Canterbury's Aaron Clapham was the surprise inclusion when the New Zealand squad for next month's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ was announced in Auckland today.
Clapham, a former Under-20 international, joins Denmark-based Winston Reid as the only uncapped players named in Ricki Herbert's 23-man squad for South Africa. The midfielder first appeared on the international radar when he was named in a 15-man training squad by Herbert for a 12-day camp for his Australasian-based players, which has just been completed.
The 23-year-old impressed in yesterday's trial match where he lined up for New Zealand A against a New Zealand Football Championship All Stars XI and created his side's second goal for Costa Barbarouses in the 2-0 win. Clapham aside, Herbert's squad contained few surprises given the former All Whites defender's pledge to select the 18 players who helped get New Zealand to the FIFA World Cup for just the second time.
While he backtracked on that slightly - omitting Aaron Scott - the bulk of the squad involved in qualifying was retained. Scott missed out following the unexpected recruitment of Europe-based defenders Tommy Smith, who made his debut against Mexico in March, and Reid.
The pair only recently pledged their allegiance to New Zealand after playing for England Under-18s and Denmark Under-20s, respectively. Defender David Mulligan was retained despite not featuring in 46 matches for his club, Wellington Phoenix, who Herbert also coaches. Jeremy Christie was another notable inclusion after being forced to ply his trade overseas at FC Tampa Bay Rowdies when he was axed from the Phoenix at the end of the 2008/09 A-League season.
Herbert, who played in the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain, said both Christie and Clapham had deserved their selection. "Aaron has come into this group and looked very comfortable," the All Whites coach said. "He is the type of player that should be around the international scene for many years and he has a big future in the professional game.
"Jeremy has always been on the radar and I have kept in close contact with his coach at Tampa Bay. He has gone offshore to challenge himself and that has been good for him. I know him well and the coaching staff has worked with Jeremy over many years and we believe he will offer a great deal to the squad."
Herbert also came out in support of Mulligan, who did not feature in one A-League match for the Phoenix this season and was released in April. "David has been a victim of circumstances at the Phoenix where other players have come in and played well, keeping him out of the team," said Herbert. "He has never stopped working hard however and his attitude has been first class."
The squad reassembles in Auckland on 19 May. They will travel to Melbourne on 22 May for a match against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground two days later.
Following that match the squad will travel to Austria for a camp and matches against Serbia and Slovenia, before arriving in South Africa on 6 June.
New Zealand squad
Goalkeepers: James Bannatyne (Team Wellington), Glen Moss (Melbourne Victory/Australia), Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix)
Defenders: Andy Boyens (New York Red Bulls/USA), Tony Lochhead (Wellington Phoenix), Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers/England), Winston Reid (FC Midtjylland/Denmark), Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix), Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town/England), Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City)
Midfielders: Andy Barron (Team Wellington), Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix), Tim Brown (Wellington Phoenix), Jeremy Christie (FC Tampa Bay Rowdies/USA), Aaron Clapham (Canterbury United), Simon Elliott (unattached), Michael McGlinchey (Motherwell/Scotland), David Mulligan (unattached)
Forwards: Jeremy Brockie (Newcastle Jets/Australia), Rory Fallon (Plymouth Argyle/England), Chris Killen (Middlesbrough/England), Shane Smeltz (Gold Coast United/Australia), Chris Wood (West Bromwich Albion/England)
* Please note that squad lists only become official after they have been submitted to and announced by FIFA.