Soccer: Nelsen to 'try' to play All Whites friendlies

Captain Ryan Nelsen will "try" to play in New Zealand's two international soccer friendlies in October but he won't be surprised if other overseas-based All Whites can't make it home.

It remains unclear how many of the New Zealand players involved in this year's World Cup in South Africa will play the matches against Honduras in Albany on October 9 and Paraguay in Wellington three days later.

Blackburn Rovers defender and skipper Nelsen gave a cautious green light to his own availability.

"Most likely. I'll try to get back, it will be two really good games," he told Radio Sport.

"We've got to refocus. The All Whites had a goal with the World Cup, now it's a refocus, a replanning for the next big thing."

However, he suspects it will be a tough call for several others to risk their club commitments, citing the example of fellow-English Premier League defender Winston Reid.

The 22-year-old made his debut for West Ham over the weekend and Nelsen suspected he would want to cement his position there rather than risk it with a round-the-world trip.

"Winston Reid will be a better player playing week in and week out in the Premier League rather than risking his position for a friendly," he said.

"New Zealand Football probably didn't want me to say that but you've got to look at the bigger picture.

"For a guy like Winston, having to go back to these games is going to put his position under a wee bit of threat. They (West Ham) are smart enough to understand it's a lot of travel so when he comes back, will he be fresh and ready to go in the Premier League?

"If players decide not to come back, I totally understand that. I've been there myself, there's humungous pressure from the fans and from the clubs."

Nelsen pointed out that All Whites striker Rory Fallon wasn't named in the Plymouth Argyle team for several weeks after briefly leaving their Championship (second division) campaign last season for the New Zealand friendly against Mexico in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Nelsen said Reid would be better for his mixed debut in the 3-0 season-opening loss to Aston Villa, comparing it to his own Premiership "baptism of fire" in 2005.

Reid was criticised in the English media for a handful of mistakes.

"I don't think he had that bad of a game. One or two little things went wrong and it gets blown out of proportion," Nelsen said.

"As long as you don't take it to heart, don't read newspapers and believe in your ability, you'll be fine.

"What he will find is that every game from now on will be a wee bit easier. Every training he'll get better and he'll just get used to it.

"It's the hardest league in the world, i's brutally hard. The media are on top of you all the time."

Nelsen believed the sixth New Zealander to play in the English top flight would provide a role model to a new demographic.

"A lot of Maori and Pacific Island players will see a young Maori man making a name for himself playing soccer. It's got to be appealing," he said.

"And he's making a lot of money for doing it. Instead of being paid buttons and getting smashed up in rugby mauls and all that."

- NZPA

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