Herbert on the offensive: 2010 was all about me

By Michael Burgess in Mexico City

Ricki Herbert says he hasn't got enough credit for the way the All Whites played at the 2010 World Cup. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ricki Herbert says he hasn't got enough credit for the way the All Whites played at the 2010 World Cup. Photo / Brett Phibbs

In the aftermath of yesterday's comprehensive defeat to Mexico, All Whites coach Ricki Herbert has gone on the offensive.

The long time coach launched a vociferous attack on the "personal agendas" that have seen, in his view, too much credit given to the senior players for what was achieved at the 2010 World Cup.

Despite all of the kudos and acclaim that Herbert himself received after the 2010 World Cup he revealed strong simmering resentment in the wake of the All Whites' 5-1 loss at the Azteca Stadium.

More than three years since that epic campaign in South Africa, Herbert blasted the widely held perception that a group of senior players played a major off-field role in that highly successful tournament.

"Trust me, there was only one person [who decided] to play a certain way at the World Cup and that was me," said Herbert.

"Not any players, not any influence from players but an absolutely dedicated management group that filled that out to a dedicated group of players. I'm yet to see that article being written."

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In the months after that World Cup some media coverage focussed on the role of senior players like Ryan Nelsen and Simon Elliott in the build to the Cup and during the tournament. There were even suggestions that Nelsen did a lot of the coaching of the team, and the senior players had a heavy hand in the tactics and strategy employed during each of the three matches, where the All Whites avoided defeat against Slovakia, Italy and Paraguay. In those stories Herbert was portrayed as the man on the bridge - often in a hands off role - while others steered the ship.

"What does annoy [me] is that this group, this management group has never had the full reflection of what was achieved at that World Cup," says Herbert. "For whatever personal agenda [they] want to write it completely differently. And one day I will share that with you."

Herbert was also quick to point out that many of the `senior players', who have been given credit for the deeds of 2009 and 2010, were also in the All Whites fold during the disastrous 2004 Oceania Nations Cup campaign, where New Zealand suffered a shock defeat to Vanautu to miss the final round of World Cup qualifiers.

"[People talk about] senior players," fumed Herbert. "The bit I say is you name me the experienced players that lost 4-2 to Vanautu [in 2004]. I can give you ten names that all had a number of caps internationally and we got nothing."

Mick Waitt was the head coach of the team during that campaign in Adelaide, with Herbert as assistant. Players who took the field against Vanautu included Nelsen, Vaughan Coveney, Ivan Vicelich, while Raf de Gregorio and Simon Elliott were in the squad.

- NZ Herald

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