Nelsen expects to change Cup fortunes with Spurs

 

The Tottenham Hotspur defender Ryan Nelsen is hoping his new club can finally help him reach an FA Cup final at the third time of asking.

Nelsen ended his seven-year spell at Blackburn Rovers on deadline day when he had his contract cancelled and moved immediately to Spurs on a free transfer. During his time at Ewood Park, Nelsen reached two FA Cup semi-finals – one in 2005 when Rovers lost 3-0 to Arsenal and another two years later when they were defeated 2-1 by Chelsea after extra time.

Now the New Zealander, who is likely to feature in Tottenham's fifth-round game at Stevenage on Sunday, is desperate to go one better with his new club, who he thinks have a good chance of going all the way this year.

"I've been to three semi-finals, two of them in the FA Cup, so it would obviously be nice to push on," Nelsen, who also experienced semi-final heartbreak in the Carling Cup in 2010, said yesterday. "I've had a bit of a taste of it and have come so close to getting to a final so I feel I've got a bit of unfinished business with the competition."

Tottenham, third in the Premier League, are favourites to clinch their first FA Cup in 21 years after both Manchester sides were eliminated from the competition.

Nelsen has warned his new team-mates they must not start thinking a place in the final is guaranteed, however, and knows that League One side Stevenage, who are 47 places below them in the league ladder, will be determined to cause an upset at Broadhall Way.

"This squad is good enough to go on and win it, and I know it's a priority here," Nelsen said. "But we'll be taking this game seriously because it's going to be a very awkward one.

"It's easy to look at it like we are favourites [to win the competition] on paper, but the FA Cup is never like that. There's always banana skins. They're very difficult games and, if you don't get the mental side of it right, it can come back and haunt you and hurt you.

"We've all witnessed it in the past so we'll just take it one game at a time. Hopefully, we'll be all right for Stevenage. They beat Newcastle [two years ago in the third round]. They'll be a hard team to beat."

Nelsen made his Tottenham debut as a second-half substitute during Saturday's 5-0 drubbing of Newcastle at White Hart Lane.

The 34-year-old had previously made just one appearance for Blackburn this season and had spent most of his time in the Lancashire club's reserves, making last weekend's experience all the sweeter for the veteran centre-back.

"It was just an absolute honour to get my debut for Tottenham," he said. "White Hart Lane is my favourite stadium. I can remember playing here five or six times, obviously normally on the opposing side, so when you come out [for Spurs] it's a whole different feel. It couldn't have gone better. Newcastle are obviously having a great season, so to get three points was brilliant."

With Ledley King likely to be rested, and Younes Kaboul and William Gallas both struggling with injuries, Nelsen may earn his first start for Tottenham.

He accepts first-team opportunities will be hard to come by when Harry Redknapp's first-choice defenders are fit, adding: "When I was asked to come here it was just to help out in any way I could, on and off the field. It's great to have squad strength like that, and we've got it in every single position."

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