To build that momentum, it’s very important that we keep that consistency within the group and continue to build on what we’ve done the last two weeks.
“I believe we need to get on a run. The table is very, very tight. I think you can win a game and go straight to fourth from 10th spot.
“It’s very important for us to continue in the right direction.”
‘It’s very important that we respect the opponent’
The Phoenix start the round in sixth place and just three points off third, while the Glory sit bottom of the ladder.
But Ufuk Talay is reading nothing into Perth’s position on the table.
“I think the first five rounds Perth played away from home and now they’re getting that consecutive run of games at home,” Talay said. “They beat Western United a couple of weeks ago at home.
“For me, they’re still a good team, a good squad and Zadkovich is starting to get what he wants from the squad.
“For us, it’s very important that we respect the opponent and go out there and do a job.”
The Nix are undermanned for the distance derby with Ben Waine (illness) and Ben Old (hernia injury) joining Finn Surman (shoulder injury) and Oskar van Hattum (adductor injury) on the side lines.
Game to be played on Saturday December 24, 2022
Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix
Macedonia Park, Perth, 12.30am (NZT)
How to watch
The game will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 1 and 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 13 April 2022 – Perth Glory 0 Wellington Phoenix 1
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 18W, Adelaide 20W & 9D.
4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 31. Yan SASSE, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk).
Unavailable: 3. Finn SURMAN (injured), 8. Ben OLD (injured), 18. Ben WAINE (illness), 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM (injured).
33.Liam REDDY (gk), 2.John KOUTROUMBIS, 5.Mark BEEVERS, 6.Aaron MCENEFF, 7.Ryan WILLIAMS, 8.Mustafa AMINI (c), 10.Salim KHELIFI, 11.Ben AZUBEL, 13.Cameron COOK (gk), 14.Jack CLISBY, 16.Keegan JELACIC, 18.David WILLIAMS, 19.Zach DUNCAN, 20.Giordano COLLI, 23.Mitch OXBORROW, 25.Matt HATCH, 28.Trent OSTLER, 29.Darryl LACHMAN, 36.Joseph FORDE, 37.Jacob MUIR
Unavailable: 1.Brad JONES (gk) (injured), 21.Anthony BURKE-GILROY (injured), 22.Adrian SARDINERO (injured)