New Zealand Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell thought he was the “absolute stand-out candidate” to be the new All Whites coach.
But since he can be in the best situation yet with that contender who is based overseas, it is necessary to focus on the matter of his family’s health.
Stuff understands former Football Ferns and incumbent Canadian men’s coach John Herdman has been reported as a candidate.
Grace Wisnewski ripped US star Rose Lavelle’s shirt.
He was one of two previously unknown competitors on NZ Football’s five-strong shortlist, alongside incumbent under-20s coach Darren Bazeley, former under-20s coach Des Buckingham and Wellington, Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay.
Pragnell would only say on Wednesday that “there has been quite a lot of speculation as to who all the candidates are or are not,” and that he could not comment on each one.
The update on the coach’s search comes after NZ Football announced Bazeley’s appointment to the senior job in the interim for a friendly match against China in Auckland and Wellington at the end of March.
Bazeley was an assistant to former coach Danny Hay in 2021 and 2022, as well as former coach Anthony Hudson at various times between 2014 and 2017.
The appointment of the interim coach took place seven weeks from the start of the next international window because NZ Football was unable to lock down a key candidate in six weeks when interviews with shortlisted candidates were completed.
Pragnell said the contract was offered to the “absolute candidate” in early January and, in his opinion, was “significantly” signed.
“Unfortunately this family case has arisen and the fact is that it is creating some real challenges for them in terms of being able to sign a contract at this time.”
Pragnell said he’s “still in conversation” with a prospective coach, but he’s careful not to comment on what he stands for with them.
“I would say positive, but unknown.
“We certainly had deep conversations with them in terms of their interest, their commitment to the country, and their desire to have a meaningful impact.”
“Also, when a bad health issue comes to you out of the blue — and out of the blue — I think you have to take it in stride.
“We are still in dialogue. We are still positive. I remain in the best part, but as I said we are dealing with variables that are beyond our control.
Buckingham removed himself from contention when he signed a contract extension with Indian Super League club Mumbai City starting in 2023.
It is understood that NZ Football will have an opportunity to bid against Mumbai City, but they have passed on their preferred candidate at the time.
Another short-lived candidate, Talay, only announced on Tuesday that he was unsuccessful.
His Phoenix bosses have looked at him joining the A-League Men’s Premier League and his future at the club beyond the end of the current season is now up in the air.
While the identity of one of the shortlisted candidates remains uncertain, Bazeley will have the chance to lend a hand in March if ongoing discussions with NZ Football ultimately lead to a preferred candidate.
The matches against China will be played on Thursday, March 23 at the Matthew Smart Stadium and Sunday, March 26 at the Sky Stadium and Bazeley said his sole focus is for the All Whites to “play some good football – whatever happens next, happens next”.
Pragnell said that, unless the preferred candidate moves to sign before, the end of the March window would provide “an opportunity for us to step back and decide what’s next.”
“Whatever comes out of that, there’s a reason to go back to the drawing board, and if that’s the case, then we’re open to that and obviously we could sue others if needed.”
Herdman was the track and field coach from 2006 to 2011 before moving to Canada, where she coached both the men’s and women’s national championships.
All White Tibulli – March international window
Thursday, March 23; v. China; Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
On Sunday the 26th of March. v. China; Sky Stadium, Wellington