Football: McGlinchey proud to wear armband

All White Michael McGlinchey. Photo / Greg Bowker.
All White Michael McGlinchey. Photo / Greg Bowker.

As a youngster coming through the ranks of Scottish giants Celtic, midfield maestro Michael McGlinchey would never have imagined he would one day captain the national team of New Zealand during an international tournament in Papua New Guinea.

But that's exactly what he did on Saturday evening as he led the All Whites to a 1-0 win over the Solomon Islands in Port Moresby - a city whose climate and culture has little in common with Glasgow, where McGlinchey was raised and developed the footballing skills that would eventually lead to an international career.

"It was nice, I came down for breakfast in the morning and the manager pulled me over and said he was going to make me captain," McGlinchey says.

"It was a little bit of a shock but it's such a huge honour to captain your country and it's an experience I'll remember with fond memories."

The match itself was frustrating at times as the All Whites dominated proceedings but found it hard to break through a resolute Solomon Islands defensive showing.

"Tactically, they set themselves up to stop us from scoring and made it difficult for us. But I think we showed great resilience to keep going and finally get the ball in the back of the net," McGlinchey says.

While that was the first time he had captained New Zealand, McGlinchey is no stranger to the armband - he was formerly vice-captain of A-League outfit Central Coast Mariners and stepped up to the main job on several occasions - and did not feel out of place.

"It's something I've done before and I'm comfortable with it to be honest," he says.
"I just tried to organise things on the park a bit more than I normally would. We have quite a few leaders in the group anyway so everybody takes that responsibility on themselves."

Skippering the All Whites on the other side of the world would not have been on the agenda during McGlinchey's formative years in Scotland and he looked more likely to represent the tartan army after earning caps at age-group level. But a FIFA rule change allowed McGlinchey to switch his international allegiance to New Zealand, a country he had left as an infant.

Born in Wellington, his life has now come full circle as he is settled in the nation's capital and is a key member of the Wellington Phoenix squad. He has a young family and a house with wife Rachel and is enjoying combining fatherhood with his footballing duties.

"It is full on but I wouldn't change it for the world. I just spent a month back in Scotland so got to show my kids off to the grandparents which was nice," he says.

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has been busy in the off-season - adding All White Kosta Barbarouses and fellow former Melbourne Victory player Gui Finkler to the roster - and McGlinchey is looking forward to what lies in store.

"I've signed up for another two seasons at the Phoenix and was delighted to do that. I'm excited about the players we've brought in and hopefully we can push on this season and do better than we did last time," he says.

Before his attentions can turn back to club football though the stand-in skipper - regular captain Chris Wood missed the Solomon Islands game through injury - has an important role to play in helping New Zealand claim the OFC Nations Cup and thus qualify for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

The All Whites are well on their way to doing so after winning all three of their Group B games - scoring nine goals and conceding just one in the process - and McGlinchey is pleased with how they are placed going into the knockout stages.

"It was important to get that third win and we will now go into the semi-finals with a lot of momentum. The boys are all confident so we're in a good position at the moment," he says.

New Zealand will look to earn a place in the final by defeating Group A runners-up New Caledonia on Wednesday and have a score to settle after falling to the Francophones at the same stage in the previous OFC Nations Cup four years ago.

McGlinchey says every measure has been taken to ensure there won't be a repeat.
"We're very organised this time around. Everybody knows their roles and we are well drilled which should stand us in good stead."

The All Whites will take on New Caledonia in the first semi-final of the OFC Nations Cup on Wednesday from 4pm local time at Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby. The match will be screened LIVE on SKY Sport Pop-up Channel 055 from 5.50pm (NZT).

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