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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The ups and downs of cult hero Clyde Best

Bermuda-born Clyde Best was one of the first dark-skinned soccer players that lightened up the English First Division, back in 1969. Best had a decent career, despite constantly being racially abused during his years in England. and while in the Netherlands Feyenoord supporters don’t think much of him, he is a real hero in Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay Rowdies won the 1975 NASL-championship, with Best playing a decisive role in it. Admired and maligned, Clyde Best was a true cult hero. 






Randy Horton
Clyde Best was born in Somerset, Bermuda on February 24, 1951. As a young guy he played soccer for Somerset Trojans. He was league champion in 1966, allowing his club to play in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. The Caribbean zone of that Cup was played in Jamaica, January 1968. While Somerset Trojans didn’t qualify for the final, Best did a great job for a 16-year old. The big guy in his team was Randy Horton though, six years older and top scorer of the tournament with four goals. Best scored one goal, but was already on the radar of some English clubs. Six months earlier he helped his country Bermuda to second place at the Pan American Games. Being only  sixteen, his performance obviously was noted. Best was eventually contracted by London based West Ham United. His companion Horton waited a few more years and then moved to New York Cosmos, where he was a big success. Horton was top goal scorer in the league in 1972 and scored a total of 37 goals in the NASL, most of them for the star struck New York Cosmos team.

Monkey chant

After some adjustment time, Best was ready to make his debut in English soccer. Even as a youngster he was a strong and powerful man (nearly 1.90 metres), just the kind English soccer was known for.
At the same time, Best was one of the first black players in the English league, coming from the empire and commonwealth nations. Only guys like Lindy Delaphena from Jamaica (Portsmouth) and Albert Johannesen from South Africa (Leeds United) were well established black players before him. As English crowds were quit ignorant, Best got a lot of abuse from away fans. The ‘monkey chant’ was particularly offending. Racism in those days was completely unbridled and even his own fans something indulged in it – only when Best played poorly, of course. His worst nightmare was a letter he received at home, prior to an important game. It read that supporters from the team West Ham United played against (Best didn't talk about it then, and doesn't want to reveal the name of this club in retrospect) would throw acid in his face, if he dared to show himself on the field. Of course, Best did play that match, but was sure to get through the tunnel as quick as he could.

Teaming up with Hurst

On the field, his first years at West Ham United were great. Best made his debut on August 25, 1969, in a League Cup-match against Halifax Town (4-2, one goal by Best). In those days West Ham had class players like Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds and Geoff Hurst. Especially teaming up with Hurst got Best to score lots of goals. His best season was 1971-72, when he scored 17 league goals and played all 42 league matches.  After that year, Hurst left for Stoke City, and Best had a much harder time finding the back of the net. Slowly but gradually, Best lost his place in the starting line-up. So when West Ham United won the FA Cup (1975) and reached the final of the European Cup for Cup Winners in 1976, Best wasn’t playing.

NASL-champion 1975

That’s why Best turned to America’s NASL, to compensate for his lack of playtime during the summer. In his first season with Tampa Bay Rowdies Best instantly won the championship, scoring a great all decisive second goal in a 2-0 victory in the final against Portland Timbers. In the summer of 1977, Best tried something new, returned to Europe but now aiming at the Netherlands. He was given a contract by Dutch club Feyenoord, who were in a difficult spot at the time. They just finished fourth in the league, after twelve years of being either champion (four times) or number two (eight times).


Poor performance

Feyenoord’s best players had left the club, including Wim van Hanegem, or retired. In Rotterdam they wanted Best to be the great striker they’ve lacked since Swedish Ove Kindvall left the club in 1971. It didn’t work out, newspapers made fun of him. And they were right, Best didn’t perform at all. In a Dutch league where defending is basically rather poor, Best scored only three goals in 23 league matches. His appearance didn’t help either. He had grown a full beard and looked years and years older than he really was – just 26 when the season started. On top of all that, Feyenoord only managed tenth place that season. So it was not just Best who should be criticized. 



