Ryan Nelsen signs with Queens Park Rangers

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 16/06/2012
Ryan Nelsen
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HUGE BOOST: It's doubtful that any other nation at the Games will be boosted as much by any of their over-age players as New Zealand will be by Ryan Nelsen.

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All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen has confirmed he has signed for English premier league club Queen's Park Rangers, is fit to play in the London Olympic Games and expects to be available for New Zealand's World Cup qualifying games.

Nelsen told The Press late last night from London that he had agreed to a one-year deal with the option of another season and had passed his medical at QPR.

The centre back said his signing was due to be announced early today [NZ Time] after QPR had informed Tottenham Hotspur, his former club, who he joined last February on a six-month contract.

Several clubs were chasing Nelsen but the Cantabrian said the chance to reunite with his former Blackburn Rovers manager Mark Hughes at QPR was too good to turn down.

"I owe him pretty much everything,'' Nelsen said."He gave me my chance over here [at Blackburn in 2005].

"That was a big factor. I know Mark and his staff really well, they all really helped me when I was first over here in England, so it's nice to go full circle towards the end of my career.

"Hopefully, I can still help them out.''

QPR finished 17th out of 20 in the premier league last season, narrowly avoiding relegation in their first season back in the top flight.

But Nelsen said the future looked "quite exciting'' for the west London club."They've got a lot of ambition... it seems like it's going to be a good fit.''

Nelsen made eight appearances for fourth-placed Spurs, scoring one goal and helping them reach the FA Cup semi-final after switching from Blackburn, where he played around 200 games.

He was signed as defensive cover by former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, who told the media after Nelsen scored against Bolton Wanderers in the cup that he would be offering the Kiwi a new deal for next season.

But Nelsen said Spurs' failure to make the European Champions League after Chelsea won the ECL title to grab the fourth English berth had "changed the makeup for all parties involved''.

But he had nothing but praise for Redknapp, who left Spurs this week, and club chairman Daniel Levy and said he would be proud "to be able to say I played for Tottenham''.

"I love the club. I really enjoyed my time there, it was a fantastic experience, a really good club with some great people.''

Nelsen's former United States Major League Soccer club DC United was interested in signing him and Nelsen said returning to America, his wife Monica's homeland, was "a consideration''.

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"But I always thought you should play at the highest level as long as you and when it came down to it, playing in the premier league is a real privilege. I wanted to keep going and keep enjoying the challenge that playing in the best league in the world provides.

"It's really motivating, to tell the truth. I'm looking forward to getting another year under my belt after a disjointed season with the injury and moving clubs.''

Nelsen missed the All Whites' ill-fated Oceania Nations Cup tournament in the Solomon Islands with an ankle problem.

He said he was "devastated for the guys and the team'' at the All Whites' 2-0 semi-final loss to New Caledonia which cost them a place in the Oceania final and a potential place at the 2013 Confederations Cup finals in Brazil.

"Going to the Confederations Cup is really valuable. The guys who played in the one in South Africa [in 2009] before the World Cup finals, really benefited from it.

"It's a huge loss and there should be some tough questions about went wrong. I'm sure New Zealand Football are doing that at the present moment.''

The All Whites face a World Cup home-and-away qualifying series against New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands and new Oceania champions Tahiti.

Nelsen said QPR would have to release him for the World Cup games "because they fall in the Fifa [international] window''.

After clinching the QPR deal, he has flown back to the US to resume a family holiday. But the 34-year-old - one of three permitted over-age players in the New Zealand under-23 Olympic squad - expects to link up with the team for warm-up matches in Japan and South Korea in mid-July.

- Fairfax Media

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