Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay says greater freedom is making a difference as his team prepares for an A-League season wholly on Australian soil.
The Phoenix have relocated to Wollongong in NSW for the 2020-21 A-League season due to the closure of the international border between Australia and New Zealand.
While still hopeful the trans-Tasman border may reopen next year and allow the Phoenix to return to Wellington, Talay believes his team won’t be pining for the comforts of home over the coming months.
It’s the second time this year the Phoenix have had to move temporarily to Australia due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Unlike last season though, the Wollongong move includes families and partners and separate accommodation, something which Talay says has been of great benefit.
“We had a three-week pre-season camp and now the players have all moved into their places where they’re going to be living whilst we play the season in Australia,” the ex-Sydney FC midfielder said.
“There was a little bit more normality to it than it what it was previously when we were confined to a hotel and the training ground and then a stadium.
“That has helped.
“We’re not on top of each other and people have got their own spaces.”
The Phoenix will kick off their season away to Brisbane on December 29, with their first match at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium being against Talay’s old club – defending champions Sydney FC – on January 2.
Mexican playmaker Ulises Davila and All Whites goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic are expected to join the squad after completing their quarantine periods in coming days, while Talay also hinted the club is set to sign one more overseas player before the season’s start.
He also said the ability to play four pre-season friendlies against A-League opposition next month was another unexpected benefit to the team’s Australian relocation.
“This is probably a little bit easier with the amount of A-League teams in NSW, so I’m hoping it’ll be a better preparation.”