Tim Hanley's Recollections of an NASL Soccer Career

by Dave Litterer spectrum@sover.net
Tim Hanley thanley@cornish.com played professionally in the NASL from 1979-1983, and has many vivid recollections of his years there. He has offered to make these recollections available to the US Soccer History archive, and to share them with the Internet community as well. He can offer a rare look at the inner workings of the most successful pro soccer league ever to play in the United States. Tim will be sending new stories periodically!

Tim Hanley's NASL Recollections

  • NEW!My Days with the NASL
  • Confessions of a Keeper
  • Rememembrances of Jimmy McAllister
  • A year to remember: 1981, San Jose Earthquakes, "Bestie" and "Stets"
  • How does the NASL compare with MLS?
  • Why did the NASL Fail: An Insider's Perspective
  • Which came first? Chicken or the egg?
  • A wild international tour thru Mexico in 1980

    My days with the NASL

    I first played soccer as a 14 year old, 1974. Soccer had not arrived in Los Altos (near Stanford) until 1972. I played one half in the field, hated it and moved into nets until I retired from the professional ranks ten years later. As an U-16, I palyed for Steve Sampson, then a high school coach and an ex foothill college player. As a senior in high school I was invited to train with the Oakland Stompers a NASL expansion team (1978). My idol at the time was goalkeeper Shep Messing so this was realy exciting. One other high school player Eric Price from Saratoga was invited as well. Eric was a fantastic young player. Went on to play fro UC Santa Barbara, but due to leg injuries never "made" it. Oakland was one of the most bizarre teams I would ever come in contact with! In 1979 I played for Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. One of the top JC programs in the States. I'm seriuos, we beat Stanford, drew with USF which at the time was one of the best NCAA Div. 1 programs. The college teams stopped playing Foothills--it was bad for their morale. During the off season I traveled to England for a goalkeepers camp in the town of Guilford, just south of London. While in England i played a game for Blackburn reserves and trained with Blackpool (3rd Div.) for about 3 months. The pace was incredible. I thought I was good when I arrived in Great Britian, boy was I in for a surprise. After finishing at Foothills I decided to play professionally instead of going to college as I felt the standard in the NCAA was low and if I was going to become a player I had better play with the best. I was drafted by the San Francisco Fog of the MISL and the San Francisco Gaels of the ASL. I was invited to trials with Tulsa, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay all of the NASL. I signed with the Rowdies for the 1980 indoor season. *When I signed, the NASL Players Association was on strike! i signed whats called a Letter of Agreement. This would prove to be very important about 8 months later. 1981 I played for the San Jose Earthquakes. The highlight was playing with George Best. 1982 I was off to Europe again, this time I played with Servette of Switzerland and spent almost a year with Hibernian Football Club of Edinburgh, Scotland. (1st Division at the time.) 1983-4 Returned to play for the San Jose, now Golden Bay, Earthquakes. This was a superb team. We did not lose a game at home. 17-0 Eventually lost to Toronto in the semis. After the season the writing was on the wall. The Quakes were struggling and started to sign amatuers as the professionals were guaranteed certain pay, per your years in the league. I would have played for free, but was not allowed too! I did not want to travel to europe again because I still could not sign over there. Through out the '80's and most of the '90's, American soccer was deemed to be a lower class and regardless of your international experience we could not sign a contract. Everything I did overseas was "on trial" and I was paid under the table. Return to Top

