Top Menu

Phoenix pitch invasionGareth Morgan

When a pitch invasion is not a pitch invasion

Phoenix pitch invasion

The far-fetched and in fact totally invented article from the Dominion post

I have been in the media a stack over the last week talking about the Wellington Phoenix and yesterday I had an interview with Brendon Telfer from RadioSport.

It was a great interview and we covered quite a few topics including the team’s playing style, spending money on players, player development and my approach to running the business.

Another topic that is also discussed is the far-fetched and in fact totally invented article from the Dominion post on my “pitch invasion”. This article is coming from the same writer who I criticised in a piece I wrote the other day about the overly negative reporting coming out of the Dominion Post. The papers desire for scandal in sport is seriously compromising its objectivity – frankly I’d call it a joke in this area.

The first part of the interview below deals with what I was doing at training.

As usual I welcome constructive comments from the Phoenix fans and will do my best to answer questions.

  • Patrick Barnes

    While I do agree that your presence at training has been blown completely out of proportion, I think it would be great if you could clarify a few things for us, without the media twisting what you say to suit their agendas. My questions are as follows:

    1) How much of the decision to adjust the playing style was down to Ricki, and how much of it was from Welnix? Who was the first to suggest that a new playing style was needed?

    2) How was this decision communicated to the players? Were they involved in the process or was it forced on them after Ricki and Welnix had finished deciding that a new playing style is needed?

    3) Why was it decided to change the playing style in the middle of the season, when our previous playing style looked like it was going to get us into our fourth straight playoffs, from which we would just need to win three games in a row to win the Championship?

    4) In hindsight, do you think it would have been wiser to adjust the playing style in the coming off-season, when Ricki would have time to recruit players to suit this new style?

    I’m not trying to be critical here, I just feel as though many of the facts surrounding this change have been mis-represented by the media.

    • Gareth Morgan

      Hi Patrick,

      Here are some answers for you.

      1) When doing a strategic overview of all issues around the future of the club, and ways to ensure its viability long term, the issue of on-field performance – which is at the core of the product offering came up. There is a wide range of issues that pertain to that – for example marquees, youth, coaches, player contract terms, playing style. Rather than deal with each of those in isolation we backed off and asked the question – where we are aiming for in terms of average finishing position – is 4th or 6th satisfactory? The consensus was no.

      The next question in the stream of logic is what do we need to improve that? We ruled out buying marquee players very early in that discussion as it isn’t seen as a lasting solution and only a lasting solution can steer the club to robust financial health. If we get our fundamentals right then yes success begets success and marquees become a sensible activity. When the question of playing style arose there was a consensus that the A League in general is developing its styles as the standard of football improves and we need to stay abreast of that. So style development toward a more possession-oriented game was discussed and agreed.

      The Football committee comprises some of the owners, Noah Hickey and Mark Chote from our Advisory Group, and Ricki. Decisions are reached by consensus. Your question of how much came from who is impossible to answer, the issues are discussed and the consensus reached, sometimes immediately sometimes after chewing it over for months. That’s the nature of business.

      2) I can’t answer this question as it is Ricki’s domain as coach. But given it’s been an evolutionary rather than revolutionary process and will continue to be I would doubt very much whether the coach suddenly pronounced that “from tomorrow morning we’re changing”. That isn’t and never has been what this is about.

      3) It wasn’t. That is a conclusion the press has managed to leap to all by itself. My words to Tony Veitch were – I don’t know if anyone has noticed by the style has been changing – I was referring to this year compared to previous. So your conclusion that we have been playing as per a previous style this year at all is erroneous.

      4) The adjustment is an evolutionary thing and will take a number of years, it hasn’t just been foisted on anyone. This is where the popular conclusion based on the somewhat fertile imaginations of a few gossip columnists trying to create news, has come from.

      Peter, I can understand your despair. We have some great sports journos out there – Veitch, Telfer, Pine just to name a few. But then there’s the lesser lights – those so keen to please their bosses and desperate to get an edgy story that they make things up. Sam Worthington at the Dom Post is what I’d call a gossip columnist and I have little time for such lightweights. He turns up to training and unilaterally decides I’m running it. Hilarious really, I’d be flattered if his agenda wasn’t so poisonous – I have written about him before.

