Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay has made a massive selection call and will play Gary Hooper in the upcoming game against Brisbane Roar.
Hooper is the Nix’s marquee forward but hasn’t completed a game yet as the Kiwi side have lost four games and drawn one in their opening five fixtures.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the game, which was broadcast via YouTube on the official club channel, Talay said that ‘you have to take calculated risks with players’.
“He plays an important role for the team for us, I’m not sure if he is ready to play a half for us. The plan was to get him some game time, we’ll build him back up,” continued the manager.
With 199 career goals from 456 appearances, the 31-year-old striker should provide plenty of ammunition for the struggling Wellington side. But getting him fit and ready has been ‘frustrating’ for the team. He scored while playing 45 minutes against Melbourne City during the 3-1 loss and everyone will be keen to see more from Hooper.
He was released by Sheffield Wednesday in July and only joined the Phoenix in October, meaning Hooper missed out on a large chunk of pre-season.
A massive game
The Phoenix are at risk of being separated from the rest of the A-League pack and this is something the manager recognised as he labelled the match as ‘like a final’.
“We need to win the game, we need to get three points to stay with the group,” said Talay.
Brisbane are also struggling and have just one win from their five games this season. Former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler is their new manager and tasted victory for the first time against Melbourne City.
Fowler oversaw an incredible turnaround as they went 3-1 down before winning 4-3 and they certainly won’t be an easy opponent to face.