It doesn’t look like a controversial squad. Winston’s back, Woody’s there... but hold it against the lads who went to the Confederations Cup and there are a few peculiar changes that’ve been made. From that squad, which you have to assume was the best we coulda named with the exception of the injured Winston Reid, there have been five alterations – with two players omitted for a 21-man squad.
IN: Myer Bevan, Ollie Sail, Winston Reid
OUT: Sam Brotherton, Bill Tuiloma, Clayton Lewis, Alex Rufer, Tamati Williams
Yeah… a couple of those snubbed lads make perfect sense. A couple a little less sense – Clayton Lewis and Bill Tuiloma were two of the better performers in the Confeds and neither has even been replaced in the squad, which means an already skinny central midfield has now pretty much been left with Wee Mac and Ryan Thomas (Themi would be the emergency fill-in).
Not to mention some of the folks that have become regular outsiders under this regime. You know the ones: Tyler Boyd, Jake Gleeson, Jeremy Brockie, etc. Woulda been pretty unlikely to see any of them in the 21 but we’ve also gotten used to seeing that one Hudson Hero selection. A Moses Dyer or an Alex Rufer – that one chap who maybe doesn’t quite deserve it but Uncle Tony’s a fan. Yet… there doesn’t seem to be one of them in here at all. The two uncapped players are Ollie Sail who is a third string goalie that’s been in squads before and Myer Bevan who has definitely supplied a convincing case for his selection over the last couple months.
And of course there’s that notable name ‘Winston Reid’ in there too. Never wanna get complacent about that when he’s only played three of the last 21 games for the All Whites. He hasn’t played yet either, don’t get carried away when there’s still another month for him to get injured in.
The two games here are rather important. Home to the Solomon Islands at North Harbour Stadium on September 1 and then away to them in Honiara on September 5. The tie is judged on aggregate score and away goals will apply. If all is even after two legs, there’s extra time after which the away goals rule is applied again (so if both teams score in extra time then we’d go through as the away team). Then penalties if necessary. Winner advances to the intercontinental World Cup playoff with the fifth placed South American team.
Playing away in the second leg is a bit of a bugger but so it goes. In Hudson’s nine matches against OFC opposition the All Whites have kept eight clean sheets, they played the Solomons in the Nations Cup and beat them 1-0 thanks to a late Luke Adams header. Haven’t heard much from him lately, aye? Anyway, let’s go through the squad, position by position as per usual.
Stefan Marinovic (Vancouver Whitecaps, CAN) – 19/0
Glen Moss (Newcastle Jets, AUS) – 29/0
Ollie Sail (Wellington Phoenix, NZ) – 0/0
Is anyone gonna argue about the first two? Highly doubt it. Both have just joined new clubs with Mossy hooking up with Ernie Merrick again in Newcastle while Mari has joined the All White-Caps in Vancouver – immediately becoming the most advanced of any of them as he’s settled into the reserve keeper role. Chances are he’ll inherit that starting gig when the main man David Ousted leaves at the end of the season (as is currently anticipated) but he’s talking a good game about immediately fighting for his spot. Brilliant.
Sail is a different matter. Moss’ departure from the Nix has shifted him up into the reserve role there but he’s never started an A-League game and here he is in the national team. But, like, don’t freak out about that. Think of it more like a development thing.
Are there better available keepers than Ollie Sail? Hell yeah. Just off the top of the noggin there’s Jake Gleeson, Max Crocombe, Nik Tzanev and Michael Woud all hovering around and Tamati Williams went to the Confeds. But Tamati Williams hasn’t found a new club since his contract ran out in Holland and it sounds like he might not be in a hurry to find one either. Crocombe and Tzanev have both been in squads before but are playing in lower league English stuff where they don’t get a break for international windows. Gleeson, apparently, isn’t there because of a lack of commitment to the team. Slightly harsh, he also has a pro team that requires a fair bit of commitment and they pay the bills – Huddo never complains about Winston Reid’s absences although to be fair he’s ripped on Tommy Smith for them plenty.
But he also welcomed Smithy back in when he made a proper effort to recommit to the cause. The same has happened with Andy Durante and Glen Moss to lesser extents. Kosta Barbarouses responded well to being dropped and was back in for the Confeds. All Gleeson’s gotta do is make the effort… but then it’s not really worth coming all the way out to sit on the bench yet when Marinovic has started 19 consecutive matches. Maybe make the effort next time instead.
