Feature interview: Millwall defender on his season and why Chesterfield fans took him to their hearts

ONE broken nose. Two torn ankle ligaments. One fractured hand. Two surgeries.

That’s how the ledger read after Sid Nelson’s season in League Two.

The broken nose and subsequent surgery was while he was with Yeovil Town, and the fall-out from it turned a promising loan spell into one that ended acrimoniously.

He briefly went back to Millwall before joining Chesterfield, where he became a firm fan favourite and scored his first-ever goal in senior professional football, in a 3-1 win over Notts County in March.

Nelson played 15 times for the Spireites as they battled, unsuccessfully, to preserve their 97-year spell in the Football League.

Despite their side's difficulties, supporters lauded the efforts of Nelson. His bravery didn’t go unnoticed, and on social media Chesterfield fans thanked the Millwall centre-back for his contribution.

Jack Lester had brought him to Chesterfield, but it was a tough start, Nelson playing in the centre of defence in a 4-0 defeat at Acrington.

However, in the next game Nelson helped the side keep a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over high-flying Luton before they defeated his former club Yeovil 2-1.

That would have been extra sweet for Nelson, after a falling-out with Glovers boss Darren Way the previous November led to him being frozen out for four games before he returned to the Lions.

Nelson explains: “I knew I’d done better at Yeovil than the manager thought I did.

“It was going really well for me, I was playing well week-in, week-out. Then I broke my nose in a game, had my operation on a Thursday and then the medical team didn’t go through the FA for the prescribed drugs I was taking.

“So I got dropped for a couple games, and at the back end of the loan I didn’t play after I had words with the manager.

“Chesterfield is the best loan spell I’ve had. I played my best stuff there and I think I needed that to pick me up again.”

Sid Nelson's commitment is obvious to anyone that has seen him play.

Chesterfield were mired in relegation trouble when Nelson arrived, and then Lester departed in April with Ian Evatt taking over.

There were brief moments when they looked like they would escape the drop, promising results like the one over play-off-chasing County in Late March. They needed to win their games in hand over Grimsby, but they eventually ran out of steam.

Nelson suffered an ankle ligament injury and that hand fracture when he slammed into a post making a last-ditch clearance in the second-last game of the season. It was another example of the bravery that endeared him to Chesterfield fans.

It was a regular run of first-team football he needed to progress his career.

“My last game for Millwall was 18 months ago. I’ve learned an awful lot since then,” Nelson stressed.

“I’ve had two loans and have developed physically and mentally. Playing first-team men’s football benefits you.

“In a lot of games the play goes from back to front very quickly. It’s tough but it’s good and you have to embrace it.

“The manager at Chesterfield wanted someone who was 100 per cent determined. He knows the manager at Millwall, they’re friends.

“He wanted someone to be a leader in the side.

“I was talking to the gaffer here all the time, and he was getting feedback from Chesterfield on my progress. It all goes back to the gaffer here.

“I went there in January when they were in the bottom two, they had a lot of young lads. Chesterfield fans want to see someone who plays with 100 per cent fight and determination.

“I played really well there. On a personal note my aim was to go there and make an impact and it’s nice to see that the fans recognised I always gave it my best.”

The defender is currently considering a contract offer from Millwall.

Nelson was made captain of Millwall aged 18 by Ian Holloway, and though it was the proudest moment of his career he admits it came too soon.

“Yeah I’d probably agree with that,” Nelson said. “But at the same time it was complete pride. It’s the ultimate dream to captain the club you grew up supporting, nothing can compare to that.

“Of course it’s too young but then it was never going to be a permanent thing. It didn’t ruin me.

“It was a big surprise. We were going to warm up and all the older lads were there.

“Nothing can take away the pride I felt wearing the armband with that Lions shirt on.”

Nelson, 22, is recovering from ankle surgery and considering a new contract offer from Millwall. He is a Lions fan but emotion has to be left aside in the decision-making process.

“I have to weigh up the centre-half situation at the club, and which centre-backs the gaffer might want to recruit in the summer,” Nelson said.

“Hutch [Shaun Hutchinson] and Coops [Jake Cooper] were unbelievable last season and are the first choice in the centre of defence.

“Webbie [Byron Webster] will be back fit as well. I’ve learned a lot from those players, it’s great to have that kind of quality and leadership at the club.

“The club isn’t offering me a new contract for no reason. They obviously believe in me and what I have to offer, and I believe in myself as well.

“Talks are continuing through my agent, but to be offered a new deal is a massive source of pride.

“I would be open to another loan move, but at a better level than previous loans. If it takes another six months to get up to the level then so be it. I know I can do it.”

*This article first appeared in Southwark News on May 24.

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly