Former Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick will coach the Wellington Phoenix for the next two seasons, it was announced on Monday.
Merrick replaces foundation coach Ricki Herbert who was forced out after taking the A-League’s only New Zealand-based team to three consecutive finals series prior to their disappointing 2012-13 campaign.
Merrick, who was most recently in charge of the Hong Kong national side, is the A-League’s most successful coach.
The Scotsman won two premierships, two championships and made three grand finals in his six-year stint in charge of the Victory.
Merrick has an option for a third year in his deal with Wellington and said he was looking forward to the challenge.
“My coaching philosophy has always been about winning. That’s what I will be bringing to the Phoenix,” he said.
“I’m also happy to be back in the A-League.
“I had six years at Victory but this is a new challenge entirely. It is unusual for one team to represent a country and it presents me with a great challenge.
“There is great potential at the club and there must be a lot of talented young players in New Zealand to draw on.
“I focused on producing young players at the Victoria Institute of Sport and at Melbourne Victory, and one of my most important roles at the Phoenix will be to provide input into the type of structure that will groom up and coming players for the first team.”
Wellington Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison was rapt to have secured the services of two-time A-League coach of the year Merrick.
“Ernie has an unrivalled record in the A-League,” Morrison said.
“His 12 years at the Victoria Institute of Sport, as well as his work with Melbourne Victory youth, demonstrates a proven track record in developing youth and bringing them through to the first team, something which is a core strategic pillar of the Phoenix.
“He also fully understands the long-term strategy the club is implementing and is supportive of that approach.
“Ernie’s presentation showed that he has all the skills to lead the Phoenix to the top of the A-League.
“His clearly articulated football philosophy and attention to detail was strongly underpinned by his sports science skills and that gave him a unique combination of attributes. His skill set definitely gave him a distinct edge.
“Another plus was that his knowledge of the A-League and its players is exceptional.”