Off-field World Cup role possible for Nelsen

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 13/01/2013
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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New Zealand Football is open to offering Ryan Nelsen a potential 2014 World Cup role regardless of his playing retirement.

With Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp trying to delay Nelsen beginning his Canadian coaching job at Toronto FC until the end of the English season in May, NZ Football chief executive Grant McKavanagh is optimistic any continuation of Nelsen's playing days could crossover to the All Whites.

He said it was up to the All Whites captain whether he played more internationals, including March's third-stage World Cup qualifiers and even November's playoff games to reach the tournament itself.

But even if the 35-year-old has already played his last game for New Zealand, McKavanagh said a wider team role would be considered for Nelsen if the team qualified for Brazil.

"When the team went to South Africa for the last World Cup there was a wider group pulled together," McKavanagh said.

"I wouldn't want to put names on paper yet because we've got to understand exactly what those roles are, but to have someone around with Ryan's credibility and leadership, you'd seriously consider having him part of it.

"He's set the benchmark for football in New Zealand for the last 10 years and a player of that quality is pretty special.

"He's the only one who knows what his body is capable of and where he needs to put his commitments."

Nelsen is contracted to QPR until June 30, and for Redknapp and bottom-of-the-table QPR, retaining Nelsen is a priority, particularly after a bid for Swedish centre back Jonas Olsson was rejected by West Bromwich Albion.

While it's in NZ Football's interest that Nelsen continues playing, he now finds himself between a rock and a hard place.

His lack of managerial experience has triggered fierce questioning from Toronto fans and Canadian media.

Now, he may not even take charge until two months into the Major League Soccer season.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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