Two more All Whites added to the Auckland FC men’s A-League roster

posted in: A-League (Men), All Whites, News

A-League expansion club Auckland FC have revealed two more signings as they recruit their squad for their debut season.

All Whites Tommy Smith (34) and Max Mata (23) will join the new club from July 1.

Smith has been a free agent since completing a short-term contract with A-League club Macarthur while Mata will arrive on loan from English League One club Shrewsbury Town.

The pair take Auckland FC’s roster to six players, all of whom have represented New Zealand at full or U-23 level.

Already signed are All Whites Cam Howieson, Francis De Vries and Michael Woud, and U-23 international Jesse Randall.

READ MORE: Three All Whites and U-23 international unveiled as first signings for Auckland FC >>>>

Tommy Smith … to join Auckland FC. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Smith has earned 52 caps with the All Whites.

He made more than 460 professional club appearances with spells at Ipswich Town, Brentford, Colorado Rapids and Colchester United, where he was club captain, before joining English League Two club MK Dons.

He and MK Dons mutually agreed to end his contract this year, so he could join Macarthur.

READ MORE: All Whites defender Tommy Smith signs for A-League club Macarthur >>>>

Before turning pro, Smith played as youth football with Auckland’s North Shore United, and with English clubs Crewe Alexandra and Ipswich Town.

“I’ve played all over the world but the opportunity to come and play back in New Zealand and for Auckland FC ahead of the club’s debut season was just too good to turn down,” Smith said.

“There’s a lot of excitement amongst players and the wider football community for what the club can achieve, and I’m eager to be part of it.

“I hope to bring a bit of experience to the team as well as showing the younger lads a thing or two.”

All Whites striker Max Mata … returning home after five years with overseas clubs. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Striker Mata played his club football in New Zealand for Onehunga Sports, Eastern Suburbs and the Wellington Phoenix reserves, before heading overseas in 2019 for spells with Grasshoppers (Switzerland), Nõmme Kalju (Estonia) and Real Monarchs (United States).

In 2022, he signed for League of Ireland club Sligo Rovers before moving to Shrewsbury Town on a three-year deal in August 2023.

Shrewsbury loaned him back to Sligo Rovers for the latter stages of the Irish season.

Since his All Whites debut in 2019, Mata has made 10 appearances for the full national side.

“Auckland is a special place for me,” Mata said.

Steve Corica.

“I was born here and after some time in the UK and Ireland, I’m pleased to be able to return home. I can’t wait to run out in front of the fans and see the faces of my friends and family in the crowd.

“The club has been great and we’ve talked a lot about the future pathways that the club can offer, and not just for me, but to young players from across the country keen to prove they’ve got what it takes to make it as a pro and see where their careers take them.”

Head coach Steve Corica says the signings demonstrate the club’s ability to attract quality talent to the city and its focus on building a club that balances a mix of experience with youth potential.

“Tommy and Max are a couple of really exciting signings that were eager to come to Auckland,” he said.

“Tommy is an experienced player that is going to be a great leader to the rest of the squad; he’s played all over the world, was the youngest captain in All White’s history and was a part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup squad.

“Max has an exciting future ahead of him. He’s returning home, having become an established player at the international level. He has really brought into the style of football we as a club want to play and the pathways we can offer to him and players like him.”

Who’s on board

The first six Auckland FC players are:

  • Cam Howieson (29), midfielder, long-time captain of OFC Champions League winners Auckland City, and 17 caps for the All Whites.
  • Francis De Vries (29), left back, currently with Eastern Suburbs and six appearances for New Zealand.
  • Michael Woud (25), goalkeeper, most recently with Japanese club Kyoto Sanga, and six caps for the national team.
  • Jesse Randall (21), left wing, currently with national champions Wellington Olympic, and an U-23 New Zealand international.
  • Tommy Smith (34), defender, pro career with clubs in the UK and United States, and 52 caps for New Zealand.
  • Max Mata (23), striker, overseas experience in Switzerland, Estonia, Ireland and UK, with 10 appearances for the All Whites.
Cam Howieson.
Francis De Vries.
Michael Woud.
Jesse Randall.

Who is still to come?

Auckland FC head coach Steve Corica says he and the club’s director of football, Terry McFlynn, have been targeting the signing of the best New Zealand players first.

He told NewstalkZB’s D’Arcy Waldegrave they needed to secure New Zealand players before their current clubs got them under contract, “so we can’t get them.”

“I think the foreigners for us would normally come a little bit later, probably in July/August sometime, so there’ll be players available, and good players available around that time,” Corica said.

LISTEN: Foreign signings likely to come later, says Auckland FC coach Corica >>>>

Auckland FC is majority owned by Texas billionaire Bill Foley, with former All Black Ali Williams and businesswoman Anna Mowbray as local co-owners.

Known as the Black Knights, Auckland FC will play their home games at Mt. Smart’s Go Media Stadium when the 2024-25 season starts in October 2024.

Nick Becker … ‘it’s all about momentum.’

The club’s chief executive, Nick Becker, says the six signings — all Kiwis — demonstrate a club embedded in the community that creates new opportunities for players in Auckland.

“What I’m particularly proud of is how we have blended youth and experience and nearly all have international level experience,” Becker said.

“All are aware of the energy and buzz that currently surrounds Auckland FC and are eager to be a part of it.

“It is all about momentum and today is another significant milestone for the club, with full season memberships now on sale to the public. This is a rare opportunity for football fans to be part of our inaugural season, and I’m sure Aucklanders will jump on board.”

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