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Wileman: Toronto FC's Nelsen moves from player to coach

Luke Wileman
1/23/2013 6:26:17 PM
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Ryan Nelsen's playing days are almost over. Now the accomplished defender will turn the page in his soccer career and try something different as he moves into the coaching world with Toronto FC.

After carrying two jobs for the past two weeks, the uncertainty surrounding Nelsen's arrival in Toronto ended on Tuesday when the 35-year-old announced he would be leaving Queens Park Rangers at the end of January to join Toronto FC on a full-time basis. It's great news for Toronto FC, and a scenario that the club likely always knew was coming.

I get the impression when they introduced Nelsen as head coach in early January, Toronto FC was well aware of his arrival date – they just couldn't say anything as they didn't want to step on QPR's toes. If they had made it clear then that Nelsen had just three weeks left in the English Premier League, it would have severely driven up the transfer fee for any defender QPR boss Harry Redknapp was trying to sign as a replacement. It's a shame there wasn't a way around the situation as the confusion about his start date really did create a cloud around the appointment of Nelsen.

With Nelsen's arrival time settled, as of next week, he will be concentrating full-time on his new career as a head coach. He will likely play his final game for QPR when they take on Premier League champions Manchester City at Loftus Road on Tuesday, and then he'll join up with the TFC squad for pre-season training in Florida.

There's little doubt the leadership skills shown by the New Zealander during his impressive career will stand him in good stead as he takes charge of the team, but a lack of coaching experience is something that will continue to be a talking point. I got the chance to talk with Nelsen this week at Toronto FC's media day. He's well aware there are skeptics out there, but is confident he can win them over.

"My whole career, there has always been people that said you're not good enough," he said. "There are always people out there that will be skeptical. That's life."

"I will put my head down and work hard. I really like a challenge and this is a really good one. Eventually, the only way of changing any skeptics is by putting a product on the field that fans can be proud of."

We all know about Ryan Nelsen's qualities as a player. Will he want a team that reflects the way he played the game? What can we expect from a Ryan Nelsen side?

"You've got to accentuate the strengths of every player when they have the ball and hide the weaknesses," said Nelsen. "It's 11 bodies with one mind. We must be organized and hard to break down. We should be solid but ruthless and when we have the ball, hopefully everyone plays to their strengths and we can entertain," he explained.

There have been many times during its six-season history that the club's fans have heard grandiose statements about new eras and winning mentalities, but every time they have so far fallen short. Nelsen has a quiet confidence about the task ahead as he looks to replicate the success he has had during his playing days.

"I have a great desire to be successful and to win. It's in my DNA and I want it to be Toronto FC's DNA. I want to change the whole identity of this club. This organization and the fans are so far ahead of what the product on the field has been over the years; it's time the on-field product catches up," he said.

For a full interview with Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen, listen to this week's TSN FC Podcast with Luke Wileman and Jason de Vos.

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman


Luke Wileman is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca.

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