Soccer: Fallon still in frame, just not for Jamaica clash - Herbert

By Terry Maddaford

The national coach does not see any point in bringing Rory Fallon back from Britain just to sit on the bench. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The national coach does not see any point in bringing Rory Fallon back from Britain just to sit on the bench. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Ricki Herbert says Rory Fallon has not gone from hero to zero with his omission from the squad to play Jamaica in this month's one-off international.

"Rory remains very much part of our plans but we get too few opportunities to have a look at players at this level and there would be no point in bringing him all the way back [from the UK] to sit on the bench," said Herbert.

"I am keen to see how Chris Wood goes up front and this is the chance to maybe give him a full 90 minutes rather than the 20 or 30 he has had in the past.

"We are also keen to see him play alongside senior players like Chris Killen or Shane Smeltz."

Or maybe Jeremy Brockie who has put his hand up with a string of strong games for Newcastle Jets.

Herbert sees this game as the first step in what he hopes will lead to a return to the Confederations Cup and ultimately the 2014 World Cup.

"We have to make the most of opportunities like this. To play the 52nd-ranked team in the world at home is just what we need as we look ahead to the Oceania Nations Cup in June," he said.

"While we have named only 18 players for this game we will probably have 22 for the Nations Cup so we have a number of options."

One is the debut inclusion of Los Angeles-based midfielder Dan Keat.

"With Simon Elliott not where he needs to be at this stage, it was a good chance to bring Dan in and have a look at him. I have spoken to Simon and he is very supportive of what we are doing and is keen to play a part as long he is needed. It is a similar story with Ivan Vicelich.

"One reason he was included was that the game is in Auckland and he is a key part of the All Whites environment. He may not want to continue right through to the World Cup but that might be his decision rather than anything we do.

"This game is a strong shot across the bow. It is the only game before the Nations Cup and we have to take everything we can from it."

Although there remains a strong core from the 2010 World Cup squad, Herbert points to the inclusion of players like back-up goalkeeper Jake Gleeson, Keat, Melbourne Victory's Marco Rojas and Kosta Barbarouses as players who have come in post-South Africa and are now being given their chance to press their claims.

"In an 18-man squad, having four new players is quite a lot," said Herbert.

"And, we also have to remember that while they were involved then, Tommy Smith and Winston Reid are still very young players both in age and in terms of international experience."

Herbert is pleased with the keen contest for places in the first squad of the year.

"I don't think a New Zealand coach has ever named a team where so many overseas pros have been left out and it has certainly been a hard squad to whittle down to just 18 players," he said.

"When everyone is fit it's clear I have some very tough choices to make and they are choices I don't make lightly. There are players not making this trip who have given a great deal to the success of the national team and will certainly do so again in the future."

NZ V JAMAICA

Mt Smart Stadium

February 29, 7.30pm

NZ squad Goalkeepers: Jake Gleeson (Portland Timbers), Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix)

Defenders: Tony Lochhead (Wellington Phoenix), Ryan Nelsen (Tottenham Hotspur) captain, Winston Reid (West Ham), Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix), Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town), Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City)

Midfielders: Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix), Jeremy Brockie (Newcastle Jets), Tim Brown (Wellington Phoenix), Dan Keat (LA Galaxy), Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners), Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory)

Strikers: Kosta Barbarouses (Alania Vladikavkaz), Chris Killen (Shenzhen Ruby), Shane Smeltz (Perth Glory), Chris Wood (Bristol City)

- NZ Herald

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