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[Archived] Rovers 5-0 New Zealand

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Rovers play New Zealand on Saturday 12th August KO 15:00 at Ewood.

I don't think we've ever played a whole country before, so it should be a bit of a challenge, shouldn't it?

Actually no, it shouldn't be.

I e-mailed my chum who has lived in NZ for some years - Professor Dave. (Yes yet another high-quality chat session, not only do I round-up Radio Five commentators but I also do Professors.) The last time Dave & I went to a game together was 25th March 2000 when we played Forest ( he supports them with angst & optimism from afar) at the City Ground & Ashley Ward scored the only goal. That must have hurt something rotten. But at least we had some decent beer in the county's oldest pub


Anyway, Dave agreed to have a go and his "having a go" was to point out that there is actually only one professional football club in the whole of NZ and that "NZ is not a footie country." He is not joking. Then he pointed me to a number of web sites from which most of the following is taken.

The New Zealand Knights FC, from Auckland, New Zealand are the only professional football team in New Zealand. They play in the recently-formed Hyundai A-League, which is Australia's premier football competition. The Knights play all their home fixtures at the 25,000 seater North Harbour Stadium in Auckland, although their average attendance is only around 3,000. The Hyundai A-League consists of The NZ Knights & seven clubs from Australia. Which must make the Knights the only team to play all their away games in another country (cue Statto..)

The A league is here via Wikipedia

The A-League

The rest of the teams in NZ are all amateur and the top ones are here thanks to

the New Zealand Footbal Commission

Who the hell would like to be a Hawkes Bay United fan? Poor sods have to suffer this environment as well as a rubbish footbal team.

The slums of Hawkes Bay

But onwards to the New Zealand national football team, nicknamed the "All Whites" the white strip was originally based on the colour of England's kit the and name is in contrast with the rugby union team, the All Blacks.

It has reached the World Cup Finals only once, in 1982, but lost all three games.

Details of one game are here

World Cup History Site

Spot three Rovers links, and The Professor has asked me to spot the one Forest link

Football is not really popular in NZ, rugby union, cricket and rugby league all have higher profiles.

More on the NZ national team here

The All Whites

and their report on their game with Charlton on Saturday

All Whites v Charlton

Nice to see that Marcus & Darren Bent are brothers!

Anyway, Professor Dave is mightily busy at the moment, he's pointed me in the direction of these web sites for which I thank him and if he comes back with any tweaks and corrections I'll come back & amend this post.

I'll do it in red just to show off.

If any of you down-under wombats in Aussie can add to this, please feel free.

I don't recollect any poster on here coming from NZ, but if you are a silent reader now is the time to have a go.

Edited by colin
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I think we have played a full country before, I remember I game in the early/mid eighties against northern ireland when they were a decent team. May have been a testimonial, and billy bingham was their manager and noel brotherston played. May have been just before 1986 world cup. Also vaguely remember score as 2-2

Anybody else remember

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I don't recollect any poster on here coming from NZ, but if you are a silent reader now is the time to have a go.

I haven't seen anything for a while, but there's a poster called Steptoe who is over in NZ I think so there might just be a contribution.

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Just hope we don't suffer any injuries in this one (or against Sparta and that goes for our supporters as well). Plenty of clubs seem to be getting bad hits to key players.

We're playing an outfit that would be at its level against Accy Stanley from Colin's description irrespective of their 1-1 at the Valley. That sounds like desperate tackling from our visitors....

Would be a nice bonus if Benni were to get the Rovers' faithful enthused.

Report on Charlton v NZ, Nelsen's injury and NZ ARE going to ask for him to play for them at Ewood. Incidentally, JW has said Rovers are looking to make sure Nelsen is not disadvantaged in his wages by us turning down Pompey. So' Arry has bumped up our wages bill and still not signed anybody permanently except David Thompson.

Edited by philipl
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I'm not a New Zealander, but having lived there for the last four years while studying in the university, perhaps I could say something about this. Like Australia, all of New Zealand's top players ply their trade in European/US leagues; we know of our Ryan Nelsen and Simon Elliot of Fulham, I believe there are one or two kiwis in the Dutch and German leagues. There are also a few in the MLS or playing college football. In the four years that I was in New Zealand, the All Whites reached the peak of beating Australia (although it was a purely locally-based Australian team) in the Oceania Cup and went on to represent Oceania in the Confederations Cup. After that however, they lost to Samoa (or was it Tonga?) in World Cup qualfication (completely unheard of...before Australia left to join the AFC, World Cup qualification in this region was always a two horse race between Australia and New Zealand) and have been in a state of depression, especially with the New Zealand Knights being so rubbish in the A-league.

