Ryan Nelsen's doubters will be silenced

DANNY HAY
Last updated 12:22 13/01/2013
Ryan Nelsen
Toronto FC

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

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OPINION: Timing is everything when it comes to knowing the right time to hang up the boots. \

Some players try to grasp on to their former glory by playing on, many driven by the fear of the unknown beyond the pitch and the reality of life after playing.

There is an art to going out on top and it takes balls to make the call at the right time, just as Ryan Nelsen did last week.

The opportunity to take the helm of Toronto FC in the highly respected Major League Soccer is simply too good for anyone to turn down. Ryan absolutely made the right call.

I have got to say though, I've had a chuckle at the response from the Toronto media and fans.

As our own media here in New Zealand have been eagerly reporting, it's been pretty negative.

I wonder though, how many of those in Canada really know the man? My guess would be, as our own Scribe once said, "not many, if any".

One thing they would be wise to understand is that Nelsen has been doubted throughout his entire professional career. During his first season at DC United, fans seriously questioned his ability to play at MLS level. By his second season he was team captain and consistently named in the league's best XI during his spell in Washington. When Blackburn Rovers signed him in 2005, many again questioned his credentials to crack the English Premier League.

Within two months he was not only a guaranteed starter, but was named captain of the side he was to play for more than 170 times.

His spells at Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers were no different. Questions were raised about his age, fitness and ability to still play in the world's best league.

And just like all the challenges before, Nelsen comprehensively proved every doubter wrong.

Why? Because he has an undying belief in his ability to succeed and won't stop until he has achieved what he set out to do.

Nelsen has what many refer to as incredible "mental toughness".

For me it is simply this - Nelsen is a winner. The fact that he has never coached or managed before is irrelevant. He has a proven track record in leadership, communication and relationship building which is what underpins an ability to "manage" others. Anyone doubting that just needs to speak to any player who was part of the All Whites' 2010 World Cup campaign.

The other factor that assures me he will succeed in his new role is his intelligence.

Outside of his political science degree from Stanford University, he has always been a student of the game and smart enough to pick out the best attributes from the various managers and coaches he's had over his long career.

He's also brave enough to surround himself with great staff who won't be afraid to challenge him when needed.

I'm certain he has seen the unhealthy side of a coaching set-up where "yes-men" rule so that the manager can feel good about himself.

Walking the sideline will undoubtedly bring some new challenges that he hasn't faced before and there will be more than one learning curve.

But that's the thing about Nelsen; he doesn't just like a challenge, he thrives on them.

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The fans and media in Toronto will quickly find that out.

Danny Hay is a former All Whites captain

- Sunday News

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