Best Foot Forward

Wellington Phoenix haven’t made the ideal start this season, but MICHAEL FERRANTE says the recent upturn in fortune is just what the club needs

Wellington Phoenix haven-t made the ideal start this season, but MICHAEL FERRANTE says the recent upturn in fortune is just what the club needs.

You-re from Melbourne and played for Victory; was it difficult leaving?
It was, because it was my home town, but I had a shocking second year (at Victory) and it was a rebirth for me to move on and get my career going somewhere else, which thankfully happened at Wellington Phoenix. It was disappointing to leave home, but it-s turned out to be a great move because I-m really enjoying myself and the vibe and atmosphere around Wellington.

The team-s had a couple of good results, has the season turned around now?
Well, we hope so. We-ve taken a few steps in the right direction that-s for sure. The win against Sydney did get us back on track, but it-s only a stepping stone to where we want to be – we need to keep building on it.

Morale must have been low after the loss to Perth Glory in round five. What-s changed in the camp since then?
Not much has changed really; we had a few discussions and let a few things out of the bag. Some players gave their opinion and it hit home to other players. It showed on the pitch and we all realised that we-re in it together. It-s just one of those things and it could all go to waste if we don-t continue to build on it – it-s important to look forward rather than to look at those first five games.

What-s it like in the team environment when you have these frank discussions? How do players respond to constructive criticism?
Everyone responds differently. Those times are going to happen to everyone at some point in their career and it is how you respond. To be fair to the boys, everyone-s responded really well, training hasn-t been better for the last three weeks than it has been all season, so some buttons have been pushed in the right places, so it-s been good.

Morale must be pretty good in the camp right now then?
It is quite good, but we know we-re halfway from where we want to be at this point in time – in the ladder and points-wise.

Every team will say a top four berth is realistic, but is it achievable, if you-re being honest?
If I-m honest? Yes. We started off the pre-season with that in mind and it hasn-t changed – our self belief is still there and you can-t just crumble after a few bad performances and the last two games have showed that. It is an achievable task, because with 14 games left we-re four points away, and you can-t say that other teams won-t have a spell of three or four games where they don-t get any points or just a few. We-ve got to play every team twice again so it-s all positive. We can-t look at what other people are doing, we-ve just got to worry about ourselves. If we put a run together we-ll be up there regardless of what happens in the other games, and being in touching distance means you-ve always got a chance.

Do you think Phoenix making the top four would be a bit of a shock given the start you-ve made this season?
Yes. There were a lot of people waiting to see how we go and it seemed as though it was destined to be like last year, but we-re here to change all that and put a stop to people thinking like that – and that-s great motivation for us.

Your next opponents, Queensland Roar, had two great results recently. Did you watch their games at Melbourne and Sydney to see what to expect from a team that-s improved since you played them in round one?
Definitely. For me, they-re one of the better football-playing sides and they-re extremely busy. They-re a difficult team to play against because their energy is immense, the win against Melbourne and the last-minute draw with Sydney is obviously going to have them running around with their tails up, but we hope they come here and expect the three points, because they-re definitely not going to have an easy game.

Who-s the toughest opponent you-ve come up against in the A-League?
[Long pause…] It-s hard to say… I couldn-t tell you. I-m not going to put anyone-s name down – it-ll give them the nod on me next time I play them!