The last I saw the All Whites play was a two game 'test' against Malaysia in New Zealand earlier this year. The kiwis won both games very easily (having said that Malaysia isn't exactly world class opposition) and in my opinion they are a very physical side without much pace or creativity. Think of a team of Robbie Savages, lots of stamina and enthusiasm but not much in terms of pace or flair. In the games against Malaysia, their best player were the wingers Vaughn Coveny and Jeremy Brockie. Their captain when Nelsen is not playing is Danny Hay, who used to play for Leeds and is now the captain of the New Zealand Knights (did I mention they are rubbish?).

I have not been following their results in their tour of Europe (among other teams they played Brazil before the world cup! Nelsen was supposed to play but at that time was recovering from a broken leg) but this is clearly not Rovers' toughest friendly fixture. Perhaps however, it is suitable preparation for the Rovers, after weeks of European opposition, this game is to acclimatise the players back to the more physical British style of play.

Because this friendly is so close to the start of the season, anything less than a comprehensive victory against New Zealand (with or without Nelsen) would be worrying.

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The team I would like to see against NZ:

Roberts McCarthy

Pedersen Savage Reid Gallagher

Gray Nelsen Zurab Niell


I think that would have the best balance of creativity and athleticism throughout the side. However, of course, by Saturday Niell and Emerton could have gone and oijer arrived.

Incidentally it occured to me that we were supposed to have around 10 million to spend after bellamy left but haveactually only spent 4.25 (2.5 on McCarthy, 1.75 on Roberts I think). We desperately need a right winger and a left back as things stand, possibly also a creative midfielder. And if the Aussies go we will need a right back too. Only 24 days till the window closes...

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The Hyundai A-League consists of The NZ Knights & seven clubs from Australia. Which must make the Knights the only team to play all their away games in another country (cue Statto..)

......this may upset the good people of Wales...........Cardiff, Swansea, Wrexham :)

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Well, here's a Kiwi post for you...

Most of the info provided above is pretty accurate - football struggles for a foothold in this country and will always do so, even though junior playing numbers far outweight rugby...

The NZ team to play Blackburn is almost a B team - there are a number of 1st choice players unavailable either thu injury or not being released by their clubs - ie Chris Killen, Simon Elliot, Kris Bouckenooghe, Adrian Webster, David Mulligan...

Obv Ryan is the focus for many Kiwi football fans, given that we get good pay TV coverage of the premiership, so it'd be a huge boost to the media interest in this game if he was fit to play for either side.

I was pretty happy with the result against Charlton given the strength of the squad - coach Ricki Herbert has done a good job since taking over on the international scene and while these friendlies won't gain us valuable Fifa ranking pts, the more casual sports fan in NZ would be more impressed if we picked up some sort of result against Charlton and Blackburn than against Estonia and Latvia.

If you guys have any questions about our squad, feel free to ask - I used to play in the same side as our keeper back when I was young and fit...

fyi, Jarrod Smith, one of the squad, is the son of former Kiwi test and ODi wicketkeeper Ian Smith...

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A big thanks to David aka Hard News for the Q&A session;

What is the local New Zealand league like?

Improving. It has undergone an A-League style change to be franchise based rather than club based as it was for the last 30 or 40 years. We're due to start the third season in October. It seems to tun towards the middle of New South Wales state league to give you a pointer and the champions of the first two seasons almost turned over Sydney FC in the World Club Qualifiers in the middle of last year. It is mostly locals with a few imports (Australians, South Africans, Solomon Islanders, English, and Scottish in the main) although most of the imports have settled here rather than turning up for the New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC).

The NZFC is a Summer competition, Winter remains with clubs and there are pretty much 4 top regional winter leagues plus a national knock-out cup called the Chatham Cup. Participation numbers are huge at all levels and ages.

A team based in New Zealand which is playing in an Australian League might be weird thing for Rovers fans to understand, explain why they're there and your views on this?

They're there because New Zealand can't support a Professional League. The NZFC is an Amateur (well, Semi-Professional) competition. The sport in new Zealand does not have the population base or the profile to support a league at that level. The game struggles for any media coverage against the sport of Rugby Union which completely dominates the Psyche of the whole nation. The Knights should provide a path for young locals to experience the professional game and earn a profile that takes them forward in the game. Unfortunately the clubs focus seems to be on imported talent, but they are making noises that they are going to change it.

