Ngata wants Durante in white

Harry Ngata believes Andrew Durante would be a "great acquisition" for the All Whites should the Australian's switch be approved.

Harry Ngata believes Andrew Durante would be a "great acquisition" for the New Zealand team should the Australian get the go ahead to switch allegiance in March.

Phoenix sjipper Durante has declared his intention to play for the All Whites - provided he receives FIFA clearance - after living for five years in the New Zealand capital and missing out on Qantas Socceroos selection.

Ngata, a former All Whites midfielder, is comfortable with the prospect of an Australian pulling on a New Zealand shirt.

"I've got no doubt that should Andrew become eligible I think he'd be a great acquisition to our All Whites team," said Ngata, who earned 37 All Whites caps between 1993 and 2001.

Ngata believes Durante's skill-set would be especially important given the likelihood that New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen - a fellow central defender - will retire from international football following his appointment as coach of MLS side Toronto FC.

"I know Andrew reasonably well and I've played against him many times and he's an honest, hard-working player with fantastic ability and leadership ability," added Ngata.

"I think, particularly where he is in his career right now, he probably sees this as an opportunity to play at a World Cup as well. He's sees this as a fantastic opportunity to represent a country at the World Cup - probably not his desired country as I imagine Australia would be first on his list.

"But he offers so much on and off the park where Ryan's presence would be missed."

Ngata is also confident that New Zealand fans would embrace Durante as an honorary Kiwi.

"Let's not forget what the Phoenix have done for New Zealand football and he's been a big part of that the whole time he's been in the country.

"He's shown loyalty to the Phoenix. I know he's been tapped on the shoulder a few times by rival clubs.

"His family is settled here. His daughter was born here. He has pretty much put his roots down in New Zealand, in the short-term anyway. For him to embrace New Zealand, I think New Zealand fans will embrace him also."

For former All Whites captain Chris Zoricich, Durante's likely switch does not sit quite as comfortably - although he can understand the reasons why the Phoenix defender would want to throw his lot in with New Zealand.

"But being a proud Kiwi and a former captain of the All Whites it's foreign to the way I think. I wouldn't see myself necessarily playing for another country but I can understand the reasoning why maybe he wants to go ahead with it," said Zoricich, who was at Sydney Olympic with a young Durante around 13 years ago and recognised his talent even then.

"With the opportunity there to play at the highest level I can understand the reason why you'd want to take it.

"Personally for me, I don't think I could do it. I don't think I could wear another country's badge on my shirt. But I do understand the pluses for doing it in his shoes."

Many are touting Durante as the ready-made replacement for Nelsen with World Cup qualifiers against New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands coming up in March.

But Zoricich would like to see current All Whites Tommy Smith and Winston Reid given the chance to stamp their mark on the side.

Smith, who plays for Ipswich Town in the English Championship, has already stepped in as All Whites captain when Nelsen has been unavailable, while Reid's form at English Premier League club West Ham has earned him a two-year contract extension. Reid wore the captain's armband in his side's third round FA Cup replay loss to Manchester United.

"I think it's now time for Tommy Smith and Winston to both step up," said Zoricich. "I think they are capable of doing it. They are both playing at a decent level.

"(Durante) has put his hand up and people have sort of jumped the gun a bit and think maybe he's going to step in as a regular starter.

"It's not my decision to make but he's got to fight for his place like the others."

Steve Sumner, captain of the 1982 All Whites team that reached the World Cup in Spain, agrees.

"I know the Phoenix lads think kindly of him but there are guys in that (All Whites) squad who are playing a level above him so first and foremost he's got to earn their respect.

"Whether I'm happy for him to be there or not is irrelevant really," said Sumner, who was awarded the FIFA order of merit in 2010.

Sumner went through a similar process to Durante when he moved to New Zealand from England in the mid-1970s.

He had to wait three years to become residentially qualified for New Zealand and doesn't remember that ever being an issue for his fellow All Whites.

"I don't think it made any difference. I arrived at 17 nearly 18 and had to be residentially qualified before I could play which meant I had to wait three years. As the three years were up I got selected. I don't remember having to prove anything other than you are good enough to be in the squad.

"(Durante) is a mature bloke, he's 30 years old and skipper at the Phoenix. He's got everything in his favour but he's still got to earn the right and whether he gets a game or not time will tell."

Zoricich, who is currently the youth coach at Auckland City and involved in a talent identification program with New Zealand Football, would like to see more time and money invested in bringing good, young New Zealanders through to an international level.

"We should be doing more to produce better quality international players so we do have a conveyor belt-type thing so if one of the older statesmen do decide to retire then we have got a ready-made replacement within our ranks to step in," he said.

"I only see the younger guys up here in Auckland, but there are quite a few centre-backs and defenders coming through that I think would be very good All White contenders in the near future.