New Zealand is not known for their football credentials – the nation has just one fully professional club to its name. However, that hasn’t stopped a handful of Kiwis trying their luck in top leagues such as the English Premier League. Only 6 players from NZ have made it in the English top flight with varying fortunes in their time there. So what happened with New Zealand players who appeared in the Premier League?
Lee Norfolk (Ipswich Town)
Lee Norfolk’s time in the Premier League was a very short one indeed. The Dunedin-born midfielder made his appearances at the very start of his career after coming through the youth ranks at Ipswich Town. It was in February 1995 when Norfolk debuted for Ipswich in the Premier League coming as a sub against Southampton. It would be just one of four appearances for the Tractor Boys before leaving to return to NZ in 1997 with North Shore United. Norfolk’s career then was predominantly made up of appearances for non-league sides in Eastern England but that appearance in 1995 made him the first ever Kiwi to play in the Premier League.
Danny Hay (Leeds United)
Danny Hay was another New Zealand international who enjoyed a fleeting spell in the English top flight. His sole appearances would come with Leeds after they signed the defender after an impressive trial in 1999. Hay’s only appearances came in the 2000/01 season where he featured in the backline in four matches including starting one game against Manchester United. However, injuries curtailed his run in the team short and he struggled to regain any chance of regaining his spot. His time at Elland Road ended shortly afterwards when Hay was released and he ended up joining Walsall in 2002. Hay would go on to feature for sides in Australia and New Zealand before retiring in the early 2010s.
Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers, Spurs, QPR)
A commanding defender whenever he was on the pitch, Ryan Nelsen was a nightmare for attackers to go up against. Nelsen’s powerful presence made him difficult to beat one-on-one as well as being difficult to beat in the air. It’s why the New Zealand captain impressed fans and players when he moved to Blackburn Rovers in 2005 from MLS side DC United. Nelsen naturally became a key figure at Ewood Park making over 170 appearances for the club as well becoming club captain for several seasons. After Blackburn were on the verge of relegation in 2011, Nelsen left the club to join Tottenham although he would only make a handful of appearances for the London side. He only stayed there for season before joining QPR where he made regular appearances in the 2012/13 season. He would fail to see the season out in England though as he struck a deal with MLS side Toronto FC to become their coach in January 2013 ending his playing career there and then. A quiet end to a 2xOceania Footballer Player of the Year.
Simon Elliot (Fulham)
After developing into a strong midfielder in the MLS throughout the early 2000s, Simon Elliot seemed to have got the breakthrough he wanted when he joined Fulham in the summer of 2005. Elliot’s hard work payed off as he started to appear regularly at Craven Cottage making 12 appearances during the 2005/06 season. However, a set of serious injuries killed his run in the squad forcing him to miss a season and a half of playing time whilst recovering. It ended his career in England too as he was released by Fulham in 2008 where he returned to the US signing for the San Jose Earthquakes. A disappointing end to what could’ve been a more successful time in a top European league.
Winston Reid (West Ham)
Winston Reid’s career was one that benefitted from training in a European system. Having risen through the ranks in Danish football, Reid’s excellent showing at the 2010 World Cup for New Zealand caught the eyes of several major teams. That included West Ham who signed him from FC Midtjylland shortly afterwards to be an anchor in their backline. Reid succeeded in that respect as his excellent tackling and positioning made him a regular in The Hammers for several seasons. This included the West Ham Player of the Year award in 2013 for his consistent efforts on and off the pitch. However, injuries have ruined the latter half of Reid’s career preventing him from returning to the West Ham squad. Short-term loans to Kansas City in the MLS and with Brentford in 2021 helped him regain some fitness although Reid has yet to appear in the EPL since 2017.
Chris Wood (West Brom, Leicester, Burnley, Newcastle)
Chris Wood has carried much of the burden of NZ football on his back for the best of a decade. Much was expected of the striker when he signed for West Brom in 2009 and debuted for the first time at just 18 years old. Wood’s height and strength on the ball made him a prospect to rely on but it would take time for him to find his best form. Fleeting spells with the likes of Leicester and then Leeds in The Championship would help him find his style before signing with Burnley in 2017. Wood’s time at Turf Moor is where the Kiwi came truly into his own. Leading the line for The Clarets, Wood excelled as their target man regularly scoring and netting double figures in every full season he played for the club. His best return came in the 2019-20 season where he scored 14 goals in 32 games. It was why Wood became a high-profile signing in January 2022 where he joined Newcastle in their quest to rebuild the club. With over 200 appearances and 50 goals, Wood is by far the most successful New Zealand player to ever feature in English football.