Saturday, 16th December 2017
New Zealand hopes resting on West Ham link
Filed: Wednesday, 11th October 2017
Author: Staff Writer
Former West Ham Academy star Anthony Hudson is 90 minutes away from taking New Zealand to an historic appearance in next summer's World Cup Finals.
Although he never featured for West Ham's first team, 35-year-old Hudson spent his teenage years at the club's Academy learning his trade under Harry Redknapp before moving abroad in 2001.
Since hanging up his boots at the tender age of just 27, Hudson - the son of '70s Chelsea star Alan Hudson - enjoyed managerial spells with Real Maryland Monarchs, Newport County and the Bahrain national team before he became New Zealand's head coach in 2014.
And now the former midfielder is just a play-off away from reaching the Finals for only the third time in the country's history after his team qualified for the knock out phase with ease courtesy of an 8-3 aggregate win against the Solomon Islands in September.
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Standing in the way of Hudson, New Zealand and current Hammer Winston Reid are Peru, who the Kiwis will face in a two-legged, intercontinental play-off next month to determine who qualifies for next summer's tournament in Russia.
However it could have been much worse for Hudson and his side, with Argentina a potential opponent prior to their 3-0 dismantling of Ecuador last night - which, according to one local source, led to "a collective sigh of relief from around New Zealand".
"For an Oceania team, for New Zealand to go to a World Cup via South America is an incredibly tough task," he said. "But now it's Peru I think we've done enough to have belief within the team.
"Against teams like Mexico and even Japan away from home, we've done enough to know we can compete. I feel we're getting stronger and stronger and have been able to consistently select our strongest squad.
"I think I can speak on behalf of the players, we all believe we can do something special here."
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And Hudson can at least count on the support of his fellow Hammer, Winston Reid, who prasied the manager for bringing "steady improvement" to the national team.
"Every single time I come back into camp, everything seems to improve," he said. "It's good to see there's progression within the group, and hopefully that will continue."