Nine years after he scored the winning goal for New Zealand in the epic 2-1 win over Poland at the Fifa under-17 world championship at North Harbour Stadium, Allan Pearce is to get his chance on the big stage.
The Waitakere United midfielder/striker is the only new cap in the All Whites team Ricki Herbert named yesterday to play New Caledonia in Noumea tomorrow night.
Pearce is the only New Zealand Football Championship player and joins the other nine home-based players from Herbert's Wellington Phoenix squad in the 18-strong touring party. But, as the only so-called amateur, Pearce does not feel out of place.
"I have been in and around professional football since I was 16," said Pearce, 25. "I played professionally in England at Barnsley and Lincoln where I had 30 games in League Two."
More recently he has had a couple of weeks training under Herbert with the Phoenix in Wellington.
Asked whether that was at his or Herbert's suggestion, Pearce said: "A bit of both. I asked him and he encouraged it."
Pearce, who follows his older brother Graham into the All Whites, has his sights set on playing more than the four internationals his brother played.
Like those who have seen this team preparing for the must-win games against New Caledonia, Pearce is impressed with the attitude at training.
"There is a definite professional edge to this team," he said. "And that is driven by the coaches [Herbert and Brian Turner] who were extremely proud to have played for New Zealand and have looked for the same attitude from this group."
While he has often played as an out-and-out striker for Waitakere, Pearce seems certain to take a role on the flanks this time.
"That doesn't bother me. I'm an attack-minded player and I'm just as happy to play wide and work with the strikers."
Pearce is one of five players who did not start in the last Oceania Nations Cup match - the win over Vanuatu in Wellington last November. In come goalkeeper Glen Moss, defender Ryan Nelsen, midfielders Pearce and Simon Elliott and striker Jarrod Smith. Of the players they replace, Ivan Vicelich has retired from international football, Tim Brown is suspended and Mark Paston, Andy Boyens and Jeremy Christie move to the bench.
Nelsen has been reinstated as captain, taking back the reins he last held in Adelaide in 2004. In the interim Danny Hay (also retired), Vicelich and Brown have led the side but Nelsen will wear the armband going forward.
"I did not want to step on anyone's toes but it is a great honour," said Nelsen. "I've always wanted to play for New Zealand but to lead them as well is fantastic."
Glen Moss, David Mulligan, Ryan Nelsen (c), Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead, Allan Pearce, Simon Elliott, Duncan Oughton, Leo Bertos, Jarrod Smith, Shane Smeltz. Substitutes: Mark Paston, Andy Boyens, Steven Old, Jeremy Christie, Jeremy Brockie, Chris James.