A-League: Mark Rudan apologises to Wellington Phoenix fans for premature departure

It wasn't meant to be this way, but for what it's worth, Mark Rudan is sorry.

The outgoing Wellington Phoenix coach has put family first, deciding to part ways with the A-League club at the end of the season.

Rudan, appointed manager in May 2018, has overseen a remarkable turnaround in fortunes in the capital, with the Phoenix guaranteed playoff football for the first time since 2015.

That's not a bad result for a side that most Australian pundits predicted would be the easy-beats of the competition.

But beneath the surface of a season that has seen the club win 10 games and draw seven, Rudan has personally battled with missing his family, who reside in Sydney.

Ultimately, that was the key factor in Rudan's decision to head home, but the 43-year-old understands the angst of the supporters questioning his motives.

On Wednesday, Rudan assured the club and fans that he hadn't committed to a rival club, re-iterating that he never understood how much he would miss his wife and children, when he signed a two-year deal last year.

"I am sorry for those that are upset," Rudan said. "I just hope they can understand my side of the story.

"I was always going to let someone down and with this decision, I have let down the club, players and fans. For that, I am extremely apologetic."

Mark Rudan stressed that he was sorry he let the fans and club down.
Mark Rudan stressed that he was sorry he let the fans and club down. Photo credit: Photosport

The former Sydney FC skipper revealed Christmas was the turning point on his commitment to the club.

Rudan's family spent the holidays in Wellington, and he admitted watching them leave convinced him he wasn't doing right by them and he needed to seriously contemplate his future at the 'Nix.

"It's not been an easy thought process, but I had a feeling then [January] that I couldn't stay long-term.

"That's when the conversations started - I was in a different headspace with how attached I have become to Wellington and to this football club. In the back of my mind, I thought I could find a way or a means to get my family over here.

"I think I was probably kidding myself, but I was genuinely confused as to what the best decision was.

"I love this club and I love the people of Wellington, and I can understand the hurt and why the fans are angry. They are right and like I said, all I can do is apologise to them.

"I have worked hard and dedicated my life to this. I thought I was going to be here a lot longer, but this is just about me and my family.

"Again, this decision has nothing to do with the club. It's a selfish decision for me and my family, but when I came here, my intentions were good and I wanted to do great things at this football club."

And a job closer to home is almost guaranteed for Rudan, who has exceeded expectations at the Phoenix. 

The former Australian under-age international has been linked to both clubs in Sydney, as well as Melbourne's new Western United side.

On Wednesday, Rudan confirmed that wherever he ended up in Australia, his family would be by his side.

But for now, Rudan's focus is turning a promising season into an historic one for a club that has never made a Grand Final, let alone won a premiership.

With two regular-season games remaining, two wins could see the Phoenix earn a home playoff and a clearer path to the final game of the season.

Rudan has stressed to his players and fans that his goals haven't changed, but he revealed that he offered his resignation last weekend, as the club lost back-to-back games for just the third time this season.

"I offered to resign after the Brisbane game," Rudan said. "I didn't want to stand in the way of this football club.

"Too much hard work has been done and if it was better without me, then so be it.

"I believe we can do something great and fantastic, but if it became an issue me being here, because of all of this, then I was happy to walk.

"What's really important is how proud I am for the players. All the challenges that I set at the start of the year, they have all come through that remarkably well.

"I'll always be there for them, no matter what, but it's important to remember that we have a job to do. We have finals football coming up and if we get through the first week, then anything can happen.

"The players are an extension of me - I love all those guys, but I stressed to them the importance of moving forward and getting the job done."

The Phoenix host Melbourne City on Sunday. A win would place them into the top four, if Adelaide United fail to beat Melbourne Victory on Friday night.

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