      There were 2 owners there, I was standing between two separate training sessions watching each one in turn. I had been embedded in the football side of things for about a week trying to get a better understanding of the needs of that department, in particular on that particular day video facilities at training. And then, believing his colleagues invented theory about what I was doing, some other tosser the Dom Post employs goes on about what “bad form” it is for owners to be on the training field. Really you’d think we were still in the days of the British class system where owners stick to lounges and look down on their property as if still Lords of the Manor. Ghastly, arrogant values like that have no place in my repertoire. But anything for some more column inches I giuess.

      • Patrick Barnes

        Thanks Gareth, your answers help provide an insight into how the media have reported this, and has shown where they have changed what actually occurred. I fully respect you for welcoming questions and opinions from the public, and responding to them. Thanks!

      • David Millington-Marsh

        Gareth, the change in style was marked. About 6 weeks ago the attemp to play possession football began from the usual direct approch. It was noticable from one game to the next. I can understand that you may have had the discussion with Ricki and the other owners and a concensus was reached but how do you explain the 442 aritcle today where Brockie says the players fouind out about the change via your media release, and then the coach discussing it with them the next day?

    • Mike Smith

      “2) How was this decision communicated to the players? Were they involved
      in the process or was it forced on them after Ricki and Welnix had
      finished deciding that a new playing style is needed?” – Forced on them? Not sure I follow you here Patrick. Players are, like any other employee, at the direction of management.

  • Jewey21

    Looks like a different reporter from the one you wrote about the other day to me. This one is a former All White.

    • Mike Smith

      Who is the former AW?

  • Andrew Millar

    Hi Gareth, awesome you are showing some passion for the side, just as all the fans are a passionate bunch. We all want to see the Nix succeed on and off of the field.

    I have a few other questions for you:

    1 – Will you and the other owners be accepting if the side doesn’t make the playoffs, but the on field performances show signs of moving in the right direction?

    2- I think a lot of fans are looking at Ricki’s job and saying his time is up. I definitely think he is an asset to NZ football and should be kept within the club. You mentioned in your radio interview that you believed Ricki will be head coach for the next few years, although the time will come eventually where he will have to leave, and my question to you is: Just as you are looking to promote young kiwi players into the nix system, will you want to do the same for the coaching staff? Is there a direct pathway for coaches in this country to go to the top level? I guess I’m asking whether you would go for an international coach with top experience, or look locally for kiwi coaching talent.

    • Gareth Morgan

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for the questions

      1) Yes. Of course we want to make the playoffs and do the absolute max to get close to winning the thing as possible. But if the reason we don’t is because we haven’t perfected what we’re trying to do in terms of style, then as long as the progress is tangible that will be viewed as the cost of transition.

      2) We totally want a pathway for coaches and that to involve the Nix – we are establishing close links with Team Wellington and the Miramar club and we will extend those links to other clubs around NZ over coming months. This will provide pathways for coaches. Whether the next coach of the Phoenix is homegrown or imported only time will tell. We will conduct an open, contestable process for the best person. At present of course we have a coach and he is fully committed to the strategy. He is invaluable to us.

  • Dave Richardson

    I think anyone that seriously follows the Phoenix is well aware of the pocket of doom and gloom reporting – I mean we don’t call it the “Doom Post” for nothing. Personally I read a lot of what they write and find it laughable but it’s sad to think what those with little knowledge of the team take away from such articles.

    Building a crowd numbers (and more importantly a successful team) when the media is against you is no easy task so I certainly don’t envy that. Rest assured however not everyone believes the nonsense they are publishing but it sure can’t be helping us convert those fringe fans we so dearly need to start getting their wallets out!

  • Ernie The Chicken

    A chance to have my questions answered by my boss! I’d have to be a dodo to pass that up so here goes:

    1. How on earth did I end up looking so much like a chicken? Clearly I’d be more bad ass if my buddy Dick Taylor had been involved.

