Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick is angered by comments criticising his players from New Zealand Football (NZF) high performance boss Fred de Jong.
Merrick accused de Jong of a conflict of interest in his role as a television commentator, believing he shouldn’t be publicly assessing the players given his NZF position.
“It’s not the place of a high performance manager of the national setup,” Merrick said.
“He’s very much got a conflict of interest making comments on how our players perform.”
Merrick was particularly upset by a critique of striker Jeremy Brockie before last Sunday’s 1-0 home loss to Newcastle.
During Sky TV’s coverage, former All Whites striker De Jong questioned the experienced Brockie’s selection ahead of young forwards Tyler Boyd and Roy Krishna.
Negative comments about the Phoenix defenders, including captain Andrew Durante, also irritated Merrick.
“Despite the criticism of him from Fred, Andrew Durante is truly one of the best players and one of the best captains I’ve ever worked with,” he said.
Merrick says he hasn’t taken his concerns to NZF.
However, he says it is rich to have to defend his team from NZF criticism considering his club provides more All Whites internationals than any other club.
“I do think they’re a good organisation, they’re on the right track and there’s a new CEO and there’s changes there,” he said.
“I’ll do everything I can to support NZ Football but Fred de Jong has never called me officially with anything to do with football.
“The All Whites he’s criticised have been stalwart players for both the Phoenix and New Zealand.”
The eighth-placed Phoenix play their penultimate game of the season away to Sydney FC on Sunday.
Merrick hopes to select the same starting 11 with the exception of the suspended Manny Muscat, who will probably be replaced by Carlos Hernandez, prompting a midfield shuffle.
Injuries to centre back Ben Sigmund (thigh) and midfielder Vince Lia (groin) have improved and both are expected to play.
The Phoenix are on a winless five-game run and need to win their two remaining matches to have any chance of reaching the playoffs. Their final game next week is home to the Melbourne Victory.
Sydney FC have won eight of the nine games the teams have played in Sydney.