    Hi-jinks, Pranks and fun on the road with Teammates

    The NASL schedule had most teams playing a mid week game as well as one on the weekend. Sometimes during the indoor season we played a road game only to leave at about 8 the following morning to arrive back home to play an evening match. Travelling with 15+ guys, most of them betwen 20-30 years old, while not incredibly exiciting, did have its moments. With the Rowdies our airport arrivals were at times amusing. It seems that coming from a warm weather area, one is never truly prepared for the cold. I can remember on more than one occassion flying into MInn/St. Paul or O'Hare when the temp. read 10 degrees and yet most of us Rowdies were dressed in khakis and polo shirts. Mike Connell the South African star was our premier prankster. "Conn" was the team leader, our captain, and the elder statesman in that he had been with the club since 1975. Mike used have the trick hat on all the time and no one was safe. Once Mike tied the laces of a teamates boots together so that when he (Peter Chandler) jumped over the wall, he fell flat on his face. Sounds pretty tame, except, this was during a real game! While at dinner one night in Ft. Lauderdale I returned to my hotel room to find my roomates entire bed in the shower. Poor Refik (yugo) spent a good twenty minutes trying to convince the Cuban maids that he did not soak his bed. I was never sure if this was the Conn or some other deranged player, but occassionally when going to check out and pay for our incidentals, a strange charge like the XXX feature would find its way onto your bill. The desk clerks would turn a shade of red despite your sincere explanations. Of course your teamates were very understanding and would merely scream out the details for the entire lobby to hear. Mike saved his best for his countrymen, and this particular prank stands out. Steve 'Wegs" Wegerele was to be the brunt of this joke but it did not quite turn out the way Mike planned. Traditionally in professional sports the lockeroom is a haven for strange deeds, and this was no exception. Remember Flex shampoo by Revlon, the gold stuff in the semi-clear plastic bottle? Well, Mike takes Wegs bottle, empties a portion and then refills it in a rather delicate manuever, are you with me? Let me provide a hint: ever heard the english phrase for insulting or ribbing someone? It's called" taking the piss" OK now we are all on the same page. Wegs takes his shampoo to the showers only to return a short while later without it! Absolute silence. Does he know? A moment later Johnny Gorman our scottish defender, (and now an asst. to coach Glenn Hoddle for the English Nat'l. Team), walks in holding the shampoo. Our collective guts are bursting and yet no one says a word. After another moment of silence John and Wegs know something is up, and after a few minor disclosures, John & Wegs head back to the showers with wee Johnny mumbling, "Oy, I thought that stuff smelled off". When Frank Worthington came to the Rowdies for the "81 outdoor season the press conference was held at the Bay Harbour Inn, a nice hotel just outside of Tampa. Frank had played in the NASL with the Philidelphia Fury and so was accustomed to the atmosphere. During the questions portion one of the local reporters asks Frank if he intends to work hard or is this just a summer holiday(?) This question had become more frequent as a number of Brits in the past had really come over for an extended holiday at the NASL's expense. Well if you didn't know, Frank had an incredible persona, thought he was Elvis! I am not kidding. Frank Worthington with his long hair and leather pants was perhaps the most eccentric player I had yet to meet. Anyway, right when this reporter querries Frank about work habits etc...... out of Franks duty-free bag drops a fifth of scotch and a fifth of vodka. The bottles shatter on the floor and as the powerful fumes spread, the pace of the reporters scribbling increases. Another drinking story! Wee Willie Johnston the Scottish International played for the Vancouver Whitecaps during his spell in the NASL. Willie was a certified nut. This is the guy that mooned the Queen of England during a match at Wembley. Pure Scotsman. Wee Willie is playing winger against us at Spartan Stadium in San Jose during the '81 season. Vancouver had quite the team with Peter Beardsley, Phil Parkes, Carl Valentine, and Peter Lorimer. Peter was famous for his recorded 107 mph penalty kicks, and of course for his brilliant career with Leeds Utd. For those of you that have not attended a Quakes game at Spartan Stadium, the following may seem impossible. The walls surrounding the pitch are about five feet away and closer in the corner areas. We give away a corner and Wee Willie sets up to take the kick. A fan reaches over and hands Willie a Michelob, (the curved bottle a dead give-away), Willie takes a few gulps, steps back, takes the kick, it bends directly to Peter Lorimer who makes no mistake about it and heads it home-GOAL. Edmonton, Canada '81 with the Quacks. We play the Drillers (what a name) and retire back to the hotel. There is not a lot going on in Edmonton. My roomate is Bob Stetler. (I could never figure out why managers put the keepers together. Don't you think this creates the 'what if they kill each other?, concern. Or maybe it was because