Bertos defies the pain

Leo Bertos is willing to play through the pain barrier to be part of a rejuvenated Wellington Phoenix side as they look to emulate last season’s late run to the play-offs.

Leo Bertos is willing to play through the pain barrier to be part of a rejuvenated Wellington Phoenix side as they look to emulate last season’s late run to the play-offs.

Bertos, who has missed the last two Phoenix matches due to an inflammation of the pubic bone, joined the rest of his team-mates as they departed for the Gold Coast on Thursday and revealed the injury was one that would have to be managed through to the end of the season.

“You need six or seven weeks complete rest of it to go away,” the New Zealand international said.

“I don’t have that time at the moment so it’s a case of managing it and keeping on top of it and making sure the pain is bearable when I’m playing.”

Bertos first realised there was a problem when he felt a sharp pain while kicking the ball and running during the 2-2 draw at home to Melbourne Victory. He left the field after 55 minutes and was replaced by Nick Ward.

Ironically, it could be a role reversal on Saturday with Ward ruled out for up to four weeks with a knee injury and Bertos likely to slot back into the starting line-up for the match at Skilled Park.

“I just want to be out there,” Bertos said. “It’s pretty frustrating at this point in the season. We really need to get some results and I want to be part of the team again,” added the attacking midfielder, who was in the stands for last weekend’s 2-1 win against Adelaide in Christchurch when Ben Sigmund headed home the late winner deep into stoppage time.

Bertos believed that win and the improved performances in the most recent four games, which has seen the club defeat Melbourne Heart and Adelaide, draw with Melbourne Victory and lose 3-1 in controversial circumstances away at Sydney, had helped bring renewed belief to the squad after a shaky start to the campaign.

“The last couple of results, particularly at home, it’s what we’ve needed to get that belief back,” he said.

“That belief went AWOL for a few weeks but the results have come. How we won the game last week – going a goal behind and coming back to win 2-1 – that gives us more than winning a game three or four nil quite easily.”

One key figure who definitely won’t be on the sidelines at Skilled Park is Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert, who was sent to the stands in the closing stages of the Adelaide game for abusing referee Peter O’Leary.

Herbert was originally handed a three-match suspension and when the Phoenix failed to get the charge thrown out for ‘obvious error’ they appealed the length of the ban which was reduced to one match with one game suspended.

An unrepentant Herbert said he did not regret the comments he made and didn’t ‘necessarily’ accept he deserved a one-game ban but knew he had to wear it.

“What’s happened has happened and I’ve had to accept it and I have and we move forward,” he said.

Assistant coach Luciano Trani will call the shots from the bench this weekend instead but Herbert did not expect it to have too much of an affect on the players.

“We’re going to play the same way, it’s a similar sort of team so it’s just a case of him picking up those sideline comments and getting information out to the players.”

“The plan (for substitutions) is pretty much in place so he will know what to do there. We’ve substituted at times when we’ve had to chase the game and if we’re winning it tends to be the status quo.”

“Hopefully there are not too many unusual things to have to decide on. An injury, or a player getting sent off might change things but we just have to work through one game.”