Soccer: Wee Mac growing in stature

By Michael Brown

Michael McGlinchey is becoming an important feature of the All Whites in the post-World Cup era. Photo / Getty Images.
Michael McGlinchey is becoming an important feature of the All Whites in the post-World Cup era. Photo / Getty Images.

While he might not be the global phenomenon of a McDonald's burger, Michael McGlinchey - who goes by the nickname Wee Mac - is eating into a slice of the football consciousness.

The 25-year-old is becoming an important feature of the All Whites in the post-World Cup era and even did enough to claim one of three over-age spots along with Ryan Nelsen and Shane Smeltz available in the New Zealand under-23 side for the London Olympics.

McGlinchey's All Whites career can essentially be split in two. In the first 18 months, he was picked to play for the country of his birth and went to the World Cup in South Africa but in the second has become an influential figure.

That change occurred in China in March 2011, when he scored his first international goal in a 1-1 draw with China in Wuhan with a clinical drive from outside the box and culminated in his brace in last month's 3-0 defeat of Tahiti in Christchurch, a game many are calling McGlinchey's best in an All White shirt.

"When you score two goals, it's definitely your best game [for New Zealand]," said McGlinchey, who was born in Wellington but grew up in Scotland.

"It's been three years now since I've been involved in the national team and I feel pretty settled in it. [Coach] Ricki Herbert has given me a lot of confidence and started me in the last five or six games. I feel really settled in the team now. It took time, but I am enjoying it now."

The absence of Tim Brown (retired) and Simon Elliott (not needed) has helped. When McGlinchey played with Brown, he was less sure of his role. Both were encouraged to get forward, but one was still needed to hold.

McGlinchey now plays the more advanced role secure in the knowledge the likes of Ivan Vicelich or Tim Payne will be there behind him to mop up.

"Tim deciding to retire has worked in my favour and I have been given the nod to play in the middle of the park," McGlinchey said. "Hopefully I can continue to do it for the next two [World Cup] campaigns."

The All Whites are closing in on a high-stakes World Cup playoff against the fourth-best team from North and Central America for a spot at the 2014 World Cup.

They lead the Oceania group after four wins from four and defeat of New Caledonia at home in March will confirm passage to next November's intercontinental playoff.

Before that, however, McGlinchey will return to China with the All Whites next week to play China in Shanghai on Thursday morning (NZT).

Herbert will assemble his strongest side, although striker Chris Killen, who plays club football in China, has been excused so he can attend a wedding in the US. Others need to get through this weekend's club games unscathed.

For McGlinchey, that means travelling to take on the Phoenix in Wellington for his Central Coast outfit. The Mariners smacked Sydney FC 7-2 in their last outing and have a good record in the capital having won their last three there.

McGlinchey has been one of the A-League's best over the past 18 months and is starting to realise the potential for both club and country he showed as a youngster when he became the youngest player to play for Scottish giants Celtic at 15 years and 273 days old.

He's not big now at just 1.75m and 68kg, hence the nickname, but was even smaller then.

- APNZ

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