Football: Nelsen bows out a legend

Queens Park Rangers' Ryan Nelsen salutes the fans. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Queens Park Rangers' Ryan Nelsen salutes the fans. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Ryan Nelsen has two bone defects in his knees and a hamstring held together with "screws and mesh", but still managed to walk away from Loftus Road a legend today after playing his last professional football match of a 12-year career at the highest level.

Nelsen once again epitomised the fight and control that his QPR side has shown over the past few weeks as they held second-placed Manchester City in a 0-0 draw.

At the end of the game fans QPR fans chanted, 'there is only one Ryan Nelsen' and players gave Nelsen a guard of honour as a mark of respect for the New Zealander.

Nelsen will now take up a stint as manager of MLS side Toronto FC. In an interview with MLSsoccer.com yesterday Nelsen said he will be sad to leave England but is excited about his next challenge.

"Obviously, it's just that time, you know," Nelsen said. "That's life. I'm not getting any younger and I always felt to get to 35-and-a-half [and still playing well], I would have given my left arm to do that 15 years go. So I have no complaints. I leave on my terms and I feel extremely fortunate to even have had that opportunity."

The former All Whites captain played 18 matches for QPR this season after a short stint with Tottenham Hotspur last year on the back of playing seven seasons and 172 games for Blackburn Rovers.

"I wouldn't say [I'm] at the top of my game, but I'm close," Nelsen said. "I always wanted to go out on my terms. I didn't want to be a player that kind of held on, you know. Even now, though, my mind can see it but my body can't really back it up. When that was happening, I knew it was time.

"I've got two bone defects in my knees. Both have had operations, it's wear and tear. I've got a hamstring issue where my hamstring is screwed on with screws and mesh at the moment. Just countless stuff over the years, which every player has. But it kind of wears on you and I'd like to one day be able to play with my kids instead of walking around with a cane."

The wear and tear will stop with Nelsen's entry into coaching, but his next challenge may be equally as big. Getting Toronto into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history would be an impressive first step in building a coaching legacy matching that of his playing days.