Simon Kay: Hudson's carrots have gone AWOL

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New Zealand Football All Whites coach Anthony Hudson. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
New Zealand Football All Whites coach Anthony Hudson. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

For a man famed for his research and analysis, it's surprising Anthony Hudson is now at "boiling point" because Kiwis are laid back and the All Whites don't play much.

A few phone calls back in 2014 to anyone with a passing knowledge of New Zealand and its football would have revealed that without the need for Hudson to leave the comfort of his air-conditioned Bahrain home.

Seventeen months into his tenure as All Whites coach, he last week launched a withering attack on the state of Kiwi football, bemoaning the fact his team played only three times last year, the game's laid-back culture and the "delusional" mentality of under-prepared players chasing professional contracts.

Hudson's criticisms are neither new nor untrue. If prompted by a genuine desire to transform the game in this country, then great. But his comments sounded awfully like a prelude to an "I can't work in these conditions" exit.

The All Whites traditionally don't play much, particularly in the year after a World Cup, unless there are Oceania Nations Cup or World Cup fixtures. They also played just three internationals in 2011.

Eyebrows were raised in late 2005 when then New Zealand Football chief executive Graham Seatter said the All Whites would play at least 10 games in 2006 after they'd taken the field just once in the previous 18 months.

Seatter delivered on his pledge but, after losing money four years in a row, NZF were in such financial disarray they needed a $1.5 million bank loan in March 2008 to remain operational.

Seatter was gone as CEO the next month and chairman John Morris followed two months later.

The All Whites weren't the sole reason for NZF's financial strife but the extra games were a significant contributing factor.

The point here is that NZF have always walked a financial tightrope between fielding teams and fiscal responsibility, and getting the balance right is extremely difficult.

For all the points Hudson made, there were two off-field events last year he didn't mention which will have a greater bearing on the short-term development of Kiwi football and our chances of qualifying for the next World Cup.

The first came when New Zealand were disqualified from the Oceania Olympic qualifiers
for fielding an ineligible player.

The second came when Oceania were drawn with South America in the intercontinental playoffs for the next World Cup.

When Hudson contemplated the All Whites job as a relatively inexperienced 33-year-old, the probability of coaching at the Olympics and the possibility of taking a team to the World Cup finals must have been huge drawcards.

In the space of two weeks last July, the first carrot was snatched away due to administrative incompetence and the second was left hanging by a thread due to bad luck.

New Zealand is only a stepping stone for Hudson.

He walked out on Bahrain just six months into a two-year contract because he got a better offer to coach the All Whites.

With around two years still to run on his contract here, somebody as ambitious as Hudson may well be tempted to cut his losses and take that next "better offer", should he find one, sooner rather than later.

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