Football: Vicelich hopes Nelsen still available for NZ

Auckland City skipper Ivan Vicelich is hopeful All Whites legend Ryan Nelsen can remain available for New Zealand, despite taking over as coach of MLS outfit Toronto FC.

Vicelich, 36, was taken aback by the announcement that could spell the end of Nelsen's playing days after 49 'A' internationals with the All Whites.

"It is a little bit of a shock - a shock to everyone in the country. But I mean the guy is a great player, the best player in New Zealand.

"For the All Whites there's going to be a hole in there if he retires from the international scene," Vicelich said.

Speculation about how much longer Nelsen will play for Queen's Park Rangers in England's Premier League before the MLS kicks off in March is rife.

Vicelich said regardless of Nelsen's final decision, sports fans in New Zealand owe the 35-year-old All Whites skipper a debt of gratitude.

"We really need to celebrate his career. He's had a great career, so good on him," Vicelich said, "We have to respect his decision and wish him good luck. He'll do well in his new role, just as he did well in his football career."

There is also the small matter of two Oceania World Cup qualifiers to play in March, with the All Whites needing one more win over New Caledonia or the Solomon Islands to book an intercontinental playoff spot with the fourth-placed team from CONCACAF in a home and away series in November.

Vicelich said Nelsen's influence would be missed with the important matches looming and the FIFA World Cup in Brazil just 18 months away.

"I hope he can still play, the country will hope he can still play. We'll just have to wait and see how the days roll out now and see the decision that comes from him.

"It's a big move but Ryan is the type of guy who can do well - everyone at Auckland City FC will wish him luck in that move," Vicelich said.

Vicelich also eased fans fears that he may join Nelsen on the sidelines should the former Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur defender make All Whites retirement official.

He should know - Vicelich retired previously before being hauled back for the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa four years ago.

"I've retired once already so it will definitely happen again. But right now it's just a game by game situation for me and I'm still enjoying it.

"Ryan has obviously put a lot of time and thought into the decision he's going to make by moving to Toronto FC, so when the time is right for me, that decision can be made then," he said.

Vicelich is in action with Auckland City on Sunday when the navy blues play Canterbury United in Christchurch, Nelsen's home town. And after leading Auckland City to a 4-1 win over Waikato FC on Wednesday, he remains hungry for success.

"I'm just enjoying the start of 2013. Hopefully Auckland City and the All Whites can have some good results and we've got some big games coming up."

- By Steven Holloway of nzherald.co.nz