Phoenix lock in Merrick long-term

Wellington Phoenix have rewarded coach Ernie Merrick with a long-term contract after he successfully steered the club into title contention.

Merrick and assistant coach Chris Greenacre put pen to paper on three-year contracts on Thursday with a commitment to continue the Kiwi club’s footballing revolution.

An A-league title-winning coach with Melbourne Victory, Merrick said he had thoroughly enjoyed the past 20 months and had made the “easy decision” to stay long term.

“The club is stable, financially sound and ambitious,” Merrick said.

“The energetic staff are great to work with and we have a great squad of players.

“The brand of football we are playing is a credit to the players, and the young guns coming through our reserve team and Academy will add to the attacking flair.

“We have something special here in Wellington and I want to continue to be a part of it.

“I appreciate the opportunity I have been given by the board.”

Once criticised for their dour defensive football, Phoenix have been a revelation this season – creative in attack and now with their first shot at honours - thanks in large part to a Merrick masterminded turnaround.

They currently sit in fourth spot on the A-league ladder, equal on points with Victory (second) and Adelaide United (third) and just three points off league leaders Perth Glory.

In a sign of their title credentials they defeated the pundits favourite, Victory, 3-2 at AAMI park on Sunday.

Greenacre, a popular player with Phoenix fans before turning his hand to coaching, said he was absolutely delighted to be given a long term contract.

“I am also so pleased that Ernie is staying for that time because it has been great working with him,” Greenacre said.

“Everyone on the staff has learnt from him and hopefully I’ve proved my worth as a coach.”

Greenacre admitted that it was hard to hang up his boots but has never regretted it.

“All players wish they could play on forever but the reality is that you have to stop some time,” he said.

“It was a career choice and hopefully I am on a long road in coaching.”

Chairman Rob Morrison said the two signings were significant for the Wellington Phoenix Football Club.

“One of the key objectives for the board and the ownership group was to create a stable operating platform for the club,” Morrison said.

“Without stability off the field you cannot hope to be successful on the field, so the board is delighted that Ernie and Chris have bought into the club’s vision and signed long-term contracts.

“Ernie has been instrumental in establishing the attractive, possession-based style of attacking football that we wanted when we first signed him.

“His influence throughout the club has been immense, so keeping Ernie at the club was a priority for the board and having done so we all look forward to exciting times ahead, not least of which is the run into the finals this season.”