Wellington: New Zealand have handed the reins of the national football team to former captain Danny Hay and tasked him with steering the All Whites to qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Finals in Qatar.
Hay replaces Swiss boss Fritz Schmid, who resigned in June after a low key 18 months in charge. He becomes the second former All Whites skipper to coach the side after Ricki Herbert, who guided New Zealand to their second World Cup Finals in 2010 in South Africa and broke the hearts of football lovers in the kingdom by beating Bahrain by a single goal in a two-legged play-off.
There remains another link between the two countries, as former coach Anthony Hudson - the son of former Chelsea star Alan - controversially quit Bahrain in 2014 to take over New Zealand shortly after signing a two-year contract extension.
New Zealand reached the World Cup Finals for the first since in 1982 for the tournament staged in Spain. The nation's football governing body hopes local experience can once more help the All Whites qualify again by taking the half-berth allocated to the winners of the Oceania region and negotiating another inter-confederation play-off.
They failed to qualify in 2014 and 2018 after losing to Mexico and Peru in the play-offs.
"He brings to the role a huge amount of experience within the All Whites environment, both as a player and as a national age group coach, and we believe he is the right person to lead the team to achieve the goal of the All Whites winning on the world stage," New Zealand Football boss Andrew Pragnell said.
"We are looking forward to having Danny back in the All Whites environment as the team builds in its activity towards FIFA World Cup qualification in 2022."
A former New Zealand under-17 coach, Hay was a central defender in his playing days, earning 31 caps for New Zealand from 1996-2007.
He is one of only six of the country's players to break into the Premier League, having played a handful of matches for Leeds United at the turn of the century.
Hay's first job when he begins the role next month is to pick a squad for November friendlies against Ireland and Lithuania.
"I’ve been heavily invested in the game in this country for a very long time now, and the All Whites in particular is something that is very close to my heart having played for, and captained, the side," he said. "As a proud New Zealander, and proud football person, this is a huge opportunity on a personal level, but also comes with massive responsibility to ensure I do the best job I can."
Bahrain fans are hoping the country will make the World Cup Finals for the first time following the country's success in the 9th edition of the West Asian Football Federation Championship, held recently in Iraq. It not only earned Bahrain a historic first crown in the regional competition, it was also their maiden title under recently-signed head coach Helio Sousa who was managing the senior team in his first major competition.