they thought no one else could or would talk to us?) "Stets" goes out and 'pulls' a bird from England. All she will talk about is how she wants to meet George Best. So Stets brings her up to Besties room, (I am witnessing all of this because as a clueless younger player all we did it seems was hang around the hallways throwing buckets of ice at each other and playing harmless little pranks). Bestie opens his door and is wearing just a towel, this gal is very excited to meet Mr Best, and as George shakes her hand, he gently tugs her into the room, slams and locks the door. For the next hour my roomate is standing on the bed banging his fists into the wall and yelling at Mr. Best in the adjoining room. After a game against the Jacksonville Teamen (name change upon relocation would have been appropriate, duh.) and riding the bus back to the hotel we noticed a 7-Eleven just three blocks from our resort. This is important, our per diem was about $27 and if you spent this moola on room service beer you got like one. So a quick walk to a strategically located beverage distributor was a survival plan. Also, one never knew when that Debbie does the Rowdies XXX feature would show up, (by mistake of course), on you incidental bill. I am told these are expensive. Anyway, we ask the concierge about the 7-eleven and she proceeds to call a cab. We laugh in explaining that we are strong fit athletes and will go the distance on foot no less. She in turn kindly discloses that on the previous night at about 9,and directly across the street at the post office no less, two men were shot in the head at point blank range. After doing the math, its' clear the per diem won't cover the cab and the odd medical bills, we stay in and raid the honor bars in our teamates rooms. Every once in a while we stayed in some nice digs. During the '83 winning season with the Quacks it was pretty common. At the Arlington Hyatt our team meals included the homemade sundaes at the Hugo's. Picture this: You've just arrived from Yugoslavia, don't speak any english,(of course you can't picture this, you speak english and have never been to Yugoslavia), and are standing in line with you teamates to make your little Hugo's sundae. If you haven't had one, they've got the machine that when you pull the lever the soft ice cream pours out. See where I am going with this? Nedzad Velasevic our new center back, Ned for short, is standing under the ice cream maker and the ice cream will not stop pouring out. One of his new teamates has jammed a knife or something into the lever and poor Ned cannot get this stuff to stop and it is flowing all over the carpet. We have sat down and are pretending not to notice. Huge pile of ice cream at Ned's feet. Ned took his frustration out on Team America the following evening. This character building and tactical move was just another example of a team doing what it takes to win games. During portions of the '83 season when Bob Rigby wasn't in our coach Don Popovic's doghouse we would room together. Bob was a fitness freak and we would sneak out of our room at night and instead of going to a nightclub like normal curfewbusters, we would go to the local Golds Gym. Once we had an afternoon off in San Diego and some of the team had been invited to go sailing with a pretty attractive crew. I got to hang with my roomate at the gym. I will say this about "Riggs", he was, without reservation, the best american goalkeeper this country has ever produced. I continually review and re-evaluate his play and our training sessions and I can not find an area of his "keeping" that was weak. Bob Rigby could really do it all, he was great in the air, possessed great reflexes, was a student of the game, (to this day in all of my goalkeeping training clinics I use the exact same techniques Bob taught me) and he was tougher than any keeper I have ever seen. My first game with the Quakes in "83 was an exibition against the Russian league champions Dynamo Minsk. Riggs was incredible and played a good portion of the game with a broken hand. The Russian coach remarked after the game that the "American keeper could play any where in the world." One last one. The general manager for the '81 Quacks was a Jim Carbray. Jim thought that the American contribution to the worlds's sport would be white shoes. This is the same idiot that tried to get the Dips to where white shoes and he even had some success with the Oakland Stompers. One of his agenda items for the Quacks was white shoes. Fortunately I was on contract with Puma so every time he hollered at me I just told him that until Puma made a white shoe, I was wearing black. I had already decided however that I would never wear white shoes no matter what fines were threatened. Jimmy MacAllister in an attempt to adhere to the team policy takes a pair of Adidas boots and submerges them in white paint. This was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. The following day at training Jimmy is wearing sticky wet and now flaking white soccer boots. Everytime he boots the ball pieces of white paint sail in every direction until the boots look like really really old chocolate, with the white and black lines all chalky and smeared. Only Jimmy Mac would think of sticking an entire shoe in a bucket of paint. And I thought keepers were stupid. Just kidding Mac! Return to Top

