Herbert urged to look local

AS THE Wellington Phoenix battle on with a paper-thin squad, ASB Premiership coaches have called on Ricki Herbert to look at some of their men to fill the gaps.

Herbert has had to work with only 15 or 16 players for the past fortnight due to injuries and suspensions.

The club has completed its import quota so signing Kiwis or Australians on injury-cover deals to replace Lucas Pantelis, Jimmy Downey and Vince Lia is the only option for Herbert.

Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante conceded after a recent defeat that working with such a small group was draining on the team.

A Phoenix spokesman said they would have more information on the hip flexor injury to Dani Sanchez and the hamstring complaint suffered by Daniel from the trip to Brisbane after they had been examined tomorrow.

Hawkes Bay United coach Matt Chandler said there were players in the New Zealand league who could make the step up and suggested a few of the Team Wellington players who were also in the national under-20 squad could do the job.

"They've got some good young and exciting prospects and I'm very surprised some of those younger players haven't really been given an opportunity considering the dire straits the [Phoenix] squad is in," Chandler said.

"You'd think that within the league, especially the Auckland and Waitakere teams, also the provincial teams, they've got some good footballers."

Chandler also said seasoned veterans like Adam Cowan, who has played more than 120 games in the ASB Premiership and won a Chatham Cup with Wairarapa United this year, would be a perfect fit to provide the Phoenix with some depth on a short-term deal.

"He's 30, he's still one of the fittest guys I've got. I'm very, very surprised; he would be, I think, an excellent suggestion. Someone who's experienced. He's done it all [in New Zealand] ... He would be an ideal person to bring in wouldn't he?

"I think we need to be looking at that domestic market a bit more than we currently are."

Team Wellington coach Matt Calcott acknowledged it was a challenge to play in a professional environment but said there were players here who should be looked at.

New Zealand under-20 players Dakota Lucas and Luke Rowe have been impressive this season for Team Wellington, while defender James Musa was with the Phoenix last season before he was released after a couple of mixed performances.

One player who seems capable is Canterbury midfielder Aaron Clapham, who has been continually picked in Herbert-coached All Whites squads for the past two years.

Clapham's domestic coach Keith Braithwaite said there were players in the national league who warranted a professional contract.

"At the end of the day, Ricki's in charge and every coach has got opinions on players and obviously we believe Aaron Clapham's good enough to have a look at. But unfortunately he's been overlooked," he said.

There is an issue of a 30-day stand down if a player took the field for the Phoenix before they could return to their club in the New Zealand league, but the coaches spoken to by APNZ said that wouldn't be a concern.

"If Ricki came to me and asked me for a player that wouldn't even enter my mind because we want players to develop and do well," Chandler said.



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