The centre-half was recruited this summer with the Hoops revolution in full swing as Mark Hughes brought in 11 new faces in an attempt to build QPR into an established Premier League club.
So far, the manager’s plans for the west London outfit have not come to fruition ahead of a must-win fixture against Reading at Loftus Road on Sunday as his side look to end a run of eight games without a victory.
For Nelsen, it’s just another challenge. The 35-year-old, who was born in Christchurch, was left powerless as his family were rocked by the earthquake which hit the city in February 2011, killing 185 people.
“It’s a feeling of helplessness. My sister gave birth during the earthquake in Christchurch,” said Nelsen.
“My parents were calling me because they couldn’t get to her. When you hear stories of people not being able to find love ones – it was a crazy time.
“It also feels like it doesn’t happen to first-world countries like England, America and New Zealand.”
Nelsen’s professional career began in the United States at Major League Soccer outfit DC United in Washington.
While playing in the American capital, the defender was living just a mile away from the Pentagon when it was targeted by terrorists on 11 September 2001.
“It does put things into perspective. I lived about a mile from the Pentagon when it got hit. You get caught up in your day-to-day problems, but in the greater scheme of things, events like that are humbling.”
On a somewhat lighter note, Nelsen also played some golf with Tiger Woods when the pair were both studying at Stanford – that was, of course, before disaster struck in the American’s personal life.
Some Hoops supporters might start to think the veteran defender is bad luck for the club with increasing dissatisfaction about their current predicament.
And although Nelsen has offered to “carry around shoe horns”, it is clear he is determined to help QPR through the current sticky patch and sympathises with their frustrated fans.
“I feel for the fans. Football is an emotional game and they just want the team to win. How that goes about they don’t really care. When the team doesn’t win, they want to vent their frustrations. We understand that.
“All I can say is that the manager is doing everything he can in his power to win football games. The players are working hard. We all want to do it. If we do go in and lose, it’s not because we’re unprepared and not trying, because we are.”
Hughes brought Nelsen to England from the MLS in January 2005, with the centre-half becoming an integral part of the Welshman’s Blackburn Rovers side which staved off relegation and in subsequent seasons secured consecutive finishes in the top half of the table, even qualifying for Europe.
Hughes departed for Manchester City in 2008, and the Kiwi became embroiled in another relegation battle at Ewood Park in 2011, eventually avoiding demotion by four points.
Nelsen left struggling Blackburn in the January transfer window, and in a twist of fate, joined Champions League chasing Tottenham Hotspur. Despite a brief respite from relegation woes, the defender is still well versed on the key attributes needed for any club bidding to avoid the drop.
“Strength of character, particularly mental strength, will be required over the next few months. The players have the talent and physical attributes, but in times like this, talent goes out the window. Talent is easy.
“The characteristic of being mentally strong when the pressure is on is key and that’s what hopefully we’ll be able to do. We’ve got a lot of experience in the team.”
As Hughes has readily admitted, were it not for two disastrous results against Swansea City and West Ham United at Loftus Road, QPR would be sitting comfortably in mid-table instead of being touted as relegation candidates.
Nelsen feels those two defeats aside, the R’s have been unfortunate not to pick up more points this season after a number of performances which merited more reward.
“The most frustrating thing for us is the performances have been there but the points haven’t been. It’s scary if you’re playing badly and getting beaten fair and square but that’s the infuriating thing. We’re preparing right, we’re performing on the field, but we’re not backing it up with points.”
So next up for the Hoops is a clichéd six-pointer. It is only November, but with Brian McDermott’s men also without a win and just one place above QPR, maximum points would be a massive boost for both clubs.
Reading were on the wrong end of a memorable Capital One One clash on Tuesday night, with Arsenal edging into the quarter-finals courtesy of a 7-5 victory after the Royals squandered a four-goal lead – but Nelsen does not expect the result to have an effect on the clash.
“All those players have been through games like that, or certainly disappointments, but that gets forgotten when you’ve got a game like this.
“Both teams will be saying the same thing. It’s an extremely important game. Whatever happens in the past, whether it’s at the weekend or midweek, it’s like a derby game, the form book gets forgotten.”
Perhaps befitting a man who has already experienced enough of life’s toughest tests, Nelsen admits he would rather see goalless draws than exhilarating 12-goal thrillers – and the New Zealander would happily take a 1-0 victory at Loftus Road on Sunday.
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