I’ve been thinking about the standard of New Zealand football recently. The acquisition of Guernsey goal-machine Ross Allen and his respectable 4 goals in 5 games got me thinking about where, comparatively, the A-League and the NZFC sit compared to the previous leagues of football I’ve seen.
Being realistic, the A-League is EFL Championship standard at best and bottom end of League One at worst. That’s represented not only by what’s on the pitch and also the players the league attract from overseas. There’s individual exceptions in the league of players who could play higher level, but overall the quality and standard is Step Two.
Take Melbourne City’s loanee from Aston Villa, Ross McCormack. Now Ross was a decent Championship forward three years ago, but in the A League he looks like a top player, scoring 14 goals in 16 appearances this year. On the other hand Hamish Watson had a brief spell at Grimsby Town in the Conference National (Step 5) and an equally brief loan at Gainsborough Trinity (Step 6) and struggled in the A League.
For the Phoenix, this season, it’s more League One than Championship. The exception being Roy Krishna, who’d comfortably fit in with top Championship sides and even have a good crack at the Bundesliga, MLS or a Premier League relegation battler.
Where does that put the NZFC then? With Ross Allen, and Ben Harris before him, coming from the Isthmian League (Step 7) and Isthmian League South (Step 8) and doing well in the league and Clayton Lewis making his move over to League One and occasionally making the bench, realistically the NZFC is Step 5 at best.
But, hold on, what about Auckland City F.C and their annual adventures in the Club World Cup? Doesn’t that drag up the overall standard? I had to give this some serious though, well, not that much serious thought.
The Club World Cup is something of an anomaly for every club involved. It’s weirdly placed in the calendar, it’s knockout football for the most part and it involves a fair amount of travelling for every single club involved. To say that every club participating is at 100% competitiveness wouldn’t be wholly accurate, but it’s not a dismissal of Auckland City’s efforts in going toe to toe with professional outfits.
That’s not necessarily a criticism of the league’s quality though. The NZFC delivers the right mix of good football and bad football that makes football interesting. Players that are young enough and good enough disappear quickly (Lewis, David Browne, Krishna etc) while those that are in the mix but maybe miss a chance stick around (looking at you, Clapham) while overseas and Pacific imports and ex-pro’s/NZ internationals returning home give it a local flavour.
That’s not to say the NZFC and the A League don’t have some pretty significant problems, problems which they share on different scales. But that’s more to do with league structure, distances involved and problems with establishing a contained ‘top league’ over long-established clubs and leagues.
It’s also an entirely different blog. Maybe for another time.
Categories: NZ Men's National League
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.