    2. What are the chances like of whipping up a beautiful bird to keep me company? The nest gets a bit lonely at nights with just Tansley to keep me warm.

    3. How much importance do my weekly #TurkeyTuesday awards play in starting line-up decisions? Or are they only used at a board level for contract renewals?

    I also seem to have made an enemy in the Fever zone – my flock inform me he is named “Peter” and has taken the name of a mighty bird as his surname – can you provide me with additional bodyguards to avoid future fights breaking out in malls and on bus rooftops?

    • Gareth Morgan

      Thanks for asking Ernie

      1) Richard Taylor did offer to create a version which flies around the stadium and shoots flames out of its arse but that got shelved when 2 children got badly charred during the prototype testing.

      2) You seem to be cocky enough without any help. Maybe you could go pluck yourself?

      3) Following your lead would make as much sense as turkeys voting for Christmas

      4) As soon as we can afford body guards I might need them to protect me!!!

      • Nixie The Mascot

        Gareth, who is this imposter?

        • Gareth Morgan

          No idea Nixie, I think they say imitation is the highest form of flattery though

          • Ernie The Chicken

            A little birdie told me I cause a few giggles around the club rooms and Nix back office so more than happy to spread the cheer to the board room table as well.

            Just let me know if you do end up needing those #TurkeyTuesday tallies for renewals – although at this stage the MRP are well ahead of any player!

  • Benjamin de Geest

    Totally agree Gareth. Your presence was totally blown out of proportion and I have no issue with it. Writing notes furiously or not!

    You mentioned your surprise at the mentality of football. It’s something you pick up fairly fast whenever your monitoring player performances (for fantasy football and the like).
    It definitely seems to be an issue with our lads at the moment

  • Joseph Smith

    Hi Garet. I just like to coment about what you said ” I don’t think there’s anybody in N.Z football that’s got as much Knowledge and skill as that man. How do u know that? if you never give the chance. I’m a former player from Chile I been here for almost 12 years I’got my diplomas(FiFa sytem) and International England course. I give my C.V in person at Newtown and I never recived some aswer when Phoenix appointed for assiten coach. I sent my C.V to 2 club in Australia and they give an aswer. I’m come from the futbool culture,I have a lot of experience, but nobody give the chance to listen and see u C.V. I believe the about the success of the ppl comes from within,not from without. And football is part of my blood. If u answer. great if not great too.
    Jose Quijada.

    • Mike Smith

      Jose, this is not an uncommon comlaint in NZ football. There are a series of coaches reagrded as IN and the rest of us as OUT. A friend who, on paper at least, is the best qualifed person in NZ, applied for a particular role at NZ Football. He got no reply!!

  • Jonathan Norman

    Hi Gareth, given your answers to Patrick regarding the fact that a change in style was a decision made by Ricki, the board and the owners together, do you think it was a mistake to give the interview to Tony Veitch you refer to above, which implied that the stylistic changes had come from the top and was being imposed mid-season?

    I know you’re saying this is evolution rather than revolution but at best the message that’s been put out to the media on this issue is mixed, and has completely muddied the waters regarding what is acceptable regarding performances. The media cannot all be blamed for this.

    Is RH being judged as a coach on his ability to win football matches, or to coach the team in a style that suits your image of the club? And considering he appears to be failing at both right now, what in your mind constitutes success and failure this year and will individuals within the Phoenix be held accountable for that?

    • Gareth Morgan

      Thanks for the question Jonathan.

      The interview with Tony covered a whole range of things Phoenix and remember it wasn’t live so Tony decided to highlight one aspect of the talk, the issue of style – which is the journo’s prerogative with a recorded interview and the interviewee knows that beforehand. From memory when he asked what we thought of the performance in the last game, were we gutted to lose, I replied of course (you’re always gutted to lose, who on earth get’s off on losing?), but I said I wasn’t sure whether many had picked up that this season we had begun to play a different style etc etc. The inference being that we might expect bumps along that road. Then the media picked it up as though it was some new dawn and off we go. I’m amazed not more football journos had already seen and reported on that – with the injection of Fenton, Totori, Boyd etc, dropping Bertos back and so on. Certainly some had but there aren’t that many around, far fewer than there are gossip columnists prancing around as wannabe sports journos and looking to invent stories if they can’t extract one from facts.