Hence also why it doesn’t matter about Sail. He’s there and available, they don’t have to cash up so he can travel half the globe, he’s been involved in training and wider squads before… and he’s not gonna play anyway.
Michael Boxall (Minnesota United, USA) – 27/0
Kip Colvey (San Jose Earthquakes, USA) – 11/0
Tommy Doyle (Wellington Phoenix, NZ) – 6/0
Andy Durante (Wellington Phoenix, NZ) – 20/0
Dane Ingham (Brisbane Roar, AUS) – 4/0
Winston Reid (West Ham United, ENG) – 21/1
Storm Roux (Central Coast Mariners, AUS) – 7/0
Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town, ENG) – 35/2
Themi Tzimopoulos (PAS Giannina, GRE) – 11/1
Deklan Wynne (Vancouver Whitecaps, CAN) – 11/0
There’s a bloody lot of them, ain’t there? Ten defenders out of a squad of 21. That’s a tad excessive considering what’s to come next… the dreaded midfield. Five of them are wingbacks too which, even if there’s a bit of rotation (as Huddo has always done with WBs), is still one more than necessary. At the Confeds (including the prep games) Wynne and Colvey played three times, Doyle and Ingham played twice (they were staggered differently though – four separate combinations). So… perhaps Storm Roux is a bit lucky to be there then. For the balance of the team he probably oughta have been dropped for a midfielder.
Five centre backs is also a tad excessive. Winston will start, with Smith and Boxall alongside (presumably), which means Dura and Themi are chilling there for depth. Granted, Themi has gotta cover that midfield now so maybe he should be in the next category. Can’t remember him playing much for the All Whites at CM but he’s a defensive midfielder for his club team in Greece. You’d figure he won’t bring much mobility to the position but at least he brings some physicality which, against the Solomons, might be more important. Themi only played one game on the Confeds tour, the loss to Belarus, but he’s always in the squads. Doesn’t hurt to have the option of something a little different.
Also, Dura may have looked a bit slow at the Confeds but he’s started the last ten games for the All Whites so don’t be shocked if he does start. Again, options are a good thing.
Dane Ingham signed a contract extension at the Roar recently. He’ll probably play one of the games here and this upcoming A-League season is gonna be really interesting for him. Gotta think he’s gonna start pushing his way into those matchdays squads more often than not. He was completely pantsed against Mexico and Portugal in Russia but don’t forget he’s still a teenager and absolutely stacked with potential. He’s already the best attacking option of our fullback quintet. Having said that, if he keeps being picked as a fringe A-League player over a regular starter in Storm Roux then the latter has plenty of reason to get itchy.
West Ham open their Premier League season with three straight away games: Manchester United, Southampton and Newcastle. They host Huddersfield the first game back after the international break. A full week after the Solomons game so Winston has plenty of time to get back in good shape, it’s just a matter of getting through those first three because if they’re winless after that trio, which they could well be, then Slaven Bilic won’t be so accepting about his vice-captain circumnavigating the globe to play on a pitch in Honiara.
Just saying, is all.
Mike McGlinchey (Wellington Phoenix, NZ) – 48/4
Ryan Thomas (PEC Zwolle, NED) – 14/2
Where the hell are they all? Well, funny story about that. Both Bill Tuiloma and Clayton Lewis were influential at the Confeds. Tui came off the bench to great effect in every game while pushing Lewis in as a starter against Mexico was arguably the catalyst for their best performance of the tour. It was his best game in an All Whites jersey, no doubt about that.
Which begs the question once more: where the hell are they? Hudson had an explanation, don’t worry:
And you know what? As far as reasonings go this was pretty reasonable. Tuiloma’s career has been frustratingly stalling at Marseille for the last two years. He got a couple subs appearances for the first team and then never kicked on at all. His loan out to Strasbourg was a disaster, he could barely get a game there despite joining for experience and then when offered the chance of a loan out last season he declined it to fight for a first team spot – even as the new OM ownership went about splashing all sorts of cash on their starting XI.
Now he’s found himself on the Portland Timbers where the coach has already spoken about him in less than enthusiastic terms – not because of his ability but because of the nature of the transfer, to be fair. Pretty much said he considered him an opportunistic bit of depth who’d need to split time between the first team bench and the seconds. Still better than he was getting going stale in the OM development team though.
