Terry Serepisos may have fallen on hard times, but he took on the Phoenix when professional football in New Zealand was at the crossroads, and he deserves plaudits for that. And we've just read a eulogy of sorts by Wellington football writer Fred Woodcock that is so good that it merits reproducing in full:
It's hard to avoid the irony of it all.
Of a long list of potential names offered by the public and collated by The Dominion Post back in 2007, the then owner of Wellington's new professional football club, Terry Serepisos, chose the 'Phoenix'.
His reasoning? The name was apt, given the A-League club was "rising from the ashes'' of the failed ventures in Auckland, the Kingz and then the Knights, much like the great mythical bird.
It rose, all right, and positively took flight after a slow start in the first two years. Those who were among the 32,000-strong crowd for the Phoenix-LA Galaxy match featuring David Beckham in December 2007, and the record sell-out crowd of 32,792 for the Phoenix's playoff win against Newcastle in March last year, will testify to that.
Serepisos' passion and ambition was behind what success they had. There is no doubt about that.
Now, 1649 days since the Phoenix first rose, the struggling property developer finds himself in the same position as the mythical bird, needing to rise from the ashes of his personal financial collapse.
The decision to relinquish the ownership of the club is the right one, the only one, albeit a very sad one.
The Phoenix have been spiralling, unable to attract the players they need in the off-season. Their staffing levels have dwindled. The coach, Ricki Herbert, is reportedly owed thousands of dollars in wages. And they've been unable to implement various off-field strategies.
They've effectively been a club on hold, and they would have continued to be under Serepisos. The sort of financial and legal problems he is facing do not go away quickly.
So the Phoenix can move on, the players and Herbert will have peace of mind and the staff will be relieved and rejuvenated, just three weeks from the start of the season.
But they will also have heavy hearts, as will the thousands of fans. They all owe Serepisos, the man who saved professional football in this country.
The Phoenix have had more than 50 players during their four seasons. Many would have gained employment elsewhere, but many wouldn't have. Australian clubs have an overseas player quota and New Zealand players are not high on their wishlist.
Take Shane Smeltz, for example. Before he was signed by the Phoenix, he had been axed by a non-league English club. There's no guarantee he would have got a chance anywhere other than the Phoenix. And look what transpired over the next four years.
He has Serepisos to thank.
Through the Phoenix, half the national team had regular professional football together in the lead-up to the World Cup qualifiers and Herbert got the chance to hone his skills on a daily basis.
That magical night in Wellington on November 14, 2009, when the All Whites qualified for the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Bahrain before 35,194 fans, would not have happened without Serepisos. That is a fact.
He lost between $1-2 million a year funding this club, a passion which became an obsession for him. He rode every kick in every game. He revelled in the highs and despaired in the lows.
He once hauled this writer into his plush office to debate a column, penned after a string of five losses. He had no real argument against anything that was written, he just wanted to have a rant. It summed up his passion, he took everything involving the Phoenix personally. It was a reason for their success.
So Eleftarious Serepisos bows out of the Phoenix fighting for his own financial survival, but with his head held high and a place in New Zealand football history.
He deserves that place, and it would be fitting if he took up the offer of a founding patron role.
He's done more for the game here than any one person in recent times.
That is a terrific piece by Fred Woodcock. Let's hope that Terry Serepisos' role in getting the Phoenix to rise from the ashes of previous teams, and earning them a cult following in Wellington is recognised ny the members of the new consortium in some form.
In the meantime, we'll be looking at the draw, and planning a trip to a home match once the A-League season kicks off in a few weeks time. We'll be delighted to Stand Up for the Phoenix!