    Confessions of a Keeper

    Americans do not generate the best athletes in the world. We just happen to have more sports to display our skills. The Italians have started to dominate water polo, the braziilians etc... volleyball. In fact if I was to judge the best soccer players in the world from a purely athletic standpoint, it would have to be the/croatians/serbs yugoslavians. And yet these people are perhaps the most mentally unstable, thus their success in the world arena has been limited. The US has more great athletes than anywhere due to our very broad and sports minded upbringing. We will win no trophies because of our sportmanship. I have always felt that the sides we were sending up against the likes of Italy were a men against boys scenario. Take a look at the starting lineups for the US Italy game in '90. The Italians look like men, some like inmates, the yanks look like college boys. No amount of snarling and bravado can change the fact that no one on the US team has to play for a living. When I played overseas my teamates were not frat boys, these guys had wives and children at home who depended on dad's paycheck. Serious business. I wonder how often a fight breaks out at the US National team headquarters? Or better yet, at a MLS practice? Think about it, at NFL/NBA/MLB training camps fights are de riguer. I remember the bruhaha over the elbow Leanardo through at Ramos in WC 94. All the yanks were up in arms. I saw it and frankly felt that Ramos brought it upon himself for grabbing and pulling Leanardo's shirt until "L" proposed the standard recourse. Ramos is the wrong height. Of the players I have seen, Doyle,Lalas,Harkes, Kooliman(sp) and Keller have the courage necessary to play in a foreign country. Also, not to be overlooked: Americans, with the exception of the elite, get no coaching from the age of 14 on. This is where every country runs right past us in soccer. Our 14 yr.olds get great baseball, b-ball, football, training from 14 until they complete their careers. This is why I feel as you do that until we send all of our guys overseas, young ones included, we will not produce world class players. At this rate we will play at a standard similiar to Mexico, just never quite breaking through. A good example of this theory is our water polo teams. We produce some of the finest teams in the world. Foreigners come here to play. We have the best coaching. Coaches from around the world study our methods. The same interest must apply in US soccer. On the Kirovski/O'Brien issue, I think it is wonderful and imperative that our youth play overseas. We can create programs for school completions but at this time can not duplicate the experiences these youngster are getting. If the USSF as you say was able to send all of the U-16's and U-19's (although this is probably too late) overseas our National teams would become very good much quicker. When I went to England the first time at 18 I thought I was a player. I had just completed a year at Foothill CC and had had a fine season. I had studied goalkeeping enough to know that my education would come in europe. I was shocked at the level of play and committment displayed by the players at Blackpool FC. These guys were 3rd div. An 18 year was starting in goal. This was his job. He had been capped at the youth level. The speed was astounding. At first I was lost. Remember, I had trained with the Oakland Stompers as a senior in high school so this was not my first experience with pro's. The Blackpool players were looking to impress managers from 1st and 2nd div teams. (no premier yet). Serious business. I have a story about my experiences with Hibs in Edinburgh that i'll save for another time. At Blackpool they let me train for as long as I wanted as I had no intentions of staying in England forever. On the signing thing; when I went back in 1982 American soccer players were still considered second class and therefore could not sign as that wouild take away a brits job. This is very similiar to Kirovski's situation. Man U was unable to prove that the UK could not produce a player of similiar quality. (Keller being a keeper and the current UK keeper situation allows for his exception). When I was with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Winston Dubose traveled to England every year in the hopes of signing. He was at the time one of the US National team keepers. I was paid under the table. The clubs would give me digs at a bed & breakfast and pay me a nominal fee. Having a yank play in some of your games created a circus atmosphere. All the while they would negotiate with the FA and try to find some exception or an old forgotten relative of irish heritage. Sounds romantic but actually was very hard. I was married and took this soccer very seriously as I did not have a college degree. My college education had been the NASL to date. Scotland apart from the tourist stuff is not a great place to live. I did because I knew I would learn my craft at an accelerated pace. I was keenly aware that at 14 years old I had had a late start in soccer. I have a some stories that I'll have Dave post regarding my times with Hibs. On Meola. Tony was and is a media hype, similiar to Kyle Rote Jr. In the modern game, no goalkeeper leaves the near post and no keeper in the world can play at a top level without command of the air. When I spoke to Steve Sampson about Meola he commented on the relief he felt when Tony tried out as a kicker for Jets. This allowed Steve the justification to question Tony's committent and therefore drop Tony from the Nat'L team. Sampson has liked Keller for a long time but Bora did not. Kasey has made some pretty rough comments about the selection process during Bora's reign. Friedel is very good but as I said has lost some confidence. With the Crew I think it shows one how good he really is and how poor some of the other MLS goalies are. I don't know much about Dodd. But I don't recall him ever being the outright first choice. I like what I have seen of him and would think he is an outstanding stand- in for Keller. He seems calm. Oh, yes I think anyone would have been a better choice than Meola in '90. How old was Tony? And how much competitive football had he played. College and US pro leagues do not count! This is kinda funny. When I signed with Tampa I was 19 and therefore could have played for the U-21's. I was asked a few times but could not play because I was playing professional! In other words, I could not commit to traveling to ndonesia in the middle of the NASL season, so the youth National teams were always staffed with college type players. They used to train at Tampa University, Miller was the coach I think. I thought it was funny because in addition to myself we had a player from Dartmouth named Paul Mott and Dave Taber from Phili Textile, who could have and should have represented their country. The keeper they had at the time was Craig Scarpelli who was tauted as being one of the best young keepers in the country. I always thought this funny-why wasn't he playing professional then? Anyways, I watched for his name during my career and don't remember seeing it. During training sometimes we would invite the youth Nat'l teams over to scrimmage and the coaches would always put the professional keepers in the youth nets as not to kill the little guys! I always played against the Rowdies, which was great because we got a gazillion shots. The absolute saddest item of these conversations; and this holds true for a number of players not just myself, but I was 24 years old when the NASL folded. I could not sign in europe, and had but one choice-indoor. Done that, been there etc... Horrible game. Where did all these yanks go? I was ten years shy of my prime as a keeper. What happened to David Brcic, perhaps the finest young American keeper we've produced? And Perry Van Der Beck and Jim Tiejtens. These guys were very good, but ahead of their time. Return to Top

