Merrick releases five Phoenix players

June 8, 2013

Five off-contract Wellington Phoenix players have missed out on being offered new A-League deals by incoming coach Ernie Merrick.

Tony Lochhead, Alex Smith, Dani Sanchez, Jimmy Downey and Lucas Pantelis are gone.

Merrick is keen to see more of Ian Hogg, who had a short-term contract with the Phoenix at the end of last season, before reaching a decision on his future with the club.

Pantelis was hampered by injury during his two-season stint, not making a single A-League appearance after suffering a serious knee injury in a pre-season game in 2011.

Downey was also dogged by injury during his two-year spell with the Wellington club, managing only seven appearances.

Lochhead is the Phoenix's most capped player, with 130 games to his credit, and the club's general manager David Dome said the decision to let the All Whites' fullback go wasn't made lightly.

"We have a new head coach coming in, and he has definite ideas about the way the team will play and Tony didn't quite fit in with those plans," Dome said.

Smith and Sanchez, who made 42 and 41 appearances respectively, were both classed as imports and their release will give Merrick flexibility when it comes to signing overseas players.

The Phoenix finished 10th and last on the A-League ladder this year, in a tumultuous season which resulted in long-time coach Ricki Herbert's resignation late in February.

Assistant coach Chris Greenacre took over for the last five games of the season, but opted not to apply for the top position, which was filled by former Melbourne Victory coach Merrick.

Merrick last month signed a two-year deal with an option for a third at Wellington, while Greenacre will continue as assistant coach.