      There are no mixed messages – we are on the road to a different style, we’d love to get there making the playoffs along the way of course, the reality will be whatever happens. For the players, their focus week to week is to win, to take whatever instructions the coach has given for that week and just do it. Take last week – neither goal conceded was a result of the playing style, they were simple cock-ups or failed execution by those involved. The first half of that game and the one the week before was fantastic – any serious observer of the game would see that see that our players are bloody good professionals. Such observers should be intrigued by what’s evolving and be fascinated week to week by what the players are doing. Those whose interest goes only so far as instant gratification each match won’t be capable or interested in this process.

      Regards one’s views at the end of the season to the position on the league table – of course we want to be as high as we can and success will only be winning the thing. Until we win it it’s all work in progress. If you’re asking me personally would I regard making the playoffs a success – the answer personally is no. It would simply be a measure of how far the work in progress has advanced.

      Can’t really see any of this is that hard to get your nut around.

      I was also looking at the Yellow Fever Forum this morning and someone asked, “I wonder how the other owners feel about all this discussion?” To answer that question – If anybody knows me they know I have always been transparent and run firms with high transparency, frank discussion and am afraid of no question that the questioner has a right to know. This is not everyone’s style but it’s mine and it’s never been any different in 33 years of public engagement. And having always been like that it should hardly be a surprise except to those who don’t know me. These people are more comfortable reading journos’ made up stories no matter how crap they are. My blog is the avenue for direct discussion on all the issues I get involved in.

      • Ryan McCarvill

        I only wish this message was gotten through at the start, this whole thing has been quite the shambles and is more fuel for the Australian anti nix brigade on various football websites around the net.

        It’s good to be transparent, it’s not good for press to publish quotes out of context, so this whole thing can be laid at the feet of Tony Veitch.

  • Storm1

    Kiaora Gareth. I’ve not long returned home from taking a friend shopping. I was listening to Radio Sport with Tony #IBeatWomen Veitch and Chote left his mama watching Les Miserable, also Fred de Boring (Jong), left a 50th wedding anniversary to both speak to the #badass about YOU Gareth, and the onfield performances of the Nix.

    Both cited your appearance at the training session in question as a “distraction”. Though de Boring did add that he doesn’t have a problem with you attending training as you are an owner. Who cares what he thinks anyway.

    As far as I am concerned, distraction or not, whilst you pay the products their wages and other expenses, you can jolly well please yourself.

    They both spoke about and agreed that wanting to change the style of play during the season without relating that to the players and coach…was in my words, not appropriate.

    Chote spoke about the players contracts and seems they will be all vying for contract renewals and if performances from senior players were less than acceptable given their long time A-league experience, then their could be some senior casualties.

    As for Ricki, he is an invaluable asset to both the Nix and the All Whites there is no two ways about that. However, it can be hard to pin down exactly what anyone does, be it a coach or his/her football team, because unlike some sports the movement around the pitch is a lot more fluid in a game of football.

    Midfielders come in different packages too, and bring different qualities to a team – plus of course they are often asked to perform specific roles to support a teams overall tactics. Some are more defensive minded, whilst others prefer to get forward and attack for example.

    The two specific functions we all know in general terms of the midfield, that is dependant upon whether their team has the ball or not, is when the team has possession they will be looking to get forward and support the attack – this may well mean making runs into open spaces ready to receive the ball, and then look to create a scoring opportunity for a team mate (or even look to get into a scoring position themselves).

    When the opposition has the ball they will be looking to close down space in order to limit their options and if possible to tackle to win the ball back.

    Good midfielder’s will have excellent passing and tackling ability, combined with a good football “brain” in order to allow them to read the game and judge what is going to happen and what the best move is. They can dictate the pace of the game, and will largely determine how well (or badly) a team performs.

