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Phoenix facing mammoth rebuild in early test for Talay

07:23 GMT+3 13/06/2019
Ufuk Talay Wellington Phoenix
Can Wellington recover after losing their coach and a number of star players?

After a season of resurgence under Mark Rudan, Wellington Phoenix find themselves virtually at square one again after a turbulent start to their off-season.

With coach Mark Rudan departing the club for Western United, a number of key players have quickly followed him out the door.  

From reigning Johnny Warren medalist Roy Krishna and star foreign keeper Filip Kurto to long-serving captain Andrew Durante, the Nix squad is currently hanging by a thread with just 10 players contracted to the side as it stands.

All the more remarkable is the fact new coach Ufuk Talay has already made three signings in the form of Stefan Marinovic, Walter Scott and Jaushua Sotirio. 

The former Sydney FC assistant has been thrown in the deep end at Wellington and must swim quickly to ensure the Phoenix don't regress after a season of promise. 

Not only did the club perform on the pitch, reaching the finals for the first time in four years, but they enjoyed tangible success off it, pulling in a record crowd in Auckland with TV ratings across New Zealand also rising.

But all that progress can quickly fade in the rearview should the Nix struggle to back it up next season with Talay facing a serious early test of his coaching credentials.

With both Krishna and David Williams leaving the club, Wellington have lost two players that contributed 30 goals between them last season. While Durante's departure leaves a leadership hole that will take some filling. 

Arriving at the Nix on cloud nine after serving as Steve Corica's right-hand man as the Sky Blues won the championship last season, Talay has been quickly brought down to earth and can't shy away from the reality of life across the ditch.

The long-rumoured signing of All Whites shot-stopper Marinovic is a solid base for him to build on but that merely marks the start of a flood of signings that will have to be made.

Scott and Sotirio's arrivals might not be too exciting but it's a sign Talay is eager to invest in younger talent rather than recycled A-League names with both former Young Socceroos. 

Having seen how important good recruitment was at Sydney FC, Talay is fully aware how important it is he gets it right.

"Football is about recruitment. I think 70 per cent goes to recruitment and the other 30 per cent is motivational side of things and also tactical side of things," Talay said last month.

"There's a lot of spots we're looking at at the moment; a central defender, a midfielder, 10s and nines as well, guys who are going to score goals and win us games.

"But we're in no rush to sign players. We're not going to jump at every player that is thrown at us. I look at it as a good thing where I can build a team on the way I want to play the game and what the game looks like to me.

"Players need to fit into what I believe the game looks like. We're not going to sign players for the sake of them being good players."

While he's no rush to fill the significant holes left behind by key players, just how Talay goes about filling them in the coming months will be defining for both the club and the coach.