    Remembrances of Jimmy MacAllister

    I signed with the San Jose Earthquakes for the 1981 outdoor season when perennial starter Mike Hewitt broke his thumb. My first game as an Earthquake was against the Tampa Bay Rowdies- the team I had just come from. I signed midweek with the match coming on the saturday. I remember all of this because I had half of the Rowdies over for dinner on the friday night before the game. You see, I knew all of the Rowdies and had practiced with my new team all of three times! I still did not know some of the Quakes names! During the pre-game lineup I couldn't help but talk to most of the Rowdies as they were introduced. The refs thought something amiss I'm sure. We beat the Rowdies 1-0 that day and I give full credit to the lousy lasagne. My first real introduction to Jimmy MacAllister came after this particular game. The Quakes were very pleased to have pulled out a win against the favored Rowdies. As a reserve and in those games that I did not play, the benchwarmers were "worked out" after the game. Wim Suurbier the famous dutch international and our asst. coach did the honors. Anyway I arrived in the locker room 20 or so minutes after the game with a celebration in full force. As mentoned in a previous story, this club was somewhat wild! The first person I remember seeing was our fantastic defender Jimmy McAllister. Jimmy was sitting at the far end of the room, his legs crossed, uniform still on, with a budweiser in one hand and a cigarette in the other. From his mouth came a plethora of profanity, with some words I think he had actually made up. Jimmy Mac was an incredible defender, without a doubt the best natural American I ever saw play. Jimmy was so quick and possessed skills unmatched by many professionals. He would have been able to play with sides from all over the world and was a starter not by birth-right but because he was superb. Jimmy Gabriel had brought Mac with him when he came down from Seattle. When crazy Don Popovic (another story) took over the team in 1983, Jimmy spent a good deal of time in "Pops" doghouse and did not start as often as he should have. As a comparison, I played with Fernando Clavijo in 1983, (Fernando subsequently played for our national team in 1994, Geez he must have been about 40!), and while Fernando was extremely fast and a superb athlete he did not possess the skills of Jimmy MacAllister. If one was to pick an All-Time US team Jimmy surely deserves a place. Picturing Jimmy sitting there in the locker room reminds me of one incident that perhaps sums up the craziness on this 1981 San Jose Earthquakes team. We had just beaten Ft. Lauderdale at home and in another very close 1-0 game. Again we are in the locker room after the game and Jimmy has established himself in his favorite spot, sitting legs crossed a bud in one hand and a cigarette in the other. This time he is talking with a reporter from the San Jose Mercury when Mark Liveric bursts into the room screaming. Let me give you a little background on Mark. He was a holdover from the days when unheralded yugoslavians could come over and play in the NASL as getting a place in a top side at home would have been impossible. Mark had been in the league for a few years and in fact I had met him back in 1978 when he was an Oakland Stomper. Well Mark fancied himself as a ladies man and would rub baby oil all over his body before our games. He thought this made his legs looks sexier! You can imagine the kind words the goalkeepers would direct to Mr. Liveric as the balls slid out of our hands during warmup. Well after the Ft. Lauderdale game, Mark still oiled up and a bit lathered up, bursts into the locker room showing quite a bit of contempt for all things deemed sacred. He is ranting and raving in a mix of two languages when he picks up the full cans of budweiser (why on earth they provided this team with beer after games I 'll never understand, these guys had the potential to get in fights in our own parking lot!), and starts hurling them across the room! This is a 20 X 20 room no bigger than your garage. I am not kidding, and what is even scarier, this is a european with a minimum amount of hand eye skill. These cans are flying and expoding in a spray of foam as they connect with the opposite walls. Most of us hit the floor! I distinctly remember Jimmy MacAllister looking up from his conversation with the newspaper reporter and not flinching as these missiles of beer smashed against the wall above his head, he just sat there smoking, drinking and swearing. After Jimmy Gabriel and George Best pinned Mark down, (I don't think they liked the fact that he was wasting their beer), and we bring in the translators, it turns out that what Mark was screaming in his elegant mix of two very different languages was "YOU GUYS DON"T PASS ME THE BALL". I swear there was tears in his eyes.
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    A year to remember: 1981, San Jose Earthquakes, "Bestie" and "Stets

