A genuine legend as a player in New Zealand football circles, Ricki Herbert has taken his standing to a new level in recent years due to his work as coach of the New Zealand national team, combined with his concurrent status as Wellington Phoenix boss in the Australian A-League.
The last 12 months have been remarkable for New Zealand football with Herbert very much the driving force. Most notably of course was New Zealand’s historic qualification for South Africa which ended a 28-year absence from the world’s greatest football stage. It was a particular poignant success for Herbert, and his assistant Brian Turner, both of whom featured heavily as New Zealand qualified for its debut FIFA World CupTM appearance in 1982.
With a backs-to the-wall effort in Manama to earn a goalless draw in the first leg against Bahrain, Herbert showed his willingness to change by adopting an adventurous forward line of three strikers. It ultimately paid dividends with the 1-0 win in Wellington. Success in reaching South Africa a quantum leap for the Kiwis who failed to even reach the Oceania playoff four years earlier with Solomon Islands taking the spot.
That magic touch continued in the ensuing months with the tireless Herbert guiding the club to the finals series, where they became the first New Zealand club to achieve such a feat 11 years after joining the Australian national league. The team’s results and play attracted rapidly growing support and the Phoenix concluded their season in front of an all-time record domestic crowd. The finals also were a success with the club failing just one match short of the championship decider.
As a player, Herbert was a mobile defender with aerial prowess and the ability to get down the flanks. Although one of the youngest members of the squad, Herbert was an integral part of the team which won their way through to the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain against all odds. The 21-year-old Herbert played in all 15 of New Zealand's qualification matches - a then record number of matches to reach a FIFA World Cup. The young defender also scored a dramatic late equaliser against Saudi Arabia to keep the qualification campaign alive.
At club level he had two seasons with Wolves in England totalling 49 appearances while on the home front he won three league championships and two Chatham Cup titles.
After holding various coaching positions on the domestic front and with the national governing body, Herbert was appointed to New Zealand's top job in February 2005. He then was also handed the reins of New Zealand's sole professional club, New Zealand Knights, whose spot in the Australian A-League was later taken by Wellington Phoenix. Herbert brought the Phoenix to just one win short of the play-offs in 2009, as the team narrowly failed to become the first Kiwi side to make the Australian post-season, before achieving the goal 12 months later.
Herbert holds a prestigious UEFA 'A' International Coaching Licence and a UEFA 'Pro' International Coaching Licence.