Ryan Nelsen said his final goodbyes to his QPR team-mates and club staff at the Harlington training ground this morning as he prepares to take on his new role as head coach at MLS side Toronto FC.
The 35 year-old defender played his last game for the R’s two nights ago. Fittingly, the R’s kept a clean sheet against champions Manchester City to secure a valuable point in our bid for Premier League survival.
While Nelsen will not be involved in the final four months of the campaign, should Rangers retain their top-flight status the New Zealander will certainly have played his part.
The former Blackburn defender joined QPR on a free transfer from Tottenham last summer after his one-year deal at White Hart Lane expired.
It was largely thought – and Nelsen later confirmed himself – that he had been brought in to provide defensive cover where needed. A safeguard against injuries and suspensions.
That’s not quite how it turned out.
After being an unused sub on the opening day of the season for our 5-0 defeat to Swansea and not featuring as Rangers drew 1-1 at Norwich, Nelsen made his debut in the blue and white hoops when we hosted Walsall in the Capital One Cup – and won 3-0.
While being rested for our subsequent cup fixtures, Nelsen missed just one league game from the moment he was drafted into the side (West Brom at home, due to illness). And aside from coming off in the 84th minute against Everton at Loftus Road, Nelsen played every minute of those other 23 appearances.
Not a bad effort for a man who openly admits he’s been playing on “glass ankles and glass knees”.
R’s fans took to Nelsen from very early on in his brief QPR career because he played with a passion that matched what was in the stands.
If the team were losing, Nelsen was frustrated. His anger fully apparent. And that is why he will be sorely missed by the QPR faithful.
His popularity on the terraces was equalled in the QPR dressing room, and this was brilliantly demonstrated by Nelsen’s team-mates following Tuesday night’s match against City.
The R’s players, orchestrated by captain Clint Hill, formed a guard of honour off the pitch for the modest Nelsen. He couldn’t get through it quick enough, a reluctant recipient of gratitude from his peers and supporters.
“Ryan was outstanding for us this season,” Hill, his regular partner at the heart of the defence, told www.qpr.co.uk
“I enjoyed every minute of playing with him and can't speak highly enough of him as both a player and, more importantly, a person. He will be sorely missed, but we all wish him well in his new role.”
Adel Taarabt was equally praising of Nelsen.
“Ryan is a fantastic professional, a fantastic man,” he said. “He’s a fantastic role model for players like myself and we are going to miss him.
“He plays like he’s 25, not 35! He deserves this opportunity to manage though and I’m sure he will do a great job.”
Meanwhile, R's boss Harry Redknapp echoed those sentiments. "He will be missed massively, he's been fantastic," he said.
"I took him to Tottenham last year from Blackburn on a free transfer and everybody thought I was mad.
"He is an absolutely unbelievable player in my opinion. A fantastic boy and I am sorry to lose him but I wish him well because you couldn't get a better boy than him."
Everyone at QPR FC wishes ‘Nellie’ well in his new role.