Time’s gonna tell how much footy he sees in Portland but Hudson’s worries over Tui’s fitness are not a new thing. He hardly ever plays him for ninety and settling him into an impact sub role at the Confeds was rather telling. He’s the sixth most used player for Huddo, you know he rates him as a footballer. But Uncle Tony is right. Tui needs to play football. He’s at his best when he’s getting regular games. This is a kick up the arse as much as anything and hopefully a little motivation to really scrap for that Timbers jersey.
And Clayton is the same. He’s playing amateur football in New Zealand. Playing it very well, sure, but the intensity here doesn’t compare to what’s coming against Argentina or whoever and this is the last chance to make a big statement like this before then – Tui and Lewie won’t be the difference against the Solomons (and if they are then there are bigger issues) but we’ll need every hand on deck against the South American opponents (yeah yeah… if we get there…).
What is going on with Clayton Lewis, actually? He had that trial with Burton Albion last season which by accounts went really well. Like, they said he was probably gonna go back for a further trial at some point but that was months ago now and nothing’s been said. Lewis has had a fair few trials over the last couple years but nothing’s stuck. With so many kiwi players getting contracts over the last month or two it’s a bit crazy that Lewis isn’t even getting mentioned. Is he holding out for an ideal situation? Is it something else getting in the way?
As a thought exercise, here are some other New Zealand midfielders who are quite good at playing football and have pro contracts around the world:
Alex Rufer, Chris James, Dan Keat, Michael den Heijer, Matt Ridenton, Ben van den Broek, Andrew Blake, Moses Dyer (to be fair those last two are still trying to get them pro deals on the table). Hey if Myer Bevan’s in there after the U20s then chuck Joe Bell in too. Haha, and what ever happened to Luka Prelevic? He was the last of the dumb youth selections.
Wee Mac and Thommo are really good. They can cover up to 210 minutes of midfield play no dramas, with Marco Rojas dropping deeper and allowing for another forward in there alongside Chris Wood. Probably Smeltz in at least one game though gotta figure Bevan’s in for a debut here.
Kosta Barbarouses (Melbourne Victory, AUS) – 42/3
Myer Bevan (Vancouver Whitecaps, CAN) – 0/0
Monty Patterson (Ipswich Town, ENG) – 13/1
Marco Rojas (sc Heerenveen, NED) – 37/5
Shane Smeltz (Borneo FC, IND) – 57/24
Chris Wood (Leeds United, ENG) – 52/20
Look how similar Wood and Smeltz’s career numbers are. The difference being that Wood is way more likely to score a hatty in his next game and bust it open. Relevant point: Vaughan Coveny’s record of 28 goals is not gonna last much longer and it probably won’t be Smeltzy who beats it. Wood has scored twice as many goals as anyone else under Huddo’s reign, with eight. Rojas has four and Fallon and Thomas have two. Seven others have one each.
Rojas has played 37 games, that’s crazy. With his new club he’s coming into a very exciting time in his career and his form over the last ten months or so has been superb. Monty Patterson edges out Tyler Boyd (again, lack of commitment), Jai Ingham (they only wanted him for his brother), Henry Cameron (hasn’t been the same since his knee injury) and the local contingencies of Hamish Watson, Logan Rogerson, Noah Billingsley, etc. Be curious to see if Monty gets a look in at that Ipswich first team this season – they’re poor as hell so the best U23s usually get a chance or two.
Kosta remains in as a reliable backup after doing some substitute work on the last tour. Beats being dropped, at least. Smeltz must be coming close to the end of his time but nobody’s retiring this close to the damn World Cup qualifiers, not with the candle of Russia 2018 still burning in the distance. When he does retire they’ve got his dead set replacement already in camp in Myer Bevan. Brilliant for NZ at the U20 World Cup, already scoring goals for the Whitecaps seconds… it was only a matter of time until he was called up and with the obvious lack of goal scoring depth here the sooner the better. Bevan knows how to put ‘em away against the OFC teams too – five goals in five games at the 2016 OFC U20 Champs.
Is there anything else to say? Not really. There’s competition for places and players are upset to be left out, that’s what a strong international team has to deal with. We may not be there in the performance side of things but this extra depth shows we’re a little better than we were a couple years ago.
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