Football: Chance to 'sharpen focus' on game

New Zealand Football head of football development Bev Priestman and New Zealand Football chief executive Grant McKavanagh at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
New Zealand Football head of football development Bev Priestman and New Zealand Football chief executive Grant McKavanagh at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The resignation of Ricki Herbert from the Phoenix can only benefit the national side, the boss of New Zealand Football believes.

New Zealand Football chief executive Grant McKavanagh, who was in Dunedin yesterday, said he could comment on the relationship between Herbert and the Phoenix.

''That is private between Ricki and the Phoenix, but it is an opportunity for us with a big game coming up on March 22,'' McKavanagh said.

''It gives him a great opportunity to really sharpen the focus on this game.''

The All Whites are scheduled to take on New Caledonia at Forsyth Barr Stadium on March 22, in a vital World Cup qualifier, which should the New Zealanders win, will get them

into a playoff to decide whether they make it to next year's World Cup.

''I would expect Ricki to leave no stone unturned as he prepares for this game, now that he is free from the Phoenix.

''This is a big, big game for the All Whites and one I know many of the players are looking forward to. They see it as another part of the adventure of their footballing lives.''

McKavanagh, who has previously lived in Dunedin, was buoyed by the crowd which attended a Warriors league game at the stadium last Saturday night.

''We would be happy with a crowd of that size but, to be honest, we would love to sell it out.''

A crowd of 15,345 attended the Warriors match.

He said a couple of New Zealand Football officials would be in Dunedin on Sunday to view the match between the Phoenix and Melbourne Heart to get a feel of how things operated at the stadium.

If the All Whites win on March 22, a decision would be made shortly afterwards on where the playoff game would be played in New Zealand.

It is to be played against the fourth-placed Concacaf (North and Central America and Caribbean) nation. McKavanagh said it was a straight choice between Auckland's Eden Park and Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Forsyth Barr Stadium was not big enough for a game of that magnitude, he said.

McKavanagh was in Dunedin to discuss with clubs the new football strategic plan for the next three years and said clubs appeared to be accepting of the whole of football plan.

''Like anything, there was a bit of apprehension when something new is started but generally we think there has been an acceptance at what we are trying to do.''

McKavanagh said the results of the new plan would not be borne out for another decade as players fully matured.

He also sounded a word of warning about foreign clubs setting up academies in this country.

''New Zealand is untapped in terms of talent and progressive pathways. Now we have teams in the under-17s, the under-20s at World Cups they are in the shop front window... but people need to be clear what they are getting involved in. It is a money game.''