    During the 1981 outdoor season I signed with the San Jose Earthquakes when goalkeeper,and perennial starter, Mike Hewitt broke his thumb. Big Bob Stetler, more affectionately known as 'Stets', became the starting keeper. Bob was from a small town in Pennsylvania and had been a wrestler in college. Perfect combination: wrestler/goalkeeper. He was tough, one of a few of the '81 Quakes that carried baseball bats in their cars should the unlikely event that an angry boyfriend or jealous husband tracked them down. "Stets' drove Frank Avila the equipment man crazy, he would cut off the sleeves of the brand new adidas keeper jerseys. Big Bob didn't like the new fangled elbow pads, in fact I think if he could have he would have preferred to roll up the sleeves like with his pendeltons. The team was coached by Jimmy Gabriel a Scotsman that had been quite a player in England with one of the London clubs (Chelsea or Everton). He had coached the Seattle Sounders before getting the San Jose post. Whenever we played in Seattle it was like homecoming and Jimmy would waive curfew! Not a good idea with this team. All we had to do was make the 8am bus. After playing the Sounders at the Kingdome I remember going a short distance to an oyster bar like a FX McRory's. Anyway, 'Stets' decides to help himself to the oysters as if they were part of some happy hour freebies. The managements polite requests go unheralded until a fight ensues, not because of the food, but it seems 'Stets' has directed a remark at someones girl which requires recourse! I grabbed the team doctor "Mafe" and got him outside, not because he was older but with his temper I felt he might want a piece of the action. (During the season Mayfield Harris rec'd at least two yellow cards for screaming at the refs.) 'Stets' missed the 8am bus. The highlight of the '81 season was playing with George Best. I had met George at an airport while I was in high school and he seemed genuinely surprised when I asked him for his signature. No one in the terminal had the slightest idea who he was. During one of our training sessions Derek Evans a defender from San Jose St., and one of the bat totting toughs, made a little wager with George. Derek had been injured and had not had the chance to train with Bestie and frankly felt George was a bit pampered. Derek claims he can strip George of the ball within a few seconds. George tells him he'll have a minute for $100. Frank the trainer retrieves the c-note from Besties bag while George sections off a 12 x 12 ft. area. To this day I can remember the smirk on Derek's face. With Bestie holding the 100 dollar bill in his hand, he proceeds to dribble the lights out. Derek pushed , kicked, grabbed and chased to no avail, and with ten seconds remaining (we were all counting down) George kicks Derek the ball, throws him the money and says "there you go son" For the most part, practice with the Quakes during this season was warfare. Jimmy Gabriel used to scrimmage the 'yanks' vs. the 'foreigners'. The Americans vying for a starting position would do anything to win and the foreign guys would be jumping out of the way in order to avoid injury. Countless practice sessions ended in fights. I had not been exposed to other professional sport teams but was sure they didn't fight at practice like we did. Practicing penalties one day Bestie wagers a fiver that I can't stop his best attempt. The fiver was in deference to my huge contract. George stands at the spot and proceeds to explain to me exactly where this shot is going to go. Top left corner, side netting. I in turn advise him that I will be leaving my line a touch early. He curiously laughed. A smiling Jimmy Gabriel walks up and claims he's never seen anyone stop this "famous" pen. George approaches the ball and slams it at the lower right corner, off the post and in. I of course was left untangling myself from the opposite post's side netting. A short time later a young lad that had been watching practice walked up and asked for my autogragh. After recovering from shock I signed and as he was reading my signature he looked confused. He approached and asks "aren't you George Best's little brother?" Highlight of my career, to be thought of as George Best's sibling. Return to Top

    How does the NASL compare to MLS?

