Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick. DAVID MARIUZ

Phoenix players admit guilt in Merrick exit

FOOTBALL: A highly emotional Andrew Durante has choked back tears as he relived the moment Ernie Merrick resigned as Wellington Phoenix coach.

The Phoenix skipper sat alongside his now former mentor at a media conference at the club's training base and admitted the players had let Merrick down.

"At the end of the day the coach takes the full brunt of poor performances - we know that - but we have to accept that we are responsible for this,” Durante said.

"He's been a great coach and role model for me, a great mentor, and we let him down. We need to accept that. The players have to own this.”

Durante described the shock in the playing group when Merrick broke the news of his resignation after Sunday's loss to Adelaide United.

"The players' reaction was silence. No one said anything. (We) were trying to take it in and trying to understand what was going on. When Ernie left the room, Mossy (Glen Moss) stood up and said 'this is on us', and it is.”

Merrick revealed he had offered to resign after the Phoenix suffered their fourth straight defeat to start the season, a 6-1 thumping by Melbourne Victory, but was talked out of it by chairman Rob Morrison.

"I told Rob I'd give it another three or four weeks and see (if) we can turn (things) around but it hasn't really turned around so I stood by the decision,” the former Melbourne Victory coach said.

"The team is not where they should be. We've got a really good squad, we've got a good staff and we're near the bottom of the league.

"I've got to take full responsibility for that, so I decided to step down.

"I feel the job is three-quarters done. I'm happy with what I achieved. I'm unhappy with the results on the park.

"I feel as though it's the right time and someone else can come in. I've done my bit here. It wasn't an easy decision but I've made it and I'll stick by it.”

Assistant coaches Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham will be in charge for at least Saturday's game against the Central Coast Mariners in Hamilton and probably the match against Western Sydney in Auckland on December 17.


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