Nelsen's Toronto hiring draws criticism

01:36, Jan 11 2013
Ryan Nelsen
TOUGH JOB: Ryan Nelsen's appointment as Toronto FC head coach has drawn criticism of the organisation from media and outrage from fans.

Ryan Nelsen's appointment as Toronto FC head coach has been met with widespread scepticism by the media while fans of the struggling Major League Soccer club have largely mocked the decision.

News that the All Whites captain will quit his playing career in the English Premier League and become Toronto's eighth coach in seven years has startled many in the Canadian football media, who are naturally focusing on Nelsen's lack of coaching experience and the fact that because he is still contracted to Queens Park Rangers until the end of June, nobody knows exactly when he will be hooking up with Toronto.

The next Major League Soccer season starts on March 2, while the draft and combine (player showcase) are coming up later this month.

"Even by Toronto FC standards, it's a jaw-dropper," wrote Daniel Girard in the Toronto Star.

"The Major League Soccer club on Tuesday announced that 35-year-old Ryan Nelsen will be its eighth - and youngest - head coach in seven years.

"There's just a couple of catches.

"The New Zealand native has no formal coaches training and has never walked the touchline.

"Also, he'll continue playing for Queens Park Rangers in the English Premiership, meaning he's going to miss the draft, in which the club picks first and third, training camp, and MLS games, perhaps until the season ends overseas in mid-May."

All but one of the commenters on his story were negative toward the appointment, this one summing up the mood: "This is just TOOOOO funny!!! A team that has COMPLETELY lost its way, badly in need of a coach with a proven track record of turning teams around, goes out and hires a guy who A) is only 35; B) has never coached before; and C) isn't available until two months into the season. Stunningly inefficient management."

One preferred to look on the bright side, though.

"A coach who has never coached, for a team that has never made the playoffs. Well, I guess he can't do any worse."

A Toronto Star editorial concluded with this quip: "At this point, we will say to Nelsen what we say to every new coach through the perpetually spinning turnstiles at this club: 'All the very best of luck; and probably best to rent for a while'."

Paul Attfield, writing in The Globe and Mail, also focused on Nelsen's lack of coaching pedigree.

"[Toronto] didn't replace [the former coach Paul Mariner] with another head coach though; in fact, it didn't replace him with a coach of any kind," Attfield wrote.

"Instead it tabbed current New Zealand international and Queens Park Rangers defender Ryan Nelsen to take up the reins of Major League Soccer's most flawed franchise.

"But while TFC fans can be forgiven for wondering how a man with zero coaching qualifications can help end the club's six-year playoff drought, Nelsen's thoughts are likely occupied by something more pressing, namely keeping the likes of Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey in check as his other employer, the relegation-threatened English Premier League team on the other side of the world, plays host to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday."

The vast majority of reader reaction to his story was scathing of the club and the decision to hire Nelsen.

"The TFC managerial carousel spins yet again throwing up a coach of absolutely no experience and a man best known as a 'good trainer' - he likes to run a lot," one person wrote.

"I'm guessing that judging by TFC's track record in hiring and firing head coaches, which appears to be as frequent as changes in the zodiac calendar, and makes about as much sense, we'll be reading about a new head coach by mid-April."

TSN football analyst Jason de Vos labelled it "without a doubt, the most bizarre coaching appointment ever made in Major League Soccer".

But Cathal Kelly, a columnist on the Star's website, preferred to take a positive view of the appointment.

"Nelsen differs from the rest in terms of resume - in the sense that he doesn't have one," Kelly wrote.

"He's never coached before at any level. That's not an issue. Toronto FC has tried all sorts of experience. At this point, innocence is worth a try."

Meanwhile, New Zealand Football chairman Frank van Hattum today said Nelsen had made contact with the national body, though his playing future with the All Whites remains uncertain.

"We've exchanged communication with Ryan following the press conference yesterday, and have been in contact with his management team over the past few days.  From our perspective there is no urgency for him coming to a decision surrounding his playing future," said van Hattum.

"There are still discussions that need to be held between the various parties involved and we respect the need for Ryan to have those. Until such time we believe it is inappropriate to make comment on his playing future with the All Whites.

"Ryan has been a tremendous asset to New Zealand Football throughout his career and we will support the decisions he makes in his own time."

It is highly unlikely that Nelsen will be seen in an All Whites shirt again, given his desire to leave Queens Park Rangers as soon as possible and begin his coaching career with Toronto. He will want to focus all his time at Toronto.


Fairfax Media