UPDATED: Tommy Smith’s pride at being handed All Whites armband for World Cup qualifiers
TOMMY Smith has been named as the New Zealand captain for the forthcoming World Cup qualifying matches.
The Ipswich centre-back skippered the All Whites in recently friendly matches against El Salvador and Honduras, enjoying an unbeaten start with a draw and a win.
Having received the backing of former Tottenham and Blackburn defender Ryan Nelson, Smith has also been praised by coach Ricki Herbert who has handed him the armband for a potentially gruelling run of five matches in 10 days in the Solomon Islands.
And the Blues defender said: “I remember from the last two games feeling great pride. You’re at the front of the queue leading the team out and then when you’re standing there for the national anthem having that armband around you, makes it that much better.”
Smith will lead his side in three matches in the Oceania Football Confederation Nations Cup, and then a possible semi-final and final in the tournament which doubles up as the first stages of qualification for Brazil 2014.
Herbert said: “I’ve been impressed with the way Tommy has embraced the honour and responsibility of leading the national team and the composure with which he’s handled it.”
“I’ve got no hesitation in handing the armband again for these crucial matches.”
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Smith, who hopes to be given the vice-captaincy job on a full-time basis when Nelson returns, also received the seal of approval from the Premier League defender.
Experienced All Whites centre-back Nelson, a free agent after being released by Tottenham, said: “You could always tell that Tommy would have leadership qualities. He’s a sensible guy, he’s got a good presence about him and everything about him steers toward being a captain.
“At such a young age to be captain, it will be a great experience for him and it’s such a fantastic honour as well. I’m really happy for him, because he’s a lovely guy.
“Some people become better players when they become captain and I think he’ll take that extra responsibility and love it.”
Smith, who will also be hoping to be selected for the upcoming London Olympics, last week captained the All Whites to a 2-2 draw against El Salvador and then a 1-0 win over Honduras – both matches played in the United States.
Nelson added: “The New Zealand team doesn’t really have very many players at the age of 26-to-29 at the moment. It’s the young guys and then old guys. “Hopefully all those young players can learn from Tommy – he’s a very good professional and he’s far more sensible than I am.”