Doubters fuelling Phoenix bid for A-League Men trophy

Ben McKay |

Superstitious coach Giancarlo Italiano doesn’t want to hear about or see the ALM trophy just yet.
Superstitious coach Giancarlo Italiano doesn’t want to hear about or see the ALM trophy just yet.

From pre-season predictions of the wooden spoon to possibly winning the A-League Men premiership on Saturday, Wellington Phoenix have had a picture of a bespectacled Central Coast fan stuck to their locker room wall.

Unbeknown to him, Lachlan Raeside, who runs the ‘Coast Watch Football’ YouTube channel and podcast, has been inside the Phoenix inner sanctum on their unlikely title push.


Because Raeside caught coach Giancarlo Italiano’s eye as one of many who tipped his Wellington side to finish last.

“It’s a constant reminder of what people think of us,” he said.

“A little reminder every day of how people quickly forget how good our players are.

“They want to prove a lot of people wrong, all the people that tipped us to be last, and show them what we’re made of.”

Raeside’s influence among Phoenix players belies his media footprint: “watchalongs” or post-match reviews typically garner a viewcount in the hundreds.

Italiano said there was no bad blood with the YouTuber – in fact he’d reached out to offer respect from the Kiwi club.

But their use of the little-known would-be media personality as a driving force towards a first-ever piece of silverware shows the Phoenix are being fuelled by doubters.

“I’ve bookmarked people’s pre-season predictions,” Italiano said.

In fairness, there were plenty of reasons to doubt Wellington on season’s eve.

The departure of Ufuk Talay gave Italiano, a former analyst in his first senior coaching role, the reins at a club which had chosen not to replace a number of senior players, instead playing the kids. 

Captain Alex Rufer also brought up the Nix’s dire pre-season outlook, unprompted, on Friday.

“At the start of the year we were tipped to be wooden spooners and now we’re fighting for it (title),” he said.

“We believed in ourselves. Every player believed in ourselves. We knew what we could do. We knew what we were capable of.”

“It’s come together really nicely and we want to win tomorrow night and we want to win the league.”

It could all come together for Wellington on Saturday night when they host Macarthur FC, with sole title rival Central Coast in action at the same time against rivals Newcastle Jets.

Wellington are a point clear of the Mariners, who have a catchup game next Wednesday at home to Adelaide, which means the Nix will win the club’s first trophy in their 17-year history if they and the Jets win.

Any other combination of results will mean Central Coast triumph, or have the chance to do so against United.

With that in mind, the A-League has sent the Premiers Plate across the Tasman with Macarthur, in case Wellington triumph.

Italiano, a deeply superstitious man, said he didn’t like the juju of the silverware being so close.

“I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to know about it and I don’t want my players to know about it. It’s bad luck,” he said.

“I don’t like tempting fate. It’s almost like kryptonite.”

Italiano has a full squad available, with star striker Oskar Zawada to start from the bench as he works back from a serious thigh injury.

Macarthur will be without Kiwi Tommy Smith, who was sent off in their last-out 1-0 win over Sydney FC, but can count on Ivan Vujica after his red card was rescinded.

The Bulls, finals-bound in fourth but beaten twice by the Nix already this campaign, also get Jake Hollman back from Olyroos duty.