All Whites great calls it a day
Former Phoenix star Paul Ifill has questioned New Zealand Football’s method in appointing the next All Whites coach, saying their preoccupation with qualifications may not produce the right result.
NZF chief executive Andy Martin and new technical director Andreas Heraf have emphasised that a Fifa Pro Licence — the highest coaching qualification in the world — is mandatory for Anthony Hudson’s successor.
That’s despite the fact the pro licence course cannot be done in this country, which limits the possibilities for local applicants.
Ifill says the value of the pro licence shouldn’t be overestimated.
“In my career, I’ve come across plenty of pro licence coaches who’ve had no idea what they were doing,” said Ifill. “You have to be really careful. Some guys are great ‘presentation’ coaches . . . and it all looks good on a PowerPoint.
“But then actually getting from there to the grass, and creating an environment where players can learn and develop and understand systems, and dealing with the dressing room, that’s completely different.”
Ifill was a professional footballer for 11 years in England, including more than 200 appearances for Millwall and stints at Sheffield United and Crystal Palace. He also did things the hard way, rejected by Watford at the age of 16, before being spotted by Millwall playing nonleague football.
His time at the Phoenix coincided with a golden period at the Wellington club, including two memorable finals runs, and he is seen as the best import in their history.
At 38, the Tasman assistant coach is still performing — he grabbed a hat-trick last week in the ISPS Handa Premiership — and has also set up academies in Nelson and Masterton.
“Don’t get me wrong, the coaching badges are important,” said Ifill. “But just because you have one doesn’t mean you know exactly what you are doing. It’s means you are qualified.
“I’ve had very good and very bad pro licence coaches coach me, some that I would never put in charge of an under-12 team, let alone a national team. You have to be really careful. They just give you the tools you need to use the knowledge you’ve already got.”
NZF’s stance appears to prioritise the theoretical over the practical. Qualifications should not be discounted but should be down the pecking order in terms of criteria.
Ifill also cautions against rushing the decision — “it’s not like we have any important games for a while” — and the current process seems quite hasty, especially compared with previous searches which landed Ricki Herbert (2005) and Hudson (2014) respectively.
However, Heraf maintains the new coach will be appointed in time for the friendly match against Canada in Spain on March 7.
He added that NZF don’t have a plan B for that game, such is their certainty — “we don’t think about it because we will have a coach”.
Heraf said there are several names still in contention, contrary to rumours in the football community that it is a short list of one.
“[It is] a few,” confirmed Heraf. “I don’t think it is necessary to determine a certain number of people. [The list] is getting shorter and it is a few. It’s more than one.”
Paul Ifill (left) is coaching and playing for Tasman United.