July 04, 2015 12:22:40 UK
Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick is taking the positives out of Nathan Burns’ departure to Japan.
The Socceroo has confirmed his move to FC Tokyo after a stellar season in which he won the Johnny Warren Medal and earned a recall to the national side.
Merrick says he’d known for several months that the team’s leading scorer last season was likely to move on, so the club have had enough time to prepare for his departure.
And the transfer fee the Phoenix have earned will likely allow them to bring in two players for next season as they look to move to the next level.
We’ve got an import spot and now we’ve got some money, so we might even go for two players.
Wellington led the table with four rounds to go, only to slip to an eventual fourth-place finish and see their campaign end with a dismal 2-0 home exit in the first week of the finals.
The Phoenix are 11.00 to win the Grand Final next season.
“We’ve got an import spot and now we’ve got some money, so we might even go for two players but we’ve got to sign a key player out of those two and maybe a backup player,” said the coach.
“We’ve been working on it for several months but we’ve been looking for the most difficult players to source worldwide; everyone wants a striker and a goal-scorer.”
Merrick said considering Burns was the only high-profile player the team had lost since the end of last season, they were not in a bad position.
There could be a levelling of the playing field next season, with Golden Boot winner Marc Janko having left Sydney FC and double winners Melbourne Victory selling skipper Mark Milligan.
The fact that the club had success last season has helped them when it comes to recruitment this time around, said Merrick.
He added: “We have found that that has improved out of sight this off-season, judging by the number of agents talking to us about Australian players that want to come here as well as overseas players.”
The Phoenix are 1.83 to win their first match of the season against Newcastle Jets, who are 3.60 with the draw 3.75.
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