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

Football: All Whites coach Anthony Hudson backing wildcard choices for Fiji clash

All Whites Coach Anthony Hudson. Photo / Greg Bowker
All Whites Coach Anthony Hudson. Photo / Greg Bowker

All Whites coach Anthony Hudson is willing to put his "neck on the line", after some surprise call ups to the national side to face Fiji later this month.

As well as big names like Winston Reid, Ryan Thomas, Chris Wood and the return from exile of Tommy Smith, Hudson has selected Australian-born brothers Jai (23) and Dane Ingham (17), who qualify for New Zealand through their mother.

Attacking midfielder Jai was included ahead of Kosta Barbarouses, who has been a fixture in the All Whites squad in the current World Cup cycle.

Neither of the brothers would have been on the radar of most football pundits before the start of this A League season, though Jai has impressed for Melbourne Victory, mainly off the bench.

Dane is the wildcard selection. He only made his A League debut for the Brisbane Roar last month, and has started just four first team matches for the Queensland team.

Their selection will raise some eyebrows, but Hudson insists they are both up to it.

"We are in this position now that...I will not, at all, bring a player in just to try him out," said Hudson.

"I'll put my neck on my line for the players that I'm bringing in - and if they are no good - you can chop my neck off afterwards - that's how I see these players. [They are] not only technically good but have something about them in terms of personality."

Aside from being eligible for Australia, the Ingham brothers could also have been selected for Samoa. The move to bring them in at such a stage - especially Dane - could be interpreted as a pre-emptive strike to lock them in to the silver fern ahead of other nations, but Hudson said that wasn't the case.

"No," said Hudson. "As of today, both of them are good enough to get in our team. [Dane] could come in and if he does well, he's with us, playing first team football. That's how highly I rate him."

However, in the same breath, Hudson hailed their decision to align with New Zealand as a coup for this country.

"[It's] testament to the hard work that everyone has put in that we have a couple of players that have chosen to play for New Zealand rather than Australia," said Hudson.

"It's huge, it really is huge. I don't think we could have done this two and a half years ago...the whole landscape was different and it would have been a lot harder. Both are really promising players."

Barbarouses is an interesting scenario. His season for the Phoenix has been a slow burner - though he has found some form in the last few weeks - but Hudson says his non-selection was also based on his recent output for the All Whites, but the door remains open for the 27-year-old.

"I have spoken to Kosta," said Hudson.

"He's a good man, a great character and on his day he is a top player. [But] I always make a decision based on the best interests of the team. The reasons why are between me and Kosta..he is still an important player for us and very much in his thinking."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 30 Mar 2017 13:18:37 Processing Time: 343ms