Football: All Whites veterans back interim coach Darren Bazeley as like-for-like Danny Hay replacement

All Whites veterans Chris Wood and Tommy Smith are confident interim head coach Darren Bazeley would succeed, if he was given the permanent position.

After narrowly missing out on qualifying for the 2022 Football World Cup, the team's most senior players want to build on the foundation left by outgoing coach Danny Hay.

Despite being publicly endorsed by senior squad members, Hay wasn't re-signed by NZ Football after his contract expired at the end of October.

NZ Football is yet to name his replacement, with Canada coach John Herdman turning down the vacant role.

Instead, assistant coach and age-group manager Bazeley has the position on an interim basis and will lead the All Whites against China in a two-match series.

With an easier path to qualify for the next World Cup, after FIFA's decision to expand the tournament and allow one Oceania team a direct route, Wood believes Bazeley can pick up where Hay left off.

Danny Hay.
Danny Hay. Photo credit: Photosport

"I was a big advocate for Danny, because he had done something so well in a short period of time," he told Newshub. "He built great foundations to take the team where we are.

"Everybody has seen how great the football [is] we've played over the last period of time. Yes, we weren't the final article and we weren't fully tuned, but you have to give managers time to produce that.

"We've gone in a different direction, which is fine - that happens, that's football - and I think any manager that comes in, it will be a case of building on the foundations we've already set, instead of ripping out and starting again.

"I think Baze will continue to use the foundations that we've had, tweak his own ideas and his own structure on it, and see where we go from there.

"He knows New Zealand football to a tee, he's been with the age groups, and performed and produced in those competitions.

"I don't see why he can't step up, and use the knowledge that he has from those [experiences] and being an assistant manager to the All Whites to take them to the next level."

Led by English Premier League striker Wood and with a wealth of exciting, young players plying their trade in Europe, the All Whites are well positioned to book their path to the 2026 World Cup.

With the core of the team that fell at the final hurdle to Costa Rica last time, Smith considers Bazeley's relationships with the players invaluable.

"He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from his time in football in general," he said. 

"He's earned his stripes in an assistant capacity, both through club football and obviously with the All Whites. 

"I think he deserves his chances and, obviously, this is his chance now to show what he can do in this window.

"Whether or not he then gets the top job is not down to us, but we'll be doing all we can, as individuals in the team, to do as well as we can in these games, which gives him the best possible chance of putting his name forward, if that's what he chooses to do.

"I don't think it needs too many tweaks in terms of we nearly made it last time and that group of players is going to be very similar.

"He knows the group of players, which is very important, because for any new person coming into the environment, it may take a little while to get to know each player.

"He's certainly got those advantages and he's done enough in his coaching career now to be given that opportunity."