Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Football: Looking on the bright side of Kiwi football

Shane Smeltz of the New Zealand All Whites. Photo / Getty Images
Shane Smeltz of the New Zealand All Whites. Photo / Getty Images

Football in this country is at a low ebb but here are five reasons fans should have hope for the future.

1. Andy Martin has to learn

It can surely only get better for the beleaguered New Zealand Football boss from here.

Martin has endured an awful 12 months, which started in Zurich when he seemed to get star-struck, making a series of ill-advised public pronouncements about Fifa and Sepp Blatter and falling out with Oceania Football.

Then there was the Olympic qualifying fiasco (and even worse, the ill-conceived and costly appeal), the ongoing struggle to get the All Whites on the field, coach Anthony Hudson's outburst and the lamentable Alex Jones registration saga.

His inaccessibility and reluctance to front up has only exacerbated the issues. Sometimes it feels like he is out of his depth, but there has been some good work done behind the scenes, and the ASB Premiership broadcast deal has given the sport a good platform.

Maybe out of this he will emerge as a better administrator; more humble and respectful towards other stakeholders, especially the OFC and Phoenix. If he doesn't...

2. Football Ferns

The Football Ferns are well placed to achieve unprecedented success in Rio. Their golden generation of players is reaching a peak, and coach Tony Readings' team have experienced plenty of major tournaments. The generous Olympics format - which sees eight of 12 teams progress from the group stages - means they should reach the knockout stages. From there, who knows?

3. OFC Nations Cup

By the middle of June, there could be a very different feeling about the All Whites. If they win the Nations Cup in Papua New Guinea, Hudson will be able to plan for the Confederations Cup in Russia, alongside the likes of Germany, Russia, Chile, Mexico and Australia. It would also mean a significant boost to the All Whites' world ranking and will be the first extended opportunity Hudson has with his senior playing group. Being in the Confederations Cup would also guarantee at least five high-profile games (including pre-tournament matches).

4. Wellington Phoenix

For the first time in years, the Phoenix have stability and a platform to build on after the licence deal was agreed last week. That's vital. The ownership group also know they have to invest in players, and be prepared to spend heavily on a quality striker and central defender for next season. They can't afford another season of maybes and missed opportunities as they build towards targets set by the FFA.

5. Auckland City continue to raise the standard

Auckland City's incredible unbeaten run of more than 26 ASB Premiership matches and 400 days undefeated has a genuine upside. The Sandringham-based club continue to set new benchmarks which is helping raise standards across the league. Look at the performance of Canterbury this year, as well as the continuing strong displays from Hawke's Bay and Team Wellington. That can only be a good thing ahead of the revamped format for the 2016-17 season.

- Herald on Sunday

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