What style of play does the New Zealand team play?

Holding on for dear life. Most of our talent is in our defenders so we're generally pretty solid defensively, but don't always threaten in front of goal as much as we'd like. We did used to focus on a 4-3-3 formation but manager Ricky Herbert is playing with other options. I suspect you'll see one up front an quite a defensive mindset for the first 30 as they try and work up what we're up against, particularly as we're missing so many of the first choice squad.

What have been New Zealand's most recent results?

It's been a busy year. Last year we played just one match, against Aus and lost 1-0 at Craven Cottage. This year we've already played 9 matches and turned down a game against Tunisia pre-World Cup. We started with wins over Malaysia, then lost a pair of games in Chile. Most recently a pre-World Cup tour gave us our first international win in Europe, over Georgia 3-1, a draw with Estonia 1-1, a 2-0 loss to Hungary and a 4-0 loss to Brazil. As usual it was a pretty depleted side with no Simon Elliot or Ryan Nelsen and four others from the side that played Australia 12 months earlier.

Most recently we drew 1-1 with Charlton at The Valley earlier this week.

Which New Zealand players do you see joining Ryan Nelson and Simon Elliot in the Premier League?

The obvious one is Chris James who is currently on the books of Fulham and was part of the extended first team squad last season. You should see him start against Blackburn. There is a bit of a gap between Nelsen and Elliott and the younger generation that is most likely to yield more Premier League players. Chris Killen at Hibernian in Scotland is possibly a chance if he can keep up his scoring form and avoid the injuries that have plagued him.

There is a generation coming through that includes James at Fulham, Winston Reid who plays in Denmark and a few players in Germany as well as players that are already showing out domestically at a very young age.

Australia played in their first World Cup in 32 years, can you see new Zealand repeating the feats of the 1982 New Zealand team now they are the big fish of Oceania?

Getting past the 5th placed South American side may be a bridge too far for the current side, particularly as we struggle to put the first team out, but we have more and more players playing professionally. I suspect that moves will be made to try and change Oceania's path to Asia or similar, if that is successful I think our first team is up to it.

Who will play in New Zealand's first XI this Saturday?

We've lost Ivan Vicelich who plays in the Dutch Eredivisie since the Charlton game, but hopefully Danny Hay will be fit. We're missing 14 of the normal first choice squad so it is a little inexperienced, but I suspect it will be something like this:

Mark Paston (New Zealand Knights - Aus)

James Pritchett (Auckland City - NZ)

Steven Old (Newcastle Jets - Aus - father is an ex-All Black)

Danny Hay© - (ex-Leeds, Walsall - Currently unemployed)

Tony Lochhead - (New England Revolution - US MLS)

Jarrod Smith - (West Virginia - US College - father Ian was Wicketkeeper for the New Zealand Cricket team for many years)

Tim Brown - (Richmond Kickers - US A-League)

Andrew Barron - (Team Wellington - NZ)

Chris James (Fulham)

Campbell Banks (Youngheart Manawatu - NZ)

Shane Smeltz (Halifax Town - may have club duties and be unavailable)

If he is fit and plays in White I suspect Ryan Nelsen would play in place of Pritchett with Old moving to Right back.

Which New Zealand player will cause Rovers the most danger?

Chris James seems to be the person the hype is about currently, but under-estimate Campbell banks at your peril. He's better than the level he plays at.

What do you think of Blackburn Rovers?

A bit of a soft spot for them due to Ryan, but they have too many Australians :-)

Has Rovers' profile increased since Ryan Nelson signed for us?

Definitely. TV updates generally include the Blackburn result, plus he is the figurehead for the game here as Captain and playing at the level he does so you see him pictured quite a lot in Blue and White.

Can you have a word in Ryan's ear and ask him not to leave Rovers? ;)

Not me personally, but I know some people :-) Sol Campbell may have that decision for him though.

Who do you see as Rovers' danger man?

I've seen Benni McCarthy play here in NZ against the NZ Olympic squad a few years back and if he's on his game he can be very impressive. I've always thought Friedel was exceptional but for the part of me that is an Ipswich fan, it's the Flying Finn Shefki Kuqi

What do you think the result will be?

I suspect you'll be stronger than Charlton and we might struggle to score even if we're defensively sound. 1-0 to 2-0 to Blackburn but can we have a re-match when we can get the full squad out ?

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