Winston Reid's English Premier League experience has earned him the All Whites captaincy as Ryan Nelsen's replacement.
Coach Ricki Herbert confirmed tonight the 24-year-old West Ham United defender will captain the All Whites for the first time in Friday night's World Cup qualifier against New Caledonia in Dunedin.
Reid captained West Ham in an FA Cup game against Manchester United this season and Herbert believes he is ready to replace Nelsen, who is now retired and coaching Toronto FC.
"We thought long and hard about this decision," Herbert said.
"Winston plays at a high level week in and week out and has captained his side in that environment, just as Ryan Nelsen did previously.
"For a young man to have that level of responsibility speaks volumes of his character, especially when you look at his peers in similar roles within the Premier League.''
Reid, who left New Zealand for Denmark with his family as a 10-year-old, said it was "a tremendous honour and privilege to captain your country and I'm humbled by the opportunity''.
He got the nod over Ipswich Town defender Tommy Smith, 22, who led the All Whites at the Oceania Nations Cup tournament last June when Nelsen and Reid were unavailable. Smith will continue as vice-captain.
Herbert had a chat with Smith in a café at the team's Dunedin hotel this morning. The pair shook hands as they left the table but the defender told reporters at that point that he still did not know who was going to be the All Whites captain.
But Smith indicated he would cop it sweet if he was not named as captain despite being promoted to vice-captain last year after Tim Brown, Nelsen's long-time deputy, retired.
He said he would be "disappointed for a while [if overlooked] but then I'd just get back to playing as well as I can and try and be a leader anyway".
"It's just an armband at the end of the day. As much as I'd be proud to have it, I'd still try to lead the boys as much as I can.''
Herbert said Smith, as vice captain, was still an important team leader.
"I think Tommy did a great job during a difficult time through the OFC Nations Cup when Ryan and Winston weren't available and he will continue in a leadership role and support Winston.''
Reid's accession to the All Whites captaincy was endorsed earlier by two former New Zealand football captains Danny Hay and Steve Sumner.
Hay said yesterday Reid was "a natural'' to take over as captain and he could not see Herbert "looking any further afield than our sole EPL player''.
Sumner said the job should go to "the top dog" who leads by example and won't let you down - ever.''
"Winston is at the top of the food chain [the EPL] as far as New Zealand is concerned . . . and you've got to respect that."
The All Whites can win the World Cup Oceania qualifying group if they beat New Caledonia in Dunedin. They will then travel to Honiara for a match with Solomon Islands on Tuesday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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