    In brief, only a few current Clash players could have suited up for the NASL games of 1981. There was simply so much talent there, but then again the NASL was scouring the world to pay megabucks to the world's top players. The good news is the quality of the American players for the Clash is LIGHT YEARS ahead of the American players during the NASL era. It's a testament to the strides the US has made since then. I have been to a number of the San Jose Clash games and to be very honest; only a handful of Clash players would have dressed out for an NASL game, let alone play. The players of the NASL were for the most part foreignors as the league had a two yanks on the field at the same time rule. Also, a number of the "yanks" were naturalised citizens! My teamates included players from some of the biggest teams in Europe and South America. Only the members of the US National team would start for a NASL team. When I played for Tampa Bay the team consisted of the following players most had represented their respective countries. Mike Connell, Steve Wegerle and Niell Roberts,( South African Int.) Jan Van Der Venn (Dutch int.) Refik Kozic (Yugo. Int) Oscar Fabbiani(arg.int?) Washington Olivera (of Penarol Uruguay) Frank Worthington(Leeds Utd. Eng. int?) The overall standard of the current American pros is very high. and much better than the 1980's. There are a great deal more good Yanks then when I played; but the standard of the NASL was extremely high; in fact if the league did not have the 2, and then the 3 on the field rule, I doubt if any of us would have played. As it was, we were relegated to keepers and backs. We also had a lot of naturalized citizens, guys that had been in the league for five years were suddenly Americans, it was really weird and frustrating. I feel for those who were never able to see a NASL game life; the games were fun and the atmospere was great. The stands had a mix of foreigners that felt they knew everything about the game and were always complaining, and Americans who knew nothing about the game and couldn't understand why nobody ever scored, and were consistently confused by the offside rule. Return to Top

    Why did the NASL fold: An Insider's Perspectives

    When the league started to pick up steam, (c. 1974), the skill level of the foreigners began to rise. Most of the teams had success with 3rd/4th division players from Great Britain mixed with one or two older internationals from either the British Isles or South America. The salaries for this type of player was relatively small and many of these guys came here on "holiday". Many of the Brits were making more money playing in the NASL than they had at home! We also had a number of lower division Yugoslavians, again the price was right. When the Cosmos signed Pele the world took notice. In a way the arrival of Pele brought about the downfall of the league. Every team in the league set out to compete with the Cosmos and get their 'own' Pele. This brought the talent pool up significantly. Instead of having one older international on your team, now you had to have a World Cup star! We watched as Eusebio, Simoes, Moore, Cubillas, Gerd Muller, Rudi Krol,Wim Risjbergen, Wim Suurbier, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, George Best, Jean Francios Larios, etc... all came over. These guys were expensive and the clubs had to bring in guys they could pass to! When I was with San Jose in 1981 eight or so of the Yanks' combined salaries could not match Bestie's $250,000 annual pay. Subsequently, the players coming over were now 1st/2nd division guys, and yes, many were past their prime, but many were a great deal younger. Leo Cuellar in 1983 was the Captain of the Mexican National Team, Trevor Francis and Frank Worthington were still stars in England when they came over. Talk about younger, I played against Peter Beardsley when he was with the Vancouver Whitecaps and now of course is playing regular premier division football with Newcaste Utd. A note on Frank Worthington; Frank played a game in San Jose as a member of the Philidelphia Fury and was being closely marked by John Rowlands a tough centre half(central defender). After 20 minutes Frank has scored with his left and then again with his right on two glorious full volleys. Big John decides that the only way to stop Worthington is a head butt away from the action. After Rowlands delivers the cheap shot, Frank returns the favor and both players are sent off, bleeding all over the pitch. I remember thinking that these guys were so brutally tough. I would learn later in Scotland, it was just part of the game. O.K. back to the demise of the league. When I played for Golden Bay during the 1983 campaign we had Zungul,(Hajduk Split and Yugo. Int.) Stan Terleki (Polish Int.) Leo Cuellar (Mex. Int.) Wim Suurbier (Dutch Int.), Michael Keri (Yugo Int. Red Star), Jim McAllister (US Int. probably one of the best North Americans to play in the league, ever!) Godfrey Ingram (Eng. Premier div.), Jan Goosens (Dutch 1st Div.) Also, we had a big centre back from Yugoslavia from either Red Star or Partizan. On a team like this I can't imagine an MLS player starting unless there was a 'foreigners on the field' limit. The difference between the 1981 Quakes and the team in 1983 was astounding. The salaries were also much bigger. Without the existence of a substantial TV contract the league was doomed. Could the ending be different? Yes. The league fearing a loss at the gates stalled the North Americans on the field rules. Instead of implementing the original plan of getting an additional yank on the field during each season (starting in 1980) the league decided to wait. Coupled with this move, the teams did not have to adhere to the policy that each team had to have a reserve team in place, (primarily made up of North Americans). If the NA's on the field had moved to 6 or 7 by 1984, I believe the costs could have been effectively managed. Parity in play would have been a great deal better. As it was we all just watched and waited for the end of the season to see who would play the Cosmos in the finals. In the final analysis I believe that while the arrival of Pele brought us the world, we weren't prepared for the consequences. We were still a triple A league pretending to be big time. Return to Top

    Which came first: The Chicken or the Egg?

