Widely tipped to finish bottom after a mass exodus – Wellington Phoenix is using this lack of external faith as motivation, according to captain Steven Taylor.
After losing several key pillars in the off-season – including head coach Mark Rudan and star player Roy Krishna – the Phoenix has risen from the ashes of a poor start to the season to sit in the top six after three consecutive wins.
Taylor, 33, believes the side has improved significantly since last season especially in defence, where the former Newcastle United centre-half says has been “more compact” under Ufuk Talay.
“When the A-League launched and everyone played down Wellington to finish bottom, I think hearing stuff like that put a fire in our belly to prove everyone wrong,” Taylor told FNR.
“It’s a new group of players for us and when you’ve got a new style of play to what we had last season with a manager as well getting his ideas out as well and stuck by our ideas since day one of pre-season.
“The boys are playing with a lot of confidence, from the start of the season we were playing some good football but weren’t getting the results.
“Stef [Marinovic] at the back has pulled out some fantastic saves and we haven’t been as open as last year in defence.
“This year we’ve been more compact, we had some heavy defeats last year I remember a couple of three-nils early on in the season.”
The Phoenix will travel to Melbourne to face Melbourne Victory on Saturday afternoon at AAMI Park.
This will be the side’s third trip to Melbourne this season, with their last meeting with the Victory ending in a one-all draw.
Ola Toivonen scored in all four of Victory’s meetings with the Phoenix last season, with Taylor identifying the Swedish international as the one his side has too look out for.
“This is going to be another tough game we’ve never had an easy game against the Victory,” Taylor said.
“I know they’ve had some difficult results but make no mistake they have players in that side and they can hurt you if you give them space.
“You always want to test yourself against the best players that part and parcel of pro football, I remember as young footballer growing up playing against these big names and you relish that.”