RICKI HERBERT has quit as coach of the Wellington Phoenix, saying he wants to focus on the All Whites and help them qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
Amid mounting speculation, the A-League club, currently bottom of the table, said they had accepted his decision and had offered him an advisory role.
Herbert said it time for a change at the club and he wanted new challenges.
“The results this year have not been what anyone would have wanted and I felt that it was time for someone else to take a fresh look at things at the club,” Fairfax NZ reported him as saying.
“The coaching staff and players have all put in a huge effort this year but we haven’t got the results we wanted.
“I’ve had a long and very successful tenure at the club and will always be proud of what I have achieved. But all good things must come to an end and it’s time for new coaching blood and for me to move on to new and exciting challenges.”
Club chairman Rob Morrison said:
“While the Board accepted Ricki’s resignation we were keen to ensure that his knowledge and expertise was not lost,” Morrison said.
“Ricki has an unparalleled record in the Hyundai A-League. Without his contribution the Phoenix could not have had the success it has had.”
Assistant coach Chris Greenacre will take over the head coaching role until the end of the season.
Fairfax columnist and former All White Danny Hay said his departure was inevitable, but could pay dividends for the national team.
“It’s bamboozled me that he has stayed in the job so long given the mediocrity of the results. It was inevitable,” Hay said.
“The writing was on the wall when the owners came out and raised questions publicly over the style of football that was being played.
“They were asking – or forcing – Ricki to change his style of coaching. The [possession] game they were seeking isn’t a strength of his or his players.”
The All Whites are likely to win the Oceania World Cup qualification series, before facing a home and away tie with a Central American, North American or Caribbean side to earn a place in Brazil.
“I don’t think it was humanly possible to do both jobs properly, especially now with so many of our top players in different parts of the world,” Hay said.
“And a coach of professional club [like the Phoenix] is a 24-7 job, 12 months of the year.”
Herbert had led the club since its inception in the 2007-08 season.
After finishing last and sixth in the first two seasons, they made the play-offs for three straight years.
They have struggled this season and are last of 10 teams.