Clapham surprise selection in NZ squad

AUCKLAND, May 10 (Reuters) - All Whites coach Ricki Herbert spent until the wee small hours on Monday discussing the makeup of his World Cup squad, then still did not finalise it until just before it was announced.

Herbert named a largely predictable 23-man squad for New Zealand's second appearance at the World Cup finals, which start on June 11 in South Africa, with Canterbury United attacking midfielder Aaron Clapham the only bolter.

The 23-year-old uncapped Clapham was the standout of the domestic football league this season and had impressed in a 10-day training camp for Australasian-based players that ended in Auckland on Sunday.

"We were up pretty late, maybe two or three in the morning," Herbert told reporters in central Auckland after the squad was read out by New Zealand Football chairman Frank van Hattum.

"This is the most important decision of my life. It was a tough decision, but we have really felt we have put the hours in, made it very transparent and put everything on the table.

"We probably didn't finalise it (the squad) till late, late this morning."

Herbert joked that West Bromwich Albion striker Chris Wood was the final person selected, "because he's a W," and thought it was the best squad he had named in his five years in charge.

"In my heart I think we have got a great squad," he added.

"It's balanced. It's young and vibrant, it has a future and a wealth of experience that has been born and bred through five years of heard work."


David Mulligan, who has not played a club match since 2008 and was released by the Wellington Phoenix at the end of the season, was surprisingly included, as was midfielder Jeremy Christie, who plays for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the U.S.

Herbert said the versatile Mulligan had been in the unfortunate position of not being able to get any game time with other players ahead of him at the Phoenix, but "domestically nobody comes close to him" and he had impressed at the camp.

Christie had also been included because he was training and playing on a daily basis for Tampa Bay.

Midfielder Jeremy Brockie and goalkeeper Mark Paston, who are both on the comeback trail after they had surgery on broken legs, were named, but Herbert ruled out selecting a fourth goalkeeper to cover for the suspended Glen Moss.

The Melbourne Victory stopper will miss the first two Group F matches against Slovakia and champions Italy because he is still serving a four-match suspension after being sent off against Fiji in an Oceania qualifier.

European-based defenders Tommy Smith and Winston Reid have come into the side after declaring their allegiance to New Zealand, which Herbert welcomed.

Smith, who was born in Britain, but grew up in New Zealand, had played at youth level for England, before he switched allegiance and made his All Whites debut against Mexico in March.

Reid was born in New Zealand but emigrated to Denmark with his family and played for Denmark at youth level.

"We are very fortunate to have Winston Reid and Tommy Smith come on to the radar. Its gives us depth and quality," Herbert said.

"I would go so far as to say I think defensively and attacking wise I don't think the nation has been in a better state with the quality coming through there."


Goalkeepers - James Bannatyne (Team Wellington), Glen Moss (Melbourne Victory) Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix)

Defenders - Andy Boyens (New York Red Bulls), Tony Lochhead (Wellington Phoenix), Ryan Nelsen (captain, Blackburn Rovers), Winston Reid (FC Midtjylland), Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix), Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town), Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City)

Midfielders - Andy Barron (Team Wellington), Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix), Jeremy Brockie (Newcastle Jets), Tim Brown (Wellington Phoenix), Jeremy Christie (Tampa Bay Rowdies), Aaron Clapham (Canterbury United), Simon Elliott (unattached), Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners), David Mulligan (unattached)

Forwards - Rory Fallon (Plymouth Argyle), Chris Killen (Middlesbrough), Shane Smeltz (Gold Coast), Chris Wood (West Bromwich Albion)