Nelsen, Reid available for Christchurch match
FRED WOODCOCK TONY SMITH
All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen will have his Christchurch homecoming game against Tahiti next Tuesday after all, and Winston Reid will be there, too.
The two English Premier League defenders are on a plane out of Heathrow and scheduled to touch down in Auckland at 2pm tomorrow.
However, both players, who had remained in London to have scans on their respective injuries, will not feature in the World Cup qualifier against Tahiti in Papeete on Saturday night (NZT).
Logistically, they could make it to the Tahitian capital in time for the match, but coach Ricki Herbert is happy to let them remain in Auckland and get themselves ready for Tuesday's match at AMI Stadium, against the same opposition.
While the Christchurch match now won't be Nelsen's 50th A-international for the All Whites, it is still good news for the city which has used the local hero to promote the fixture.
Posters of the Nelsen have been adorning city billboards, promoting the captain's first international in his hometown.
Nelsen, the Queen's Park Rangers centreback, required scans on a knee injury while West Ham defender Reid suffered from back spasms at the weekend and required assessment from the club's medical staff before he could be released.
1982 World Cup heroes Steve Sumner, Steve Woodin and Bobby Almond, are to be presented with special blazers at AMI Stadium on the same night Nelsen was due to doff the cap commemorating his 50th game.
Contrast his career to two great contemporaries, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. The All Black superstars have played plenty of home tests in Christchurch.
But the All Whites rarely play in New Zealand. The logistics and cost of assembling their team mean most of their friendly internationals are staged overseas, in Europe, Asia or North America.
The All Whites last played in Christchurch against Malaysia in 2006 while Nelsen was taking time out from international football to focus on establishing his English premier league career.
Six months ago most New Zealand football fans would have been relaxed about the All Whites beating Oceania opposition without Reid and Nelsen.
But not since the Honiara Horror Show where the All Whites were upset by New Caledonia in the Oceania Nations Cup to miss a berth in the lucrative Fifa Confederations Cup finals.
Hence Herbert will be understandably anxious about tackling Tahiti without his premier league personnel.
The All Whites exude more confidence with the London-based defenders in their rearguard. Nelsen's presence, in particular, is akin to having a coach on the pitch.
- © Fairfax NZ News