Nelsen touted as new Toronto head coach

Last updated 12:53 08/01/2013
Ryan Nelsen
Don Scott/Fairfax NZ
PLAYING DAYS UP? All Whites skipper Ryan Nelsen may be about to become coach.

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All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen will tomorrow be unveiled as the new coach of Major League Soccer club Toronto FC, according to a report in Canada.

Toronto is set to shake up its coaching staff, bringing in the veteran New Zealand defender to replace Paul Mariner as head coach.

The Canadian Press said it had "confirmed" the signing, a move designed to turn around a team that finished with a franchise-worst 5-21-8 record last season.

The club has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow morning (NZT) to make what it called a "major announcement".

Nelsen, 35, has been playing for Queen’s Park Rangers in the English Premier League, but manager Harry Redknapp confirmed at the weekend that the defender had been offered a coaching job in North America.

Nelsen used to play for current Toronto president and general manager Kevin Payne at DC United in the MLS, before he signed with Blackburn Rovers in 2005.

An end to his playing career would be a massive blow to Ricki Herbert and the All Whites, who are on the verge of qualifying for a home-and-away intercontinental playoff match with a team from either North America, Central America or the Caribbean. The winner of that tie will play in next year's World Cup finals.

Nelsen's importance to the national team, both as a player and leader, cannot be overstated.

The All Whites can often look lost without their talisman, who was hugely influential on and off the pitch during their unbeaten 2010 World Cup finals run.

Nelsen dampened the Toronto rumours in a text message to Fairfax on Saturday, saying: "You shouldn't believe everything that's in the papers... you will be the first to know if anything like that happens."

But Redknapp said on Sunday the QPR captain "has been offered a job in America and I think there is every chance he might want to go".

Redknapp said he did not want Nelsen, a fans' favourite at Loftus Road, to leave bottom of the table QPR.

"To lose him would be a massive blow. I'll speak to the owner and we'll try [to keep him], but it is difficult.

"He has been fantastic. I took him to Tottenham last year from Blackburn. He's one of the best pros I've ever met in my life, a fantastic player, a great trainer, a leader," he said.

"He is a massive part of your team [but] he wants to be a manager and it is a chance for him to manage a club."

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