Clyde Best - statistics
Season
Club
League matches
League goals
1969-70
West Ham United
24
5
1970-71
West Ham United
22
5
1971-72
West Ham United
42
17
1972-73
West Ham United
42
7
1973-74
West Ham United
34
12
1974-75
West Ham United
15
0
1975
Tampa Bay Rowdies
19
6
1975-76
West Ham United
7
1
1976
Tampa Bay Rowdies
19
9
1977
Portland Timbers
25
7
1977-78
Feyenoord
23
3
1978
Portland Timbers
30
12
1979
Portland Timbers
29
8
1980
Portland Timbers
30
11
1981
Portland Timbers
4
0
1981
Toronto Blizzard
19
1
1982
Toronto Blizzard
3
1


Statistics: www.playerhistory.com

Best left the Netherlands after that year and managed to play a few more years, until 1982, in the NASL for Portland Timbers and Toronto Blizzard. Then he returned home to Bermuda. Best was national coach for a while (1997-1999) but failed to get good results. He now has his own Clyde Best Foundation, trying to collect and archive memories of soccer in Bermuda and helping young kids to develop their soccer skills.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Players with a century of goals in more than one country

In more than 120 years of league soccer there are lots of excellent forwards who have scored more than one hundred first level league goals in their career. Generally they did so in their own country, sometimes in a foreign country. Only in seventeen known cases a player scored one hundred league goals in more than one country. This story reveals who those seventeen soccer players are. I’ve divided them into different segments, in ascending order.

100 + 100

Mario Kempes
John Eriksen
First let’s take a look at nine players who scored one hundred league goals in two countries, but didn’t reach the one hundred fifty mark. Eight of these players scored a century of goals in their home country, Denmarks John Eriksen (Roda JC, Feyenoord, Servette, Luzern) is the only one to score 100+ league goals in two foreign countries, the Netherlands and Switserland. In his own country Denmark Eriksen scored another 44 league goals for Odense BK, and he also played one season in the French second division (Mulhouse), scoring 27 goals. 
A few of these mentioned players also managed to score league goals in yet another country:
Luc Nilis scored one league goal in England (Aston Villa);
Mario Kempes scored another 48 league goals in Austria, 5 in Chile’s second division and 10 first level goals in Indonesia (as player/coach, already 41 years old);
Hector Yazalde scored another 23 league goals for Olympique Marseille in France. 

*League 1 is the league in which the player has scored most goals, not necessarily the league in which he started his career. 


Player
Nat.
League 1
Goals
League 2
Goals
John Bosman
NETH
Netherlands
146
Belgium
104
Luc Nilis
BEL
Belgium
143
Netherlands
110
John Hansen
DEN
Italy
139
Denmark
113
Ove Kindvall
SWE
Netherlands
129
Sweden
103
Mario Kempes
ARG
Spain
126
Argentina
111
Hector Yazalde
ARG
Argentina
125
Portugal
104
Kenny Dalglish
SCO
England
118
Scotland
112
John Eriksen
DEN
Switserland
112
Netherlands
102
Vahid Halilhodzic
YUG
Yugoslavia
104
France
101

150 + 100

Only one player collected one hundred league goals in one country, and 150 (or more) in another. Stephane Chapuisat scored 40 league goals in Switserland, before moving to Gemany (Bayer Uerdingen 4 goals, Borussia Dortmund 102 goals). Then he returned home to Switserland and scored another 114 league goals for Grasshoppers Zürich, Young Boys and Lausanne Sports.


Player
Nat.
League 1
Goals
League 2
Goals
Stephane Chapuisat
SWI
Switserland
154
Germany
106

200 + 100

Hugo Sanchez
Four different players managed to score two hundred goals in one league, and one hundred in another. These are all well-known strikers with big reputations. Mexican Hugo Sanchez scored another 28 league goals in the United States, and six in Austria. Three of these players scored their two hundred league goals in a foreign country, Raymond Braine being the only one who was more successful at home (206) than abroad (Czechoslovakia, 120).






Player
Nat.
League 1
Goals
League 2
Goals
Hugo Sanchez
MEX
Spain
234
Mexico
114
Gunnar Nordahl
SWE
Italy
225
Sweden
149
Osvaldo Castro
CHIL
Mexico
210
Chile
136
Raymond Braine
BEL
Belgium
206
Czechoslovakia
120

200 + 150

Argentina is the only country with three players in this list. Kempes and Yazalde are already mentioned, Carlos Bianchi did even better. Bianchi was nearly unstoppable as a striker and he scored 205 league goals in Argentina, all of them for his club Velez Sarsfield. Inbetween he played seven years in France, collecting another 179 league goals. Bianchi ended his career in the French second division, scoring another 8 goals for Stade Reims. As we all,know, Bianchi is also one the most succesful coaches of all time.




