WELLINGTON Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante believes uncertainty surrounding Jobe Wheelhouse’s future at Newcastle will bring out the best in his former teammate at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
Speculation is mounting that Wheelhouse could be on the outer at his home-town club after the Jets this week signed midfielder Zenon Caravella from Adelaide while indicating there was no rush to start negotiations with their off-contract captain.
Durante went through a similar situation with the Jets in 2008 when he was desperate to stay with the championship-winning side but was left with little option other than to accept a more lucrative deal with Wellington.
He said it ‘‘depends on the individual’’ how the pressure of playing for a contract affected performance but had no doubt it would motivate the feisty Wheelhouse.
‘‘Some people can get really frustrated by it all and go into a bit of a hole, or they can really lift and want to prove a point,’’ Durante told the Newcastle Herald yesterday
‘‘I remember when I was going through that, it just made me more determined to go out there and prove my worth and why they should keep me.
‘‘I’d imagine Jobe will be the same, so if he plays this weekend, he’ll be someone we need to watch.’’
Durante played alongside Wheelhouse for the Jets’ first three seasons and said the Toronto junior ‘‘loves nothing more than playing for Newcastle and captaining the side’’. ‘‘Obviously Jobe’s a very proud Novocastrian,’’ Durante said. ‘‘I think he’s been a fantastic servant for them.’’
But Durante said sometimes players benefited from an unwanted move.
The central defender did not want to leave Newcastle after their grand final triumph but said signing with the Phoenix had proven to be a blessing in disguise.
‘‘When I had to leave Newcastle it was sad, especially leaving a championship-winning team who could probably have gone on for a few more years and done something special,’’ he said.
‘‘But Wellington came calling and I’ve been here for five years, I’ve been the captain, and I definitely don’t regret the move. It’s been a fantastic one for me.’’
After last week’s 7-1 hammering by Sydney, which left the Phoenix last on the A-League ladder, Durante said there had been plenty of soul-searching among his teammates this week.
Stung by criticism, he was confident the real Wellington would stand up on Sunday.
‘‘If we can’t show up after a performance like last weekend, then I think there’s deeper issues at the football club,’’ he said.
‘‘But, look, character is one thing this club has always had and been built on. We’re all hurting. It’s been a tough week and the media have been all over it, and rightly so.
‘‘We’re sitting at the bottom of the table and we shouldn’t be, so I’m sure we’ll see a much better performance this week.’’
Durante said Phoenix were well aware of Newcastle’s horrendous record at the ‘‘Cake Tin’’, where the Jets have lost eight of nine games, conceding 23 goals and scoring just four.
‘‘I remember that statistic came up the last time we played them, that we’re their bogey side in the history of the competition,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve beaten them home and away the last few times we’ve played them.
‘‘That will give us that little bit of extra confidence that we need going into the game ... but the Jets will be fired up for this one, I’m sure, to try and break that hoodoo that we have over them.’’
Caravella was named yesterday in an extended 19-man squad, along with defender Taylor Regan, who has recovered from a calf injury.