Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Toronto FC Manager Ryan Nelsen Learned on the Job as QPR Locker-Room Fell Apart

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Toronto FC Manager Ryan Nelsen Learned on the Job as QPR Locker-Room Fell Apart

Article excerpt

Nelsen learned on the job as QPR faltered

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TORONTO - Harry Redknapp got a rude shock after taking over Queens Park Rangers in November 2012.

The team was in last place in the English Premier League, its roster filled with bloated contracts and egos.

"The attitude stank. Attitude towards the game, attitude towards training," he wrote in his autobiography "Always Managing."

"I can't remember a worse one -- and behaviour like that cannot be altered overnight."

Redknapp, however, found one kindred spirit.

"Within weeks I had worked out that my best player was Ryan Nelsen, a 35-year-old New Zealand international -- and he couldn't wait to get out," Redknapp wrote. "'You've got no chance,' he told me. 'Not a prayer. This is the worst dressing room I've ever been in in my life. You haven't got a hope with this lot. I don't know how you solve it.'"

Today, Nelsen is in his second season as manager of Toronto FC. He recalls his season with QPR -- his finale as a player -- as a ringside seat on what happens when a dressing room goes wrong.

"It was an amazing learning experience for me," he said in an interview this week.

Redknapp, whose team was relegated at the end of the 2012-13 season, is on the verge of taking QPR back to the Premier League after one season in the Championship. QPR faces Derby Country on Saturday at Wembley in a promotion playoff worth up to 120 million pounds (C$220.5 million), mostly from broadcast rights, according to a 2013 report by the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.

With reported debts of 177 million pounds (C$325 million), Queens Park Rangers could do with hitting the promotion jackpot despite the deep pockets of millionaire owner Tony Fernandes.

Among the things Nelsen learned at QPR was the need to get recruitment right, to watch wages and that a good football team needs chemistry off the field as well as organization in it.

"It was an environment that probably players were getting paid too much for potentially their mentality to win," he said of QPR. "Young guys probably on too much before they had earned it."

There were also older players who might have lost their fire. And second-tier Championship players who had the character desire but perhaps not the talent needed.

"Everybody tried their best to get the mixture right, but it just didn't jell," said Nelsen. "It was just wrong."

The ill-fated QPR spending spree was funded by Fernandes, a British-Malaysian businessman whose net worth as of February was valued at US$650 million according to Forbes magazine. He took over in August 2011, almost a year before Nelsen came on board.

The New Zealand international didn't expect to play much at QPR, thinking his job would be to help then-manager Mark Hughes and successor Redknapp off the pitch. He ended up playing 21 league matches, becoming captain and turning into a fan favourite before leaving in January 2103 to take over Toronto FC. …

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