Player
Nat.
League 1
Goals
League 2
Goals
Carlos Bianchi
ARG
Argentina
205
France
179

350 + 150

Ferenc Puskas is the number three goal scorer of all time, when it comes down to league goals. In this story, he is my number two. First Puskas banged in the goals in his native Hungary (more than 350!). After the Russian invasion in 1956 he and some team mates fled the country, at first to Switserland. He was banned by the Hungarian FA until October 1958. After that, he started played for Real Madrid. Thirty-one years old already, Puskas still managed to score 156 league goals until his retirement in 1966.





Player
Nat.
League 1
Goals
League 2
Goals
Ferenc Puskas
HUN
Hungary
357
Spain
156


100 + 100 + 100

My number one can’t keep up with the 513 league goals that Puskas scored. But Isidro Langara is the only soccer player ever (at least until now) who scored more than one hundred league goals in three different countries.  He started with 80 goals at top level with Real Oviedo (and another 61 in the second division), before the Spanish Civil War broke out. Langara then played with a Spanish team (Euskadi) in the Mexican league for one year (17 goals) and was picked up by Argentinians San Lorenzo. After little more than three seasons there (110 league goals), Langara got back to Mexico and scored 106 goals in the league with Espana. He returned  home to Spain and Oviedo score another 25 goals in the Spanish competition. That makes Langara king of this story.

Player
Nat.
League 1
Goals
League 2
Goals
League 3
Goals
Isidro Langara
ESP
Mexico
123
Argentina
110
Spain
106



Monday, January 13, 2014

One Hit Wonders: Third Lanark (Scotland), 1903-04

Out of 117 championships in Scotland, Glasgow based clubs Rangers (54) and Celtic (44) won 98 of them, only leaving a few crumbles for all the other teams.  Back in 1903, Third Lanark from Glasgow was one of five clubs aiming for the Scottish title that year. The red and white’s pulled it off, and celebrated their one and only championship.

As one of the co-founders of the Scottish league, Third Lanark (founded in 1872 by an army regiment, the Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers) wasn’t making headlines in the 19th century. Most of the time the club finished mid table,  with a fourth place (in 1893, 1895 and 1902) as their best result. But they did win the Scottish Cup, back in 1889 beating Celtic 2-1. At the start of the twentieth century, nothing really changed. Third Lanark only managed to reach seventh place during the 1902-03 season, with James Johnstone (10 goals) and William Wardrope (7 goals) as their main goal scorers.
Although not successfully on the soccer field, 1903 was something of a turning point for the club. First the club severed their links with the military and got incorporated as a company. And just as important, they took over the stadium that Queen's Park had loaned before, and renamed it New Cathkin Park, later Cathkin Park.

New Signings

New signing Thomas McKenzie
Encouraged by these new developments, the team had bigger plans for the upcoming season. The team did have two new signings. Scottish international and prolific goal scorer John Campbell (champion with Aston Villa back in 1896 and with Celtic in 1898) came from Celtic. Teammate Hugh Wilson, at Third Lanark since 1901, had an even better reputation. He was English league champion with Sunderland in 1892, 1893 and 1895 and is considered as one of Sunderlands best players ever. The other important new face in the squad was promising young striker Thomas McKenzie. Later this season, 22-year old James Comrie (who died on the battlefield in Belgium in the First World War) made his debut in the team, but only played four league matches this season. With a great goalkeeper, James S. Raeside, and two solid defenders, Robert Barr and William McIntosh, Third Lanark probably did already have one of the best defenses of the league. In midfield Thomas P. Sloan was elementary.
And with the two new signings upfront, the club might have a chance of challenging the other clubs the upcoming season.

Vital matches against Rangers

Straight from the start of the season, five clubs were involved in the fight for the title, and Third Lanark was one of them. The others were Rangers, Celtic, reigning champion Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian. Third Lanark lost their first match away to Rangers 3-4, but did beat Hearts (2-1) and Celtic (3-1, away) in the next two rounds. Rangers just lost one point in their first seven matches. So when Third Lanark and Rangers had their return match early in the season on October 10, 1903, it was vital for the red and white’s to win. Twenty five thousand people saw them do just that, winning 1-0. And after winning their next match 2-0 against Hibernians, while Rangers only managed a 0-0 against Celtic, this was the ranking after nine league matches:
Third Lanark's outfit in
1903-04


Played
Points
Rangers
9
14
Third Lanark
9
14
Celtic
9
13
Heart of Midlothian
9
11
Hibernian
9
9

