The pressure continues to mount on New Zealand Football's Technical Director Andreas Heraf with one of the country's foremost academies considering withdrawing their players from New Zealand's under-age sides if he remains in the job.
Porirua's Ole Football Academy, which counts All Whites Ryan Thomas, Tyler Boyd and Noah Billingsley among its graduates, has expressed strenuous opposition to the style of football implemented by Heraf and displayed in stark clarity by the Football Ferns earlier this month.
"For a long time I've released players to the under-17's and under-20's with no problems," said Ole Academy Technical Director Declan Edge.
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"There's been an introduction of a new Technical Director and he's indicated very clearly a new direction and way to play. I have conflicts with that. I have to make sure I'm protecting my players and doing the right thing.
"We're not making any decisions just yet but we're really not happy.
"We're sending a very clear message that we're not backing the direction of football under the new Technical Director and his style of play."
Ole Academy has several players who would likely be included in New Zealand squads for next year's under-17 and under-20 men's World Cups as well as this year's under-17 women's tournament. They include one of the brightest young talents in the country, Elijah Just, who was a standout at last year's under-17 World Cup, and Callum McCowatt who starred for Auckland City over the summer.
In his role as Football Ferns coach, Heraf drew widespread criticism for his ultra-defensive tactics during the 3-1 loss to Japan in Wellington a week ago, and his post-match comments regarding New Zealand's inability to compete with bigger and more established football nations.
"It was no surprise to me," said Edge.
"I had a couple of conversations with him and he told me exactly the way he was going to play. We told him we couldn't support that direction at Ole.
"I now know players who don't want to play for New Zealand. I've got players I work with who are saying, "Please can you get me out of this current structure? How do I not go to tournaments? How can I get out of this?" It's not good. It's pretty sad and very frightening."
Edge played 43 times for New Zealand between 1985 and 1991 and in recent years has gained a reputation as a coach who develops young talent and turns them into professional footballers. Thomas is his most famous prodigy, but several others who have honed their skills under his watchful eye are now playing in the United States and Europe.
The Ole Academy is connected with the Western Suburbs club, whose first team won the 2017 Central League title with a squad consisting almost entirely of teenagers.
Edge is steadfast in his methods and unwavering in his belief that, contrary to what Heraf might think, New Zealand teams can foot it with the best in the world. He's even on the record as saying New Zealand can win under-17 and under-20 World Cups.
"We told Andreas that, and he just laughed," said Edge.
"He disrespected our work with Ryan Thomas and Eli Just at the same time. My boss and I looked at each other and thought, "What the hell have we got here?"
"He's got his Pro License, he's been to an under-20 World Cup and he's a professional coach. He has his values and views on how the game should be played and he can back it up with statistics and stories.
"I respect all that. I just don't like it or agree with it. It's not the way I think the game should be played and in particular the way it should be played here in New Zealand.
"I don't think he can change. A leopard doesn't change his spots. He needs to go and coach in an environment that's better suited to that style of play.
"Football is all about passion and belief and New Zealand has got to where it is as a nation through belief in what is possible. You have to have faith in the players. You have to convince the players they can do it.
"For him to come here and say it's not possible – he might be right, but that's not the point. You have to believe, or quit and go and do something else."
Furthermore, Edge believes there needs to be what he calls a 'fundamental transformation' in the way the game is overseen in this country.
"Everything has to change. There needs to be a clear-out and a huge change in the direction. There needs to be a paradigm shift.
"When I look around, I'm really worried about this direction. Football people in New Zealand – the shareholders in the game – need to step up and be vocal about the need for change.
"It's time for New Zealanders to be given back our game."