Football: Danny Hay not committing to All Whites skipper for European friendlies

Danny Hay - All Whites coach
Danny Hay - All Whites coach Photo credit: Photosport

New All Whites coach Danny Hay isn't committing to an official captain for upcoming fixtures against Ireland and Lithuania.

The former Leeds United defender will take charge of the national side for the first time on Friday against Ireland, New Zealand's first international in almost two years.

Hay has selected some experienced heads, including Winston Reid, Chris Wood and Tommy Smith - all of whom have worn the skippers' armband at times.

But the nature of international football, and in particular, the troubles New Zealand Football has faced in selecting full-strength sides in years past, has Hay leaning towards captaincy by committee. 

"The reality is that with our national team and the way we are set up you're not always going to have the same players available and you're not always going to have the same captain," Hay told Newshub. 

"At this point, it's more about establishing a leadership group and then the captains will come from that based on the nature of the game and who is available."

Hay confirmed to Newshub that Wood is part of that leadership group, alongside Reid. Both have been struggling with recent injuries - Reid in particular. The West Ham defender hasn't played a competitive match in the Premier League since March 2018.

The 31-year-old is slowly working his way back to full fitness and Hay is hopeful he will get some game time on tour, while also confirming Wood is a likely starter against Ireland.

"Woodsy has been in great form with Burnley," Hay told Newshub.

"He's a great leader amongst our group, but he's been suffering a bit through tight hamstrings so we will have to monitor him. But it's looking pretty likely that he will be 100 percent fit."

Chris Wood has been in fine form for Burnley
Chris Wood has been in fine form for Burnley Photo credit: AAP
Winston Reid skippered the All Whites against Peru two years ago
Winston Reid skippered the All Whites against Peru two years ago Photo credit: Getty

The All Whites also play Lithuania early next week but Hay's primary focus is on what awaits his side in Dublin. Ireland are on the brink of qualification for the European Championships.

A win over Denmark next week will ensure that takes place and Hay said the locals are at fever pitch as football fever takes over. 

"Football is very much front and centre at the moment for people around Dublin and I think we will get a really good crowd.

"This is a very good chance for our guys to test themselves against some high-quality British based players."

One of the players that Hay is most excited about unleashing against the two European nations is Sarpreet Singh.

The Bayern Munich player has starred for the German club's reserve side this season after his sensational move from the Phoenix earlier this year. 

For Hay, Singh represents the future of what his vision for the All Whites is. 

"Sarpreet is looking very sharp," Hay said. 

"He will be a key player for the All Whites for many many years. He's sort of a flagship player in terms of the type of player we want to develop. A more technical player who is comfortable on the ball and wants to get on the ball in tight spaces. 

He will feature pretty heavily in these two games and the exciting thing for us is that there are more players similar to Sarpreet coming through."

Hay confirmed to Newshub he is likely to select two separate playing 11's for the two fixtures to enable him to evaluate his entire squad.