Sam Malcolmson: Herbert's one man band can't make us a world force


The All Whites' performance against Jamaica shows we have much to look forward to in New Zealand soccer.

What is a concern, though, is that we appear to be heading in a direction where power in the game is concentrated in too few hands.

I refer to the growing influence of Ricki Herbert, the All Whites and Phoenix coach. Not only does he hold the two most important coaching jobs in the country, but he is set to take charge of the Oly Whites and - according to strong rumours I have heard - is interested in becoming the national director of football.

In no way am I Herbert-bashing, because he deserves the kudos for the national side's rise in performance and credibility.

With the great Ryan Nelsen showing his commitment by making a dash back from Tottenham Hotspur to play against Jamaica, and an exciting squad around the captain, our hopes of going to the next World Cup in Brazil are bright.

But I am one of the people in and around the game questioning why so much power is apparently being considered for one man's hands.

Soccer needs diverse thinking and an environment which encourages that, along with an acknowledgement that highly qualified coaches such as Neil Emblen, Chris Milicich, Kevin Fallon and Allan Jones have major contributions to make.

Allowing Herbert to become all-powerful sends out the wrong message, that you need to be in his camp and to do things his way.

It is generally understood that Herbert will come in as head coach for the Olympics if Emblen's under-23 team qualifies at this month's Oceania tournament in Taupo.

This is unfair, and unnecessary. Emblen has the pedigree and qualifications to continue as coach in the Olympic tournament. Herbert's role should be as a consultant, which would be enough to help him prepare the younger All White prospects.

Employing a director of football or technical director would be a positive step in trying to push the game to a new level. But I am stunned that NZF chairman Frank van Hattum and his board are contemplating Herbert for this job.

The All Whites are on track and the Phoenix are competitive in the A-league, but on a world scale we are a long way off the pace. New Zealand must try to close the gap. So why look internally, or consider someone who already has a major influence on our soccer?

Instead, NZF needs to think big and target a person of the calibre of Roy Hodgson, the ageing English club manager. We need someone of the highest European pedigree, or even from South America where there is a great emphasis on technical ability and skill. I'll be a bit cheeky here, and also throw in the name of Sir Alex Ferguson. (After all he is over 70 and loves horses and wine.)

There may well be someone nearing the end of a high class managerial career who would relish a two or three-year term in a fresh, challenging and rewarding job.

World Cup success has given New Zealand the money to consider a proposition like this. What we don't need is more of the same, including importing English people who have made no telling impact on our game over the last decade or so.

The aim should be to find a top-class character and personality who can guide and inspire our coaches, and bring a whole new dimension to the New Zealand game through their coaching and mentoring of our leading coaches.

The All Whites are our shop window and while no one wants to lose international games it was encouraging that we scored two goals against Jamaica.

Nelsen stood out at Mt Smart Stadium. He reads the game with a soccer intelligence at a level above our other players but the central defender is not getting any younger or faster so he may need some protection as we look towards Brazil.

To this end, I'm not sure that the 3-4-3 formation used by Herbert is the best - the All Whites may need to consider 4-4-2 or 4-3-3.

Tommy Smith was a standout and is a future captain, and Winston Reid is coming on in leaps and bounds and will hopefully return to the English Premier league next season.

When you look at the physique and speed of the English-based players like Smith, Reid and Chris Wood, you can see what is required at the top of world football today.

Some of our other players were still at A-league pace and got caught out. Tim Brown and Tony Lochhead are too slow at international level and are severely lacking in one-on-one marking situations. Michael McGlinchey should have stayed on in the midfield, instead of Brown, if we are building for the future. We are still in desperate need of a strong midfield playmaker, to emulate what players like Steve Sumner and Michael McGarry brought to the All Whites.

Overall, though, Ricki Herbert is doing a top job and he has learnt from men like John Adshead, Sumner, Brian Turner and the old Mt Wellington captain Dave Taylor about man management and building team spirit.

As for the Phoenix, we should expect them to be a top four side in the A-league as they have the whole of New Zealand to choose form. They also need to win the title within two or three years to meet what should be our expectations - after all they have had the same coach and nucleus of players several years. The clock is ticking for this squad several key players are on the wrong side of 30, and the Phoenix are way behind on a youth policy.

In other words, Ricki Herbert has a couple of big tasks on his hands and neither he nor New Zealand football will be helped by giving him more.

Soccer has the support of the man in the street, but that can quickly evaporate.

Malcolmson played for New Zealand between 1976 and 1982. He is chief executive of a knitwear firm.

- NZ Herald

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