When Auckland City's chairman, Ivan Vuksich, joked at the FIFA Club World Cup draw about Barcelona "breathing a sigh of relief" at avoiding his club in the pairings, he illustrated the sense of perspective with which the Kiwi amateurs are set to approach this illustrious event.

New Zealand's dominant club are, however, fiercely determined to represent both their country and Oceania with distinction at Japan 2006, with coach Roger Wilkinson also keen to make a positive early impression in this, his first season in charge.

The Englishman, who enjoyed spells in charge of New Zealand's U-17 and U-20 teams, has endured a difficult start since succeeding Allan Jones - under whom Auckland City had won back-to-back titles - with the reigning champions taking just one point from the first available six in their fledgling 2006/07 league campaign.

Spirits have, though, been lifted by a subsequent 6-2 thumping of Hawke's Bay United and by the high-profile signing of Teruo Iwamoto, a nine-times capped former Japanese international midfielder whom the Kiwis hope will earn them some local support when they kick off their FIFA Club World Cup bid against the yet-to-be-decided CAF Champions League winners on 10 December.

As for Wilkinson, he is preparing to lead the Auckland City charge on three separate fronts, with his aim to combine domestic success in the New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC) with victory in the OFC Club Championship and a creditable campaign alongside the world's best in Japan.

FIFA.com: Roger, are Auckland City ready to compete on three fronts this season?
Roger Wilkinson:
The NZFC must be our main aim and focus; it's our bread and butter and that's what we must concentrate on for the moment. In some ways, being involved in the OFC Club Championship is excellent because we go from the FIFA Club World Championship straight into the qualification campaign for another tilt at it, so we will avoid going from the massive high of playing in Japan to possibly something of a low. We will face the challenge in a positive way.  

How has the team changed since you began your tenure?
I have brought in some new ideas and the players have adapted quite well. I like my teams to play through the thirds and to play good football, and I think there have been some positive signs.

The FIFA Club World Championship opener against the African representatives looms large. What are your thoughts ahead of that match?
I've set my mind to winning that first game. The distance between the bigger and the smaller clubs is not that big and hinges on one or two aspects of the game, so we've set our sights very high. I expect all the players to rise to the occasion. We've got a good squad and we are strong in all positions. The most important quality is we have good striking options in Grant Young, Keryn Jordan and Paul Urlovic. As soon as we know who has won the CAF Champions League, I will be moving heaven and earth to get footage of them.

Are you at all afraid that your team might be embarrassed in Japan?
No. Worry is a negative thing. We'll have our plans and make sure the team is fit enough to cope with the challenge. We will gather plenty of information on each of the teams at the tournament and go and attack them. This will be crucial if we are to do well.

How will you be feeling if there are five minutes left in the opening game and Auckland City are winning 1-0?
I think I will pray! Seriously though, I have thought that situation through and there are one or two things we can do to 'bolt the gate', so to speak. I have been in those types of situations before throughout my career and have a plan for that possibility.

What are your impressions of Auckland City so far and the team's prospects of coping with the media glare in Japan?
I've joined a very good club and I am looking to develop it as far as I can. That's longer than a one-year project. The players have a great work ethic and that's great credit to Allan Jones and Craig Alexander (Jones' assistant). The players also have a very professional attitude. I don't think we've had to deal with the level of publicity before to the extent some of the players have had cameras following them around at work. But I think fans at the FIFA Club World Championship will find Auckland City's approach very refreshing. We've come from the grassroots and the players are playing because they love the game.  

Have you followed previous FIFA Club World Championship tournaments?
Not really. Now I am involved in one, I have looked back in hindsight. I've talked with Sydney FC about their experience in Japan last year. I think we have to make sure we keep our feet on the ground and concentrate on the job at hand and not be blown away by the atmosphere we will face in Japan. We will have to get used to being in a top class stadium, top class hotels.

Ivan Vuksich was telling me that when he went up to Japan for the draw, he was amazed that within an hour or so, there were posters and images of Barcelona and Auckland City inside the train stations promoting the tournament. But, being a Kiwi club, we are already very down-to-earth and I am confident we can cope.