    By the way Gareth, I did tweet to Mr Worthington this morning and the tweet was “Dear Mr Sam Worthington, please get a life and stop #bullshitting”.

    Its great to engage with a football club owner and I thank you…Not only that you
    strike me as someone who is down to earth, calls a spade a spade and I like that.

    Cheers :)

  • mjpwelly

    Gareth, I think we learnt with 1-7 last night that Lia and Smith aren’t going to make the cut. And we saw what a quality midfield player can do (delPiero) with a couple of good players around him (Griffiths for one). Manny back next week hopefully makes a difference. But midfield of Manny, Sanchez (minimum std for A League imho and shame to be holding an import spot) and who? That’s still the ‘Nix issue.

    • Mike Smith

      It was 7-1. Sydney were the home side. If we had lost at home it would have been 1-7.

  • Jeff Vader

    Dear Gareth.

    I grant you that you have put your position out there in the media and that you are a well made man of solid financial advice. Here is a footballers school of economics that you might need to get learned on. Its not what you are going to want to hear but its an unfortunate reality.

    Other teams have marquee players. We do not. On the whole, the majority of marquee players have been value for money. Last night, you saw just what having a marquee player can do for your team and for polarising your fans. Granted that ADP is a special player the likes that this league may not see again. For 38, you have to admit, he still has it and made a few younger players last night look like amateurs. He has earned his paycheck this year in my opinion because even when Sydney has been rank awful, he has still been pretty good, save for round 1. The flip side to this is that it did cost Sydney a bit of money. Who and how it was paid for, I can’t answer you but they found the cash and made it work. They also have a Socceroo in Brett Emerton. If you have not heard of him, he was a team mate of one Ryan Nelsen (I am sure you have heard of him) and made a good name for himself in the English Premier League at Blackburn before he decided that the lights of the Opera House were more his style. Emerton is not in the same class as ADP but he is a handy footballer that performs more often than not.
    Now I know you have this whole 5 year plan about developing locals and becoming a self sustaining club and thats quite admirable. If I was the man behind it the club, I ‘d want that too. However if you have not also noticed, Sydney this month also signed Joel Griffiths. Joel too polarises fans but in that ‘I’m a bit of a dick way’. He is still a good footballer in his own right and you saw how he went last night on his 1st game back. He happened to leave a seasoned defender for dead in the 1st 10 mins of his 1st game. Not bad aye. The amazing thing with this is that Sydney could sign him, and stay under the cap.

    Where am I going with this? Well I can’t profess that this is my idea. I did read it on another thread in this forum and even I went ‘my god is it is that simple’. So lets play economics.

    You run Gareths Fruit World, which is not a bad little store but the big bad LaPaglia Fruit World up the road has more of a market share and do a better turn over because the customers feel a bit more in the ‘customer service’ area than what they receive from your store. It does happen. Now you might have a wage bill at your store of $2 million. Being an ordinary world and same same industry, you would expect that LaPaglia Fruit World would have a similar budget. For the sake of semantics, lets just say $2 million as well. Now you kinda need about 20 employees to run your store so on average you would say that the average salary of an employee at Fruit World is $100k a year. Not too shabby for a Fruit World worker I must say. Now market statistics say that the average wage for Fruit World workers is higher than that. How is it that your workers are getting an average wage but the workers at other stores are above that average and make the ‘market statistic’ average. Well its just so happens, there is a subsidy from the Don Key government that a couple of guys can be immigrants and via some shady loop holes that a Taito-Field tiler could not cover, they seem to work for ‘free’. All fruit worlds being equal you have to pay 20 guys out of $2 millions and the big bad LaPaglia Fruit World has to pay…. oh lets say 18 employees out of $2 million. Well naturally for that extra ‘average’ wage, LaPaglia Fruit World can attract a better class of employee than Gareths Fruit World because they are likely to want to earn a little more than you might pay them. I know right? People all over the world change jobs for more money! Who would have thunk it… Its a crazy thing. Because of the better class of employee, the customers get a little more love when they go into the LaPaglia Fruit World and hence why they rate highly in the ‘customer service’ section.

