Key Points:

A bit like New Zealand lamb, this country's young footballing exports are becoming more of an acquired taste in the UK.

Sunderland manager Roy Keane found defender Jack Pelter to his liking after this year's Under-20 World Cup, while West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa have signed under-17 internationals Chris Wood and Lance Heslop respectively to their youth academies.

Add to that the fact goalkeeper Jake Gleeson has been invited back for a second trial with Everton (he also trialled with Manchester United) and Costa Barbarouses, Jacob Spoonley and Greg Draper are with the Wellington Phoenix and it's clear New Zealand's forays into world competitions this year were not as unsuccessful as the results might have indicated.

The New Zealand under-20s, under-17s and women lost all nine games they played at their respective world cups in 2007, conceding 27 goals while scoring only one. But the number of young players securing professional contracts since is some compensation.

As well as heading to the UK, the well trodden path of youngsters earning scholarships in the United States has also continued.

"We haven't been surprised that some of our players were targeted," New Zealand Football chief executive Graham Seatter said. "We knew that even though we didn't win a game in those two [youth] world cups, we have some quality players who were noticed. We've had half a dozen who have gone into professional environments and, to us, that's every bit as important as results on the park."

There was a surge of interest in New Zealand talent following the 1999 Under-17 World Cup held in this country when the likes of Jeremy Christie, David Mulligan and Allan Pearce were picked up by English clubs.

It was seven years, however, before a New Zealand side played on the world stage again, when the under-20 women competed in Russia in 2006 and it corresponded with a downturn in the number of players signed overseas. Next year, it's hoped New Zealand will qualify two teams for the Olympics, while the inaugural Under-17 Women's World Cup is being held here.

"One of the reasons Australian football is in a strong position is because they have so many players - as many as 150 - playing overseas," Seatter said. "Many of these were picked up after playing on the world stage in under-17 and under-20 tournaments."