A-League: Mark Rudan implores Wellington Phoenix players to enjoy Eden Park atmosphere

Mark Rudan, Wellington Phoenix coach.
Mark Rudan, Wellington Phoenix coach. Photo credit: Photosport

Embrace the occasion - that's the message Wellington Phoenix coach Mark Rudan has delivered to his players ahead of their Eden Park adventure.

The A-League club is hosting Melbourne Victory in Auckland on Friday night, with more than 18,000 football fans already confirmed to attend.

That number is likely to rise past 20,000 by kickoff, which would make it the largest regular-season crowd in the history of the club.

Speaking on gameday, Rudan told Newshub he accepted there was pressure to perform, given the platform, but the players must embrace the occasion.

"Ultimately, I want the players to really enjoy it," Rudan said. "I spoke to them yesterday and pointed out that we are playing in an iconic stadium with a big crowd that will be parochial for us.

"They have to enjoy that."

The reason for the public interest in a sporting team that has flattered to deceive for a decade?

Seven wins from 18 games have the 'Nix' sitting comfortably in a playoff position with nine games remaining.

With just two losses from their last 12 games, the Phoenix have surprised many this season and that has been reflected by the ticket sales for the Victory clash.

Rudan admitted that when the fixture list was released, 20,000 fans travelling to Eden Park was just wishful thinking, given the clubs recent history.

"It really is superb," Rudan noted. "The flow-on effect from the season we are having is just great.

"I didn't expect this many pre-sales, but I also know that Auckland is a sporting city and they do come out, which is really important."

One of the big drawcards on display, if he can pass a late fitness test, will be Japanese international Keisuke Honda.

The 32-year-old is regarded as one of the best import players the A-League has seen, but injury has hampered his spell with the Victory, having appeared just in just nine games.

Unselfishly, Rudan hopes Honda gets the green light, so the fans can witness his quality.

"He is an absolute superstar," Rudan said. "I'm really glad he is playing in our competition.

"He is the type of player all the clubs should be attracting. By far and away, he was the best player in the competition before he got injured.

"I hope he plays, because I want the New Zealand public to see a player of his stature. I want to test our players against the best.

"We have spoken about his skillset and the problems he can cause, but we would love for the fans, as part of the spectacle, to check him out."

A win for the Phoenix would see them climb to fifth spot, above Melbourne City, who play Newcastle later on Saturday.