Return of Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay to Wellington delayed by Covid-19 outbreak

Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay has spent countless hours over the past fifteen weeks looking into video footage of signing off potential players during his Sydney lockdown.

The Phoenix are looking for an imported attacking midfielder to replace captain Ulises Davila, another imported striker, local midfielder and local defender, and Talay has received information on nearly 300 players to consider since. the A-League 2020-21. season ended.

“I am very patient with my recruitment. In a salary cap competition, you try to make sure you have the right players because you don’t have an open checkbook where you can throw it in and sign whoever you want. We have to make sure that you find the right players, local and with visa, to join the team, ”he said.


Wellington Phoenix captain Ulises Davila, co-winner of the Johnny Warren A-League medal.

“There have been a lot of players sent, we have already had 250-300 players. I like to take my time and make sure we have the right players who have the right attributes for this role.

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“I don’t set hours but sometimes I sit in front of my computer two or three hours a day and have a list of players that we go through and comment on, if I like them or if they have certain attributes which we can work on and shape them.

“You look at certain players, they play in different formations or different philosophies, so you try to look at their attributes and see how they would fit into the way we play.

“If I like someone I’m going to go back and make sure I saw what I saw, then it’s about doing our homework on what they like, who they played with. and talk to people you trust to get the right information. “

The Phoenix are hoping to retain Israeli forward Tomed Hemed for another season, after finishing top scorer.

Darrian Traynor / Getty Images

The Phoenix are hoping to retain Israeli forward Tomed Hemed for another season, after finishing top scorer.

But while recruiting is an important part of his job as he seeks to build a team capable of fighting for the football finals next season, Talay has said he would much prefer to spend his time on the grass. to train.

The problem is that due to the latest Covid-19 outbreak in Sydney, it is currently stranded in Australia.

Talay was supposed to have arrived in Wellington last weekend, ahead of the team’s first day of preseason on July 19.

But travel restrictions between New South Wales and New Zealand have shaken the team’s preparations.

The state-to-New Zealand travel bubble was interrupted on June 23.

The Phoenixes are set to play an FFA Cup 32nd-finals game in August, but details surrounding that game, including who they’ll play and when, won’t be known until the draw is done on Thursday.

Assistant coach Giancarlo Italiano and players David Ball, Steven Taylor, Joshua Laws and Jaushua Sotirio have also been held up across the Tasman with no certainty as to when they will be allowed to fly.

With Ben Waine, Clayton Lewis, Reno Piscopo and Sam Sutton in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics – as well as academy players Ben Old and Alex Paulsen, whom Talay has confirmed will make the first team of the season. next – that leaves only a handful of players actually. in the country two weeks before the preseason.

Talay said he hopes to be back in Wellington with the Australian contingent by July 19, but awaits further guidance from the club, which is at the mercy of the New Zealand government.

“I was supposed to be there on the fourth, but unfortunately I’m not,” said Talay.

“I think the club is following the process, looking at the criteria. We’ve always locked our dates for when we’ll start and when we’ll be back and hopefully I can be there for the kick off date.

“The point is, the boys will have almost six weeks off and the more time they have off, the longer it will take to get them back to a certain point.

“The FFA Cup draw is the eighth and we are trying to get ourselves a three to four week buffer although I will not have all of my players available as we have six away players at the Olympics.”

The Phoenixes are looking for a new attacking midfielder to replace Mexican star Ulises Davila.

Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

The Phoenixes are looking for a new attacking midfielder to replace Mexican star Ulises Davila.

But instead of twiddling his thumbs on lockdown, Talay has been busy analyzing hundreds of potential players with at least four positions still up for grabs, having already signed 14 players for next season.

He said an attacking midfielder and striker was the top priority, with a replacement for late center midfielder Cameron Devlin expected to come from Australia or New Zealand, along with a new defender.

He was still hoping top scorer Tomer Hemed would sign again, but the former Israel international, who is on vacation in north Queensland, has yet to decide on his future anyway.

“The offer was made there, we had some discussions with him but nothing was settled or 100% accepted,” Talay said.

“He was a very influential player, especially towards the end of the season when we made him fitter and stronger, so I would like to keep him with Wellington Phoenix, but as you know if that doesn’t work no, we don’t wait for Tomer to make a decision.

Although a possible return of former defender Callan Elliot, who is under contract with Greek second-division club Xanthi, has been considered, Talay is also considering pushing versatile defender Tim Payne to right-back to challenge Louis Fenton. and sign a new center instead. – back to start with Taylor.

He said at the moment the preference would be to play Payne at right-back and sign a specialist center-back.

“I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to play Payney as a center-back for this coming season, so that means we have Louis and Payney stranded at right-back, and we’re still looking for a center-back. If Payney returns, we’ll look at our options for that right-back position. “

The draw for the FFA Cup will take place on Thursday evening at 9:30 p.m.

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