Disclaimer: #HotSportsTakes is a Grantland column in which they try to write the worst sports column of all time. I channelled my inner Sam Malcolmson to fawn about the good old days of New Zealand football.
16 months. 458 days. 10,992 hours.
Regardless of how you name it, the gap between the last time the All Whites won is a disgrace to our illustrious and proud footballing heritage.
In Sam Malcolmson’s superb weekly column, he asserts that today’s players are too soft and pampered. They need to toughen up, he says, and realise the honour of playing for their country.
In today’s PC-age, players are more interested in their paycheck than their country. More interested in their social media platforms than their fitness levels. Quicker to tweet after a game than get in the film room and realise their flaws.
As Malcolmson notes, “The honour of playing for your country, pride in the jersey, and being prepared to battle together for 90 minutes is at the heart of successful international teams, and it will always be crucial for a football minnow such as New Zealand.”
Interesting word there. Honour.
Some players treat it as an honour to pull on the black shirt with the silver fern. Others treat it as a chance to make it all about them, an opportunity to advance their careers professionally.
When Winston Reid celebrated his game-tying goal against Slovakia at the World Cup, he didn’t care about what it meant for the country. He was celebrating the big transfer fee he knew was coming with it, arrogantly taking off his shirt.
Compare that to All Whites legend and proper hard-man Steve Sumner. There was no showboating for Steve when he scored against Scotland. He picked up the ball, shook hands with teammates, and got on with the game. He didn’t need the glitz, glamour and TV cameras, he had a job to do.
There were no outrageous haircuts or facial hair in the team. Nor was there an emphasis on fancy passing – the ’82 side knew exactly how to score goals, and that was to boot the ball long, win the aerial battles and get it in the mixer.
Back in the glory days, they didn’t need a coach to tell the team everything about their opponent, how many kilometres they ran or any of these fancy stats that get thrown at today’s players. The 1982 team knew that it wasn’t about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jim’s and Joe’s, and they simply wanted it more than their highly-rated opponents.
You can tell a lot about a man by looking at the colour of his boots. The ’82 side were symbolic of the team everyone should take their motivation from – All Black. Today? The pampered posse show off fluorescent colours so prevalent in today’s me-first culture, with the luminescent yellow, pink and red boots designed to draw attention to themselves.
New Zealand may be world-renowned for its seafood, but selfish has been on the menu far too long for the All Whites.
In today’s squad, players committed enough to do anything to win are few and far between. Ben Sigmund is a player who would look right in place with the 82 squad, but the men in front of him on the pitch avoid the tackle like it’s the plague.
How are the All Whites meant to succeed when one of their players, Chris James, seems more committed to fixing his haircut than finding a professional club, while Michael McGlinchey should change his name to Michael McFlinchey for the amount of contact he avoids in the engine room of the midfield.
To be fair, should we expect the All Whites to care about their country, when half of them play overseas, and several were born outside of our strong nation?
Gone are the days of thick Kiwi accents ruling over the 1982 squad, with Malcolmson, Bobby Almond, Steve Sumner, Steve Wooddin and Allan Boath all good old New Zealand blokes led by men as Kiwi-as-they-come, John Adshead and Kevin Fallon.
Today, the array of accents make the All Whites camp seem more like a local backpackers, with the likes of McGlinchey, Tommy Smith and Andrew Durante all using the national side merely as a resort to boost their own individual playing careers.
What happened to the pride of playing for your country, like the days when Wynton Rufer would regularly fly halfway across the world, spurning his club side just so he could join up and lace up the black boots?
Why is it that our national side has an English manager in charge telling our players about how to play for their country? What this country needs is a manager who is really in touch with the local elements, like Adshead, and Bobby Clark, Joe McGrath and Ken Dugdale after him.
Anthony Hudson seems like a nice fellow – too nice, in fact. In ’82, Fallon would yell himself hoarse in an effort to drive on our committed lads. His hard-line attitude was accepted. Now, he’s been driven out of top-line coaching after too many “on-field incidents”. The only on-field incident Hudson will find himself in is when he realises halfway through a match that he’s forgotten to trim his stubble.
Bring back Adshead. Bring back Fallon. Bring back the mentality of hard-nosed, smashmouth tackling and long-balls. Bring back a culture where players play for free, and come straight in from the farm, boots in hand. Return to a side where players weren’t pampered, where they bring their own halftime oranges to the game and wash their kit themselves.
Today’s All Whites side needs to learn a few things from the side of 1982.
Categories: All Whites
Hamilton raised, Niall Anderson now halves his time between university studies in Auckland and catching up on all things Waikato football in the Tron. Having covered Waikato FC and WaiBOP United in the ASB Premiership, Niall is also the lead writer at nzhoops.co.nz. Find him on Twitter @NiallGunner.