Plumb: NZ Football rolls the dice on new coach

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 16:04 09/07/2014
Anthony Hudson
Reuters

YOUNG MOURINHO?: Anthony Hudson, the man reportedly being headhunted by NZ Football to coach the All Whites, has been given an interesting likeness by well known English manager Harry Redknapp.

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OPINION: Undenied rumours of a 33-year-old being lined up for the All Whites job are sure to have New Zealand football fans divided. 

A report from a UK red top has strongly linked Bahrain's current manager, Anthony Hudson, to the All Whites coaching post - vacant since Ricki Herbert walked (and probably before he was pushed) eight months ago.

Specifically, the situation portrayed so far is almost something of a head-hunt, with NZF officials allegedly approaching the Bahrain FA for permission to discuss potential employment. It's not known, yet, whether Hudson has even applied for the job.

Chief executive of NZF, Andy Martin, is refusing comment on any individual cases and limiting his organisation's public position to declaring three shortlisted candidates, with an aim to appoint by the end of the month.

Martin's silence is perhaps understandable in a confidential employee environment. 

However, when such claims are made by tabloid newspapers, there's usually an attempt to shoot the stories down - if they are wrong.

When an odd report emerged last month, even quoting Fifa president Sepp Blatter, Martin did exactly that over claims NZF was about to leave the Oceania Football Confederation for South American confederation CONMEBOL.

Martin was on the phone and shot it down - within an hour, in fact.

If Hudson is actually in the frame for the All Whites gig, it has the makings of a divisive, brave and somewhat risky decision by NZF.

The majority of fans, including close followers of football, are likely to have required an internet search engine upon first hearing Hudson's name to know exactly who he was. In itself, underwhelming, for a nation aspiring to regain it's status as a legitimate global team.

At 33, Hudson is extraordinarily young for an international football manager. In fact, he's only six few months older than the All Whites' top striker, Shane Smeltz, and four months older than defender Andrew Durante.

Whether someone of that age has the required experience to lead a nation back to a World Cup will be a legitimate concern for some.

For others, it might finally spell the kind of forward-thinking that has so long been missing from NZF.

One of the youngest managers to have earned a professional coaching licence from European confederation UEFA, in 2009 Hudson became the youngest manager in US club football. In his first season he led Real Maryland, which had the worst record and finished bottom of the table in 2008, to the quarterfinals of the 2009 playoffs. The same year he was nominated for the 2009 coach of the year award.

In 2012 he was appointed manager of Bahrain's under-23 team, before being promoted to the senior side the following year.

He also seems well-connected, with a contemporary outlook towards coaching, has his own website and YouTube channel, including a post of a seven-minute video on "attacking principles". While not the most important qualities in a manager, it's hard to imagine Herbert doing any of those things in a regime widely blasted as something of an old boy's club. 

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It could spell a shift from an autocratic regime which lost the dressing room to a fresh, democratic approach more in-line and relative to a young, promising squad of players.

It's also worth considering in all this, what the potential appointment of Hudson could mean for interim All Whites coach Neil Emblen. 

Both are hungry at the start of their coaching careers, English and have a taste for flowing, attacking football.

Emblen has also stated, very clearly, that if he were to miss out on the top job, which now appears more likely, that he would like to remain on in his former role as an assistant coach. 

After making progress in a couple of friendly matches with young squads and the best players missing, and so much time ahead to learn, it would now be a waste for NZF to let Emblen fall completely out of the frame - regardless of who they choose for the top job.

- Stuff

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