Hamilton Wanderers name Ricki Herbert as their new national league coach
Ricki Herbert is returning to national league football, as coach of Hamilton Wanderers for the 2017-18 season.
He will take the helm of a side that finished ninth out of 10 in its inaugural campaign, and is hoping for a swift change in fortune.
The former All Whites coach said he was excited to be taking on the role, and that he would be looking to harness the potential of the region's youth.
"From what I've seen in a short period of time, there's some good young talent coming out of a range of clubs, and I'm keen to foster that and have those players as part of the summer programme, whether it's in the youth league [which Wanderers won in 2016] or being attached to the main senior team.
"It's important in the Waikato and in the broader region - Rotorua, Tauranga, those sorts of areas - that people can see a pathway."
Wanderers were coached by Mark Cossey in their first national league campaign, but following a post-season review, the club called for applications to take on the role early this month.
Club chairman Brendon Coker said having someone of Herbert's calibre on board would be a big boost to their national league operation.
"He's got a proven track record with the national side, he's a very experienced coach, and we felt Ricki being involved in Waikato football made him a good choice.
"We sat down with him and we basically had the same philosophies around developing youth in the Waikato, and bringing in players that would add strength to the side, so our philosophies matched, and we just felt he was the right fit for the club at the moment."
Herbert is best known for his work with the All Whites, as a player in the 80s, including at the 1982 World Cup, and as a coach, from 2005 to 2013, including at the 2010 World Cup. He finished in that role after the team lost to Mexico in an intercontinental playoff in 2013, ahead of the 2014 World Cup, and has since had a range of jobs, including in the Indian Premier League, with the Papua New Guinea under-23 team, and the Maldives national men's team.
He has also coached in the A-League with the New Zealand Knights and the Wellington Phoenix, who he led to their best ever finish in the 2009-10 season.
Herbert is based in Cambridge, but he doesn't have longstanding ties to any of the Waikato entities that compete against each other during the winter, including Wanderers, and he said one of his first steps would be reaching out to all of the region's clubs.
"There's obviously good players, and there's some good coaching, and it's just about taking away any fear of 'I'm going to lose my players,' and it's about just trying to make sure everybody feels a part of where we want to go.
"I think there's going to be players from a raft of teams that are going to be invited, and I'll be very honest to clubs about what I think, and that they're not going to lose them, and that they shouldn't fear that their production line is going to break down."
His commitments with Wanderers will be mixed with his duties at the high school, which has a roll of slightly more than 1000.
St Peter's principal Dale Burden said it would be good for the school to have their director of football involved with the region's national league team, and that it would help continue the good work Herbert has already begun.
"It will take us a little while, but we are building a strong foundation for the future through our academy, and already we've got a number of students coming here because they want to be coached by Ricki Herbert."
The 2017-18 national league will be known as the ISPS Handa Premiership, and is set to begin in October.