All Whites coach Anthony Hudson revealed a number of bombshells at New Zealand Football's press conference today. Steven Holloway dissects the key talking points.
Tommy Smith finally needs the All Whites as much as they need him. Two months ago, Smith chose club over country, citing a desire to lead Ipswich into the Premier League as reason to ditch the All Whites for a year. But after getting only 33 minutes of game time in the last six weeks, and having a persuasive cup of coffee with All Whites coach Anthony Hudson in Ipswich, Smith has changed his tune. Make no mistake, the All Whites need Smith, desperately. His partnership with Winston Reid at centreback is crucial to the All Whites having any chance of making the next World Cup, but the fallout from his commitment flip-flop with the playing group remains to be seen.
The axe swings over Phoenix duo
Hudson delivered a 30-minute powerpoint presentation today, detailing how the All Whites can make it to the next World Cup in Russia, with 2016 targeted as a critical year. Andrew Durante will be 34 then and looks surplus to requirements in Hudson's plan. But the axing of Glen Moss is much more of a head scratcher. Moss, aged 31, is in his footballing prime. He is easily New Zealand's top goalkeeper and is a leader in a very young squad. But he has been binned, along with Tamati Williams, for two fresh-faced keepers with limited experience, one of whom Hudson has never seen play live (Jacob Gleeson). Hudson said that if the All Whites had a World Cup qualifier tomorrow, the squad would look very different, and the focus is on developing players with big futures. But Moss is a key leader, and when a new team is trying to develop a culture, he's the sort of guy you want on board.
Neil Emblen is out too
Neil Emblen has gone from All Whites coach, to All Whites assistant coach, to 'a great guy with real potential' in the space of five months. Emblen had a great relationship with the New Zealand players, is well respected in New Zealand football circles and produced some attractive football in his two games in charge of the All Whites. But Hudson said he wanted someone alongside him who 'complemented him better' and has opted for Alex Armstrong, his former Bahrain assistant. Hudson described his conversation with Emblen as 'the most difficult chat I think I've had in 12 years of coaching'. It's a sad loss for New Zealand Football and hopefully Emblen can remain involved in the national setup.
Hudson has included two players he has never seen play live (Dan Keat and Jacob Gleeson). Under-20 standout Jesse Edge looks a good prospect and Joel Stevens did enough against Uzbekistan to bump off senior campaigners like Shane Smeltz and Rory Fallon for a spot among the attackers. The average age of the squad is 22 and Jeremy Brockie is the old man of the team at 27.
Hudson's presentation was impressive. He highlighted all the problem areas for the All Whites (style of play, contact time, mentality, code of conduct) and addressed how he would fix them. The answer was more games and camps, with better structure and discipline. Seems simple enough. After the All Whites trip to Asia next month, they are targeting a home match in the March window against Asian opposition, an Auckland-based camp in June, an Oceania friendly in August and then the Olympic qualifiers in October. The Olympics were a big one for Hudson. You have to be under 23 to play at the Games but, with three overage players allowed, it will allow for plenty of developmental hands-on time with the majority of the All Whites' squad.