Despite their recent downfall, Rangers still was the favorite, mainly because of their enourmous scoring ability. But Third Lanark hadn’t lost a match since the two clubs met in August in the first round. And Third Lanark continued not to lose until January 16, 1904, in their 18th league match of the season (1-2 against Morton). By then, Rangers had already played 23 of their 26 matches, in which they collected 34 points. Third Lanark had five points less, but also five matches extra in hand. The other teams weren't serious contenders anymore. Hibernian was completely out of the picture, Hearts (19 matches, 26 points) and Celtic (19 matches, 28 points) still might have a small chance. Four weeks later, Hearts beat Third Lanark 4-1 at home and really got on the champions trail again. As of February 13, 1904 it promised to be an exciting finish of the season:


Played
Points
Rangers
25
36
Celtic
22
32
Third Lanark
20
31
Heart of Midlothian
22
31

Looking at the remaining fixtures, everybody at that time still expecting Third Lanark to be the next champions. They had already met every rival home and away, and were left with six matches against Port Glasgow, Airdrie, Motherwell, Kilmarnock, Dundee and Hibernian. And being the favorite didn’t paralyze the team. Quit the opposite, as Third Lanark won all their remaining matches and finished the season four points ahead of  Heart of Midlothian, who had won their last five matches.

So this is how the Scottish season finished, back in 1903-04:


P
W
D
L
Points
Goals
Third Lanark
26
20
3
3
43
61-26
Heart of Midlothian
26
18
3
5
39
63-35
Celtic
26
18
2
6
38
69-28
Rangers
26
16
6
4
38
80-33
Dundee
26
13
2
11
28
55-46
St Mirren
26
11
5
10
27
45-38
Partick Thistle
26
10
7
9
27
43-40
Queen’s Park
26
6
9
11
21
28-47
Port Glasgow Athletic
26
8
4
14
20
33-49
Hibernian
26
7
5
14
19
31-42
Morton
26
7
4
15
18
31-51
Airdrieonians
26
7
4
15
18
32-62
Motherwell
26
6
3
15
15
26-61
Kilmarnock
26
4
5
17
13
27-66


Hugh Wilson
Third Lanark did get the most points, but three clubs scored more goals. Defensively they certainly were the best team, with just 26 conceded goals and eleven matches with a clean sheet. Their biggest victory was a 8-2 trashing of Queen’s Park. The league was basically won by twelve players, with another five only participating in a few matches. Third Lanark’s best goal scorers were Thomas McKenzie, Robert Graham and good old Hugh Wilson, with eleven goals each. Which was slightly less than Alexander Bennett (Celtic), William Porteous (Hearts) and David Lindsay (St Mirren) who all scored thirteen goals. Rangers’ forward Robert C. Hamilton was in a league of his own with 28 goals.

This squad of seventeen players helped Third Lanark to become Scottish champion, for the first and last time in the club’s history:

Third Lanark 1903-04
Appearances
Goals
Scottish caps
James Smith Raeside (GK)
26
0
1 (0 goals)
John H. Cross
25
1
1 (0 goals)
William Wardrope
25
7

John Neilson
25
2

Hugh Wilson
24
11
4 (1 goal)
William McIntosh
24
0

Robert Barr
24
0

Robert Graham
24
11

Thomas P. Sloan
23
1
1 (0 goals)
John Campbell
21
6
12 (4 goals)
Thomas McKenzie
21
11

James Johnstone
17
9

James Comrie
4
1

George Archibald
1
0

Hugh Barclay
1
1

A Findlay
1
0

Thomas McMurdo
1
1



Epilogue

After this remarkable season, Third Lanark did have some good years ahead. The next season they managed third place, six points behind The Old Firm, who needed a play off to decide the league winner (Celtic won). After 1904 it took the other clubs 28 years to break the Celtic / Rangers dominion, when Motherwell won the league in 1931-32. Also, Third Lanark did win the Scottish Cup in 1905 and lost the final a year later.

Until the mid-twenties Third Lanark stayed at the highest level, and was back at it in the early sixties.  Unfortunately, Third Lanark also struck fame by their losing streak of 28 matches, starting on November 28, 1964 and, of course, leading to relegation. Two years later, in 1967, the club went bankrupt. After four years, supporters re-formed Third Lanark, and this club is playing in the Greater Glasgow Amateur League ever since.