With less than a week to go until their FIFA Club World Cup debut, Auckland City have a 'new' coach after replacing Roger Wilkinson with his predecessor, Allan Jones, on an interim basis.
Jones, who left the Kiwi champions to take charge of the national women's team during the summer, has been given permission by New Zealand Soccer to take the reins for Japan 2006 after Wilkinson left the amateur outfit "by mutual consent" following an indifferent start to their title defence.
The solution may only be short-term, with Jones and his assistant Craig Alexander charged with leading the team through December, but Auckland City's chairman, Ivan Vuksich, expressed delight and relief that the squad has been entrusted to a safe paid of hands.
"To have a coach of Allan's experience and expertise lead our side to Japan is a major boost for the club," said Vuksich. "Allan and Craig work extremely well together and are very professional in their approach. They are familiar with our players having enjoyed great success with the majority of them in recent seasons at Auckland City. We would also like to thank New Zealand Soccer for their co-operation in this challenging time for the club."
During his previous two-year stint, Jones led Auckland City to back-to-back championships and was in charge of the team that secured a place at Japan 2006 with victory at the Oceania Club Championship in May of this year.
The Englishman, who moved to New Zealand in 1979 following spells in charge of Bristol City, Blyth Spartans and Darlington in his homeland, has also enjoyed success with clubs in Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Doubt were in fact raised about whether Jones would be able to take up the challenge of leading Auckland City to Japan after he injured ankle ligaments on a tour of China with the national women's team just two weeks ago, but after receiving physiotherapy he has been declared fit enough to make the journey.
Yesterday, Alexander - Jones' assistant - took charge of the team as they warmed up for their FIFA Club World Cup opener against Egypt's Al Ahly with a 2-2 draw against YoungHeart Manawatu that leaves them third in the New Zealand Football Championship, eight points behind leaders Waitakere United.