    Can you kinda figure where I am coming from on this Gareth? A couple of marquee players (and yes I know its a dirty word to you) can actually leave you with cap space free in case someone comes onto the market in the transfer window, or, you can spread the money a little further and get in a couple of extra players, or you kind find a better class of player because you are able to offer them an extra little bit more cash.

    I know its tough to swallow but you see when 9 teams are doing this, and 1 team is not, well…. I guess I don’t really need to spell out what happens to that 1 team that goes it alone. And there endith the lesson.

    Thank you for your attention.

  • Sthn.Jeff

    Dear Doctor Morgan

    I listened with some interest to your recent comments which were broadcast on Radio Sport this morning wherein you described Phoenix fans as a mixture of Pathetic and unsophisticated.

    Gareth, I take a great deal of umbrage with those comments. I have been a football fan now for at least 40 of my forty five years on this planet, with the first game I can recall watching, being the 1972 FA Cup final between Leeds and Arsenal. I have played football to a fairly high level in New Zealand, in both the Central Leagues and Northern Leagues before a series of injuries stopped my playing days. I have coached junior teams and now coach a senior team in Wellington. My passion for football has left me at the point where as a forty five year old I have had a total replacement of both of my knees. Two and a half weeks after that operation I was in the stand at Westpac Stadium supporting the team that you and others own but I regard as my team. That Gareth, is what ‘pathetic’ football fans do.

    I have been the holder of 4 season tickets since the second season. The only reason I was not a season Ticket holder the first year was because I was living in Queenstown at the time and simply could not get to enough games. Over the years I have bought every Shirt available, have lost count of the scarves, hats beanies and other bits of merchandise I have purchased. This is nothing unusual amongst the unsophisticated football fans. That again is what Pathetic football fans do.

    This season, I like a number of others have wandered up and down Lambton Quay, stood outside the Railway station, stood waving flags on Motorway overpasses to drum up support for the team, in an effort to bring along more fans to the game you now consider to be pathetic and unsophisticated. There are many others in the supporters group who do an immeasurable amount more. You call us Pathetic and Unsophisticated, I call it Passionate.

    Do you remember that word Gareth? I recall you using it as a reason why you and the other members of the ownership group took over the running of the Phoenix…. It was the Passion of the fans that you loved. Now you wish to use that passion as a stick to beat the major stakeholders in the club.

    I and many others, are extremely grateful for you stepping in and buying the Phoenix. I love the fact that I am able to watch professional football in my city every fortnight, although it seems you are intent on diluting that too. It is a far cry from watching Stop Out play in the National League in the mid seventies, so once again thank you for carrying on with the dream started by Terry all those years ago.

    Perhaps us Pathetic and Unsophisticated fans do not understand the “vision” you have for the club. Is that a surprise with the mixed messages that come from the club?

    Passion Gareth, is what sets apart football fans from just about any other sports fan in the world. It is passion that leads us to wrenching off our beloved Phoenix Tops from our less than athletic bodies to celebrate what we hope to be a looming win. It certainly is not the tropical Wellington Weather. It is Passion that has us singing and supporting our team to the point we can barely talk the following day. It is passion that has us travelling to Auckland and Dunedin and beyond to support our team away from the Ring of Fire.It is passion that has us wanting our team to perform week in week out. It is passion that will have us back supporting our team despite watching a humiliating performance last week.

    In summary Gareth, I think you have taken that passion to be an indication of being Pathetic and unsophisticated. Perhaps someone who has been a football supporter for more than two years would understand that.

    Yours in unsophisticated patheticness


    • Mike Smith

      Haven’t I seen this before?

  • Mike Smith

    The DomPost under Bernadette Courtney has become even more of a joke then under its previous editor. THREE pages on Lance Armstrong. TWO on Whitney Houston. NO MENTION at all of the MZ Rabaul sinking. .
    Sam is under the direction of Jonathan Milmow. Says it all!!

  • Mike Smith

    Why do interviews with the misogynist Veitch? He shoudl be persona non grata for all and everybody connected with Wellington Phoenix.