Anthony Hudson has named a squad full of big name players – which includes skipper Winston Reid, Chris Wood, Ryan Thomas and Henry Cameron – for one of the biggest windows in the history of New Zealand Football.
The OFC Nations Cup champions will play friendlies against Mexico and the USA on October 8 and 11 respectively as they begin their preparation for qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Hudson knows he will need all of his big game players when his side comes up against the World No 14 Mexico and the World No 26 the United States. The goal for the tour is to bring the strongest team back together and build the All Whites’ preparation for the World Cup qualifiers.
“We have missed a number of players for a long time now so it is great to have our captain back and some of the other names we have been missing,” said Hudson.
“We have a strong squad barring one or two injuries and we are pleased to get them back together for two very good games.”
Hudson said inspirational skipper Reid could not wait to pull on the white shirt as the team look for the ideal preparation ahead of their FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
“Winston is excited,” he said.
“He can’t wait to get back in with the team. He was in touch with me ahead of my trip to the UK and has been in contact with me regularly to see how the team is developing. We can’t wait for him to be back and likewise he can’t wait for this tour.”
Hudson was looking forward to getting Chris Wood back into camp who will hope to continue his sparkling form for Leeds United in the English Championship on the international stage.
“Woodsy has been superb for Leeds,” said Hudson.
“He is a natural leader in this group and he is looking forward to the opportunity to test himself against world-class opposition.”
It was also great to welcome back Cameron who was so impressive on debut for the All Whites last year in the 1-0 win over Oman before he suffered a career-threatening knee injury.
“Henry is a player we are really excited about and we know he has worked incredibly hard to get back to full fitness to be playing for Blackpool again,” said Hudson.
“We are looking forward to having him back in our group and see him build on what he showed on debut for the team.”
Also just starting out in his international career is 24-year-old Liam Graham, a promising right back from Chesterfield in England’s Football League One, who is named in an All Whites squad for the first time.
“We have been watching Liam for a while,” said Hudson.
“He had a good preseason and now has made his debut for the first team and played a few games. He is a good player and we are looking forward to having him with us.”
Hudson said his squad would have been even stronger had it not been for a number of late injuries which ruled out the likes of Bill Tuiloma, Thomas Doyle, Louis Fenton, and Storm Roux.
“Bill missing is a big disappointment for us and it was a shame because he was looking forward to the tour. He will be a big miss as will others like Tom Doyle and Louis Fenton and one or two others who have picked up injuries that have kept them out.”
Hudson said the first seven days in camp before the Mexico game in Tennessee would be crucial. The players would re-familiarise themselves with each other and Hudson will re-establish his style of play.
“If you look at the squad, four or five of the players who could potentially start have not been with us for a good part of a year,” he said.
“We are still very much at a stage where we need to reintegrate those guys into the team to continue building what we are doing. We are at a good point and we have enough time on our hands to make sure we are ready for the key games.”
Hudson said the results of these two international friendlies are important but the bigger picture is being ready for the OFC Stage Three Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup which begin in November.
“That is exactly what friendlies are for – they are there for us to be ready for the qualifiers and that is the most important thing for this team, that we win our qualifiers,” said Hudson.
“This is a great window to help us prepare for next November and the Confederations Cup. There is one thing on our mind and that is to make sure we are strong in November and get the job done.”
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football