Wellington Phoenix boss Mark Rudan has defended his game plan. Picture: Getty
Wellington Phoenix boss Mark Rudan has defended his game plan. Picture: Getty

‘Disrespectful’ Ernie Merrick blasted by Phoenix coach

NEWCASTLE coach Ernie Merrick might have earned another A-League coaching foe after Wellington boss Mark Rudan labelled a critique of his side's structure "disrespectful".

The maligned Phoenix have started the season admirably, with a win, a draw and a loss positioning them mid-table ahead of Friday's clash with Melbourne City.

Rudan's defensive 5-2-3 system has still come under fire, though, with Merrick doubting its merits when the side concedes an early goal.

"They had a lot of fight in them," Merrick said following the Jets' opening-round 2-1 loss to the Phoenix last month.

"The problem is, if you play like that when you're down a goal, it makes life very difficult.

"You've got to change your whole mindset and play much more attacking football and commit forward."

The former Phoenix coach's premonition came to life last weekend when Western Sydney went ahead early and finished 3-0 winners.

Merrick is already engaged in a long-running stoush with Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat, with the pair blaming each other last weekend when asked post-game why they didn't shake hands.

Rudan is still bugged by the critique and may now be in the queue with Muscat after labelling Merrick's remarks disrespectful and lacking context.

"People are talking about us being a certain type of team ... (but) everyone's compact when they don't have the ball," Rudan said on Thursday.

"When you pass comment, make sure you have a look right across the board, not just us.

"It was a coach we'd just beaten, who'd been here for three years and I thought that was somewhat disrespectful."

Despite saying he wouldn't pass comment on Merrick, Rudan couldn't resist a cheeky dig at the man who took the Jets within one win of last year's title.

"I thought our tactics were much better than theirs (in round one), to be fair," he said.

"Perhaps if you were talking about a championship-winning coach (criticising you), then I'd say OK."