Danny Hay is set to head to Australia on an extended holiday next week with his future as All Whites coach up in the air.
Hay confirmed on Monday that he and his family were set to spend four months in Perth, where he once played, reconnecting with his wife Diane’s extended family, who they haven’t seen since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The long holiday comes with a decision on whether he is to be offered a new contract as national men’s football coach only set to be made in mid-October, once an independent review of the team’s World Cup qualifying campaign is completed.
NZ Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell said in a statement on Monday he was looking forward to sitting down with Hay then “to discuss his future and how to continue the development of the All Whites leading into the next Fifa World Cup qualifying cycle”.
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Hay’s contract is up now that their fixtures in 2022 have been completed and said he would be up for returning from Perth to New Zealand to have those discussions, if necessary.
Retiring captain Winston Reid and star striker Chris Wood both backed Hay to continue after the All Whites’ loss to Australia’s Socceroos at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday, with Wood saying it would be “silly” if he wasn’t kept on.
“My players in the dressing room are fully with me and what I say here today,” Wood added.
“We can only improve with this guy next to me.”
Wood went on to say that he feels the current crop of players have the potential to “go beyond” the teams from 1982 and 2010 that made it to World Cups in Spain and South Africa and finished with three losses and three draws respectively.
“They’ve got the playing style, the knowledge, the potential to be very, very good.
“We’ve got a lot of players playing in Europe and playing across the world.
“It’s completely different from what it was back in 2010. They’re plying their trade in some of the best leagues around the world, and that’s only going to improve us and help us as a squad.
“I believe that with help and guidance in the right way that this team could be very good come four years’ time, if not eight years’ time.”
Wood turns 31 in December and will be aware that the 2026 World Cup, to be hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, could be his last chance to attend a second showpiece event after 2010, as he will be 38 by the time the 2030 tournament comes around.
If the All Whites finish as the top team in Oceania qualifying, as they have for the past four World Cup cycles, they won’t have to navigate an intercontinental playoff to make it to the final event, which is expanding to include 48 teams rather than 32 and will have a guaranteed spot for a Pacific Island nation for the first time.
In addition to direct entry for the region’s top side, the second-placed team from Oceania will also have a chance to make it, via a playoff tournament where they will likely have to win twice against higher-ranked teams.
The All Whites’ fixture list is set to be a point of contention if and when talks begin with Hay regarding a new contract, with the coach firmly believing they need to be playing in every international window, which hasn’t typically been the case in the early years of World Cup cycles.
They were active in just three of the 10 windows between their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in November 2017 and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, which grounded them until October 2021.
After their failure to qualify for the 2014 event in November 2013, the All Whites played in seven of the 11 windows leading up to the 2016 Oceania Nations Cup, but often only had one match in those windows rather than the maximum two.
Pragnell pledged in his statement on Monday that the All Whites would play next in March next year “and consistently thereafter”. There aren’t set to be any competitive fixtures on their calendar until June 2024, which is when the next edition of the Oceania Nations Cup is expected to be held.
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