Coach Ernie Merrick goes to market to re-shape Phoenix

New Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick wants a new striker, midfielder and left-back for his squad, while also revealing star attacker Carlos Hernandez is still 'on the beach'

New Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick will cast his net wide as he looks to complete his roster for the A-League season ahead.

Merrick released five players - Tony Lochhead, Alex Smith, Dani Sanchez, Jimmy Downey and Lucas Pantelis - on Monday, and has already earmarked another striker, midfielder and left-back as positions he wants to fill.

The signing of Carlos Hernandez, who is due to join his new team-mates next Wednesday but is still "lying on the beach in Costa Rica", takes up one of the vacant import spots, with Merrick saying the other was likely to either be the striker or midfielder.

"We'll certainly cast the net wide. We won't restrict in any of those positions but you would think it would be good to keep options open for a foreigner for those two key roles," said the Scotsman, who won two titles with Melbourne Victory but most recently coached Hong Kong.

"When we think of foreigners most people think of South American, Central America and Europe. But I've just spent nearly a year in Asia and there is a lot of talent in Asia as well."

Of Hernandez, Merrick said: "I'm sure he'll be in pretty good shape - because he does need to have a break after playing in the Indian Premier League [with Prayag United]."

Merrick is also aware of the need to promote talent locally as well, given the emphasis Phoenix owners Welnix have placed on providing a pathway for New Zealand players.

"We forget the standard in New Zealand and Australia is very good too. My first three recruits at [Victory] were three Australians - Kevin Muscat, Danny Allsopp and Archie Thompson," said Merrick.

"Not only were they three Australians they were three Victorians. That's the way you engage with the community."

Merrick will not be attending the Under-20s World Cup in Turkey but will be keeping a close eye on the Australia and New Zealand teams' progress as well as some of the Asian sides.

"I would have liked to have been over there but I've just got too much to do," he said. "We'll have people looking on our behalf. We're trying to set up a bit of a scouting network world wide. I've got a range of people who have been helping me in the past who have found players in Costa Rica, Scotland etc."

Luke Rowe and Ian Hogg, when he has recovered from an ankle injury, will get the first shot at earning a contract and the left-back role previously held by Lochhead.

But Merrick is keen to get plenty of young players in to train with the squad over the coming weeks as well.

"The ideal way is getting them down and playing with us - not just a trial or one-off match - but getting them in training on a regular basis," he explained.

"We've got the budget to do that. Luke is here. Ian Hogg is injured but he'll be coming down as well.

"Hopefully there will be a considerable number of boys over time - New Zealanders in particular - who will get a chance to do that."

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