Herbert masterminds New Zealand's return

By Greg Stutchbury

AUCKLAND (Reuters) - Ricki Herbert's stoic and unemotional public facade slipped slightly after his New Zealand team reached the World Cup finals with victory over Bahrain in the Asia/Oceania qualifier last November.

The coach, engulfed in the pandemonium of 35,194 delirious fans shaking the foundations of Westpac Stadium, stood with both arms raised and joined them with a roar of exultation.

The outburst was merely an expression of the steely resolve, burning passion and desire which characterized Herbert's no-nonsense, nine-year, 61-cap international career as a central defender.

Herbert was a tough 21-year-old with permed hair during the All Whites' 1982 World Cup campaign, playing all 15 qualifiers and starting two matches at the finals in Spain.

On several occasions throughout his four-year campaign to get the All Whites back to the World Cup, he exhibited his inner steel, stating that the players needed to show real desire to play international soccer if they wanted to make his team.

Critics have suggested he is conservative and defensively minded, though he changed tactics and incorporated two wingbacks against Bahrain and he said he was willing to give the team the license to attack at the World Cup.

"I think right throughout the side now we have developed and got quite a lot of depth there," Herbert told Reuters.

"We have the respect of the country. We have to give the players the best opportunity to win a game."

After a playing career that took him around New Zealand, to Sydney and to England with Wolverhampton Wanderers from 1984-86, Herbert moved into coaching a year after he retired in 1989.

He spent 10 years in the New Zealand domestic league before he was appointed coach of the under-23 side trying to qualify for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

He quickly moved into the national set-up as director of technical development and was made an assistant in 2003 before taking the top job in 2005.

Having experienced the marathon qualifying campaign as players, Herbert and fellow 1982 team member Brian Turner set about adopting a longer-term view, building a core squad which they try to bring together at every opportunity.

Herbert, also the coach of the A-League's Wellington Phoenix, said that strategic view had paid dividends.

"We have got a lot of depth there," he said. "You could say that 90-95 percent of this team would probably go through to another World Cup."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)