    The thought that now we have all these kids playing soccer because of the professional leagues is not valid. Girls have been playing softball and basketball for years without pro teams or players to idolize. Kids play soccer for a number of socio-economic reasons and the basic tenents for creating high quality professional caliber American players is still not in place. Playing for your local high school and or college will not provide for the skills required to play at a professional level. I was fortunate in that I created opportunites for myself to train with pro's both here and abroad. At 16 years old I gave up all sports to focus on soccer and spent every waking hour either training or watching film. I could have never been a field players as I started too late, but picking the spot between the sticks was a perfect match for most young Americans during the time I played. Return to Top

    A wild International tour through Mexico, 1980

    I had been invited to train with the Aztecs during their pre-season two-a-days. We started every morning at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. We didn't train inside however, we praticed outside in the park areas surrounding the stadium! Rinus Michels was the coach and I were very excited to work under the tutelage of the Dutch national team coach that had brought great success to Holland in 1974 and 1978. Rinus was very tough but fair. He told us over and over again that we were "paid to win" and anything less would not be fulfilling our jobs. We ran and ran and ran. He claimed we would work harder in three hours than most people did in a day. He was right. (note: Thomas Rongen the current coach for the Tampa Bay Mutiny of the MLS, was with the Aztecs at this time.) We traveled to Mexico City to train for two weeks at altitude. Again we ran and ran and ran, but this time we weren't in a park but up in the mountains outside of Mexico City. Everyday he would have the assistants scout out new deer trials to run . In the afternoons we would scrimmage with Club America. One of the assistant coaches was an englishman named Peter Short. I don't believe Rinus had picked Peter as a coach, I think he came with the previous regime. Anyways, Peter Short was one of the worst people I have ever met in the sport. One evening, those of us that were not ill (Motezuma's Revenge), went out to 'La Secsion Rosa' or the 'Pink Section' and watched as Morrisson 'the keeper' tried to pick up what he believed to be a beautiful girl. Well goalkeepers are not the brightest people in the world, I mean think about it, would a sane person stand between two sticks and allow people to fire soccer balls at 'em. Anyway, the deep voice did not deter Jim and he proceeded to keep us in stiches for quite some time. He was pretty astonished when we told him, (at about 2am), that his lovely senorita was a senor. in Mexico during the '80's the teams used a ball with large panels that would become lopsided as you played. In addition, the players preferred the balls to be slightly deflated which allowed for greater touch. This combined for a keepers nightmare. These balls when struck hard would perform all sorts of incredible aeronautical manuevers. Shots would dip, hop, bend and twist at exactly the worst moment, jamming fingers, breaking noses, changing your opinion about the usefullness of 'cups'! (The adidas balls they used in the World Cup in Italy while not lopsided, were definitely wierd. Take a look at the action on some of the free kicks. Wynalda's is a good example as is the chip that beat the Italian keeper. Those balls because of the lining system were "juiced".) Sometime maybe after the '86 World Cup the soccer balls in Mexico became a great deal better! During an afternoon scrimmage with Club America our goalkeeper Jim Morrison dove into the post after a Club America striker shot from midfield at a kickoff! Well I had had enough. I had been in Mexico City for ten days and had to watch as Jim did not play all that well, so I approached Peter Short. "Peter" I said, "you invited me down here, it has been ten days, I haven't played a lick, Jim is running into posts, when do I play?" That night he delivered return plane tickets to my room and I left Mexico the following morning. I met up with Peter Short in 1982 just before I left for Europe. Peter had been hired as the coach for the Earthquakes. He very warmly stated that he thought I was "crap" and would never make it in the world of professional soccer. I had already played for Tampa as well as San Jose, but Peter just didn't rate me very highly. When I came back from Scotland and signed with the Earthquakes in 1983 Don Popovic had taken over. I can't remember if it was during the '83 season or later but Peter Short, while living in LA, was murdered! Apparently he was confronted in a parking lot by some hoodlums and would not back down when they pressed him for money etc....Well these guys didn't buy his attitude and shot him. As sad as that event was, it didn't surprise me, Peter Short had made a lot of people mad. Return to top

    Last update: May 23, 1997

    Thanks to Dave Litterer spectrum@sover.net