TORONTO – Ryan Nelsen will make his debut as Toronto FC’s head coach on Saturday at Vancouver (6:30 pm ET, TSN/RDS in Canada, MLS Live in US), but no matter what happens, he insists that he will not be tempted to make a comeback as a player.
The 35-year-old former New Zealand international ended his playing career on Jan. 29 with Queens Park Rangers of the English Premier League to take over the job at Toronto FC. Nelsen was still playing well at the time of his retirement and has since been asked if taking the pitch for Reds is possible.
“No chance,” he said after training on Wednesday at the club’s Downsview Park training facility. “I’ve not even thought about playing. I mean I was going to finish playing a year ago but I just kept being talked into it [playing again].”
Nelsen said injuries to his knees made it an easy decision to retire as a player.
“My knee, just standing on here, is sore at the moment,” he said, referring to the artificial turf of the training pitch. “So the thought of playing is just … I’ve been lucky. I’m 35-and-a-half and I’ve been lucky to have my career, so it hasn’t even been a thought.
“I’ve got to admit, there has been a couple of nudges and winks about potentially strapping the boots back on, but there’s no chance.”
Nelsen says he couldn’t draw comparisons to making his debut as a coach to when he made his playing debut.
“It’s extremely different,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
The former D.C. United defender says standing on the sideline instead of playing is “an easy job” and that coaching so far has been “absolutely fun.”
“What I’d say as a player, I didn’t have fun while I was playing,” he said. “It’s a job, there’s stress, there’s pressure, there’s people watching, there’s people expecting things. So even as a player, you’re under an immense amount of stress. There’s people who can never ever get close to doing your job critiquing you every day. That’s life. And as a coach it’s just a kind of a different type of stress.”