Nelsen silent on All Whites playing career

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 10/01/2013
Ryan Nelsen
Getty Images
RYAN NELSEN: "It just instinctively feels right that my time is done. I've never wanted to be a player who keeps going for the sake of it."

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All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen has confirmed he will hang up his boots to take on his new coaching role with Toronto but he wants to speak to New Zealand Football before publicly revealing his international plans.

Nelsen, 35, will retire as a professional player once his stint with English Premier League club Queens Park Rangers ends, and will become head coach at Toronto FC in North America's Major League Soccer competition.

It is widely expected Nelsen will also bring the curtain down on his illustrious All Whites career. His 49th international - and first in hometown Christchurch - last October against Tahiti could prove his last.

But Nelsen, who has signed a three-year contract with his Canadian club, would not speculate on that last night when he spoke to The Press from Toronto.

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert and NZ Football chairman Frank van Hattum should know first, but he had not been able to get hold of them.

But Nelsen did say he had no intention of becoming the MLS's first player-coach. "You just know when it's time to go. It's painful getting through games."

QPR knew he had been playing "on glass knees and glass ankles" for a while.

"The enjoyment goes out of it. You have to mentally and physically get up for the game ...

"It just instinctively feels right that my time is done. I've never wanted to be a player who keeps going for the sake of it. Because of my age, I am heading downwards and it's nice to leave on my own terms and when people still see you as a half-decent player, not just a guy who was a good player once upon a time."

Nelsen - an eight-year Premier League veteran since signing for Blackburn Rovers in 2005 - has been one of the few shining lights for bottom-of-the-table QPR this season and is happy with his late-career form, although he said it "maybe gets blown out of proportion because the team isn't doing as well as you would like".

He will return to London today to prepare to play Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend and although he is contracted to QPR to June, he hopes the club will grant him an early release.

Toronto start the MLS season on March 2 and Nelsen is hopeful he can help QPR climb away from the relegation zone and sign some extra players to bolster their squad.

He said he had plenty of understanding from QPR manager Harry Redknapp and owner Tony Fernandes.

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"I really want QPR to stay up and to kick on for Harry and because of the owner. They are just fantastic people.

"They would like me to keep playing but we have to sit down and talk.

"If we can get five straight wins, that'd be perfect.

"I think then we could shake hands [and part company] but we are just going to have to talk and see how things progress."

Nelsen said the opportunity at Toronto was too good to turn down.

"I've always taken an interest in the [coaching] process and I love the process of trying to win a football game ... but I'd never really thought about [coaching] till Kevin Payne [Toronto's president and general manager] approached me."

Payne was in the same role at Washington club DC United when Nelsen captained the Washington club to the MLS Cup title in 2004.

Turning around Toronto - who were last in the MLS eastern conference last season - was "just such a big challenge and so exciting", Nelsen said.

"I just instinctively had a gut feeling about it; I couldn't walk away and couldn't stop thinking about it.

"Toronto hasn't had that much success in the six years they've been in the league but everything is set up for it to be successful."

Nelsen said Toronto was a fantastic city and the "laidback Canadians" were similar to Kiwis. His wife, Monica, is American and was pleased to be moving "closer to home".

His new assistant-coach, Irishman Fran O'Leary, "who's been a friend for 10 years since I was at DC United", will take charge at Toronto until Nelsen arrives.

But the Kiwi has already prepared the pre-season training programme.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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