When an ex-Blackpool goalkeeper got the better of Johann Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer and Rodney Marsh – Vancouver Whitecaps and the 1979 NASL.

In the nascent years of football trying to force its way into the North American sporting consciousness with the North American Soccer League, there was a perceived need to bring in ‘big’ names from Europe or South America to give the game a fighting chance of gaining a foothold in an environment dominated by Basketball, Baseball and Grid Iron. Whether the plan worked or not is probably open to debate. The NASL folded in 1984, but perhaps the lid on the ketchup bottle had been loosened sufficiently for the later iteration, the MLS, to secure a more solid platform.

The NASL ran its race from 1968 to 1984 and star players, particularly those reaching the salad days of their careers were drawn into the league by the money being offered by a clutch of nouveau riche clubs, some backed by global organisations. Warner Brothers, for example, bankrolled the New York Cosmos, attracting the likes of Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Georgio Chanaglia amongst many others. Whilst the Cosmos were the richest club and built to dominate, others secured star names as well. Los Angeles Aztecs, part owned at the time by Elton John, secured the services of Johann Cruyff and George Best. The Washington Diplomats club was backed by the Madison Square Garden Corporation and as well as signing Johann Cruyff from the Aztecs, they brought in Wim Jansen, Cruyff’s team-mate from the 1974 World Cup Final.

Sometimes though, as Leicester City proved so wonderfully in 2016, big bucks and big names don’t always get the job done and in 1979, the eccentrically named ‘Soccer Bowl’ was won by a club some 20 miles north of the border between the USA and Canada, as a team managed by a former Blackpool goalkeeper and featuring no less than nine aged players from Britain, with varying degrees of celebrity, became the NASL top dogs. It was the year that the NASL doffed its cap to Vancouver. Continue reading →


Ivor Broadis – Football’s youngest ever Player/Manager who sold himself to save his club.

Ivan Broadis was born in London in December 1922. It meant that, by the time the Second World War broke out, he would be enlisted in the armed forces, joining the RAF. During wartime, he flew in Wellingtons and Lancasters, and as a talented young footballer, guested for Tottenham Hotspur in the Friendlies that we played at the time. It was during this period that someone mispelt his name, and although born as Ivan, he became widely known as Ivor Broadis, and it was in this guise that, after the war, he became a professional footballer.

At the end of the war, Broadis now 23 years old was posted to Crosby-on-Eden in Cumbria, about five miles from Carlisle. It was a shock to the system for a young man who, despite the travails of war, had always lived in the south of the country. In fact, the website of Queen of the South – who he later played for – quotes the player as saying, “Until after the war I’d never been so far north in my life, I thought I’d need a dog team to get up here.” If all seemed strange in the new environment for a boy from the Isle of Dogs, he quickly learned to love the area, and the football fans of Cumbria, especially those who followed Carlisle United, also took to the lad from down south.

It didn’t take long for the Cumbrian club to find out that a talented young player had been deposited into their midst and in August 1946, the Carlisle United chairman approached Broadis with an offer to move to Brunton Park; not just to play though, the plans were bigger than that. The role on offer was for Broadis to become the club’s player/manager. The London lad had settled in the area and had recently married, so the offer came at the right time. Never one to shirk a challenge though, Ivor Broadis – as he was now known – accepted the offer and became the youngest ever player/manager in the history of the Football League. A distinction that remains in place to this day.

Inevitably, the role became a steep learning curve for the young inside-forward, during which time he would learn a lot about the game, the players and particularly the administrators who wielded all of the power at football clubs of the day. Whatever naïve hopes and aspirations the novice manager may have had when he first sat in the manager’s chair, would be dispelled by the reality of managing a provincial football club.

An example of how quickly he learnt the realities of his position was revealed in an interview with the Daily Mail back in March of 2018. Broadis described how he had signed a player for the club, after promising him a house complete brand new electrical appliances to clinch the transfer. The deal was done and the player joined Carlisle. Soon afterwards however, the young manager heard that the new signing was less than happy. Broadis thought he had cut the new player an advantageous deal, but when he questioned the less than happy recruit to the squad, the reason quickly became clear. Apparently, the club secretary had decided that such frills as new electrical appliances were over-egging the pudding for a mere footballer. He decided to take all of the appliances that Broadis had promised to the new player for himself, and replaced them with the old ones from his own home. It was a harsh lesson in the pecking order of power at the club, but one that still rankled with Broadis some 70 years later. “Bloody crook,” was the way he described the official to the Daily Mail. Adding, “I couldn’t work with him.” As it turned out, he wouldn’t have to for long.

No matter how well a club is run, in the lower reaches of the Football League, a cash-crisis always seems to be lurking just around the corner, and Ivor Broadis came to realise the truth of this as his time with Carlisle United progressed. On the field the reputation of the inside forward was growing and attracting envious glances from a number of clubs, particularly those in the north of the country. Off the field however, things were hardly as rosy. Despite, or perhaps because of, the parsimonious administration of the club, debts were mounting and the very survival of the club became an increasingly worrying concern. After three years in post, things were coming to a head and unless there was a significant cash injection, Carlisle may not have survived. Ivor Broadis however would provide the solution to the problem by deciding, as manager, to sell himself, as a player, to Sunderland.

The Roker Park club, prime among the admirers of the exploits of Broadis on the pitch, were the first to venture forward with an offer to Carlisle for his services. The bid tendered, some £18,000, would have salved the financial worries of the Brunton Park club, but also meant that the cub would be losing their most valuable asset. After all, as Broadis told the Daily Mail in that same interview, when he was manager there, his name “was always first on the team sheet.” In fairness, given his talent, that would almost certainly have been true no matter who had been picking the team.

Broadis the player, given an understandable desire to progress his playing career, and Broadis the manager, equally understandably keen not to lose the club’s outstanding talent then faced a decision, with views from the same person coming from diametrically opposed viewpoints. In the end, the decision was swayed by the fact that, in cold hard financial terms, the club’s need for money outweighed any ambitions on the pitch. Broadis would also confirm that in the final analysis, the decision to accept the bid came from the board rather than him. Accepting the decision, the manager, Broadis, agreed the deal to sell the player, also Broadis, and hence secure the long-term viability of the club. As Broadis himself stated to the BBC as quoted on the Queen of the South website, “It was an incredible amount in those days.”

The same website related the Broadis rationale of the move from the player’s perspective. “All I did was exercise the right to be transferred. Blackburn, Man City and Preston were interested but only Bill Murray, the Sunderland manager, came to see me. That’s why I joined but it was the board who agreed the fee.” The move entitled Broadis to the princely wage of £12 per week. As someone who had already spent some time in a manager’s chair, financial negotiations were not as alien to him as they were to most other players. Agents, who would complete such discussions these days were unheard of back in the early post-war years. Broadis himself commented, again as related on the Scottish cub’s website – as is the case with the quotations that follow. “When I was playing, the only agent was Dick Tracy.” For those of much more tender years, the remark relates to the fictional Secret Agent Dick Tracy, star of a famous radio programme of the time.

For all his modesty, it was a significant transfer at the time. Sunderland were a boisterously ambitious club, and Broadis would join such luminaries as the famous Willie Watson, Dickie Davies and the incomparable centre-forward, Len Shackleton, all England internationals. The team also included Wales international Trevor Ford. The club’s accumulation of star players led it to becoming known as the ‘Bank of England’ club. Big-spending clubs hoovering up the best talent available is no recent phenomenon. Broadis would star in such exalted company scoring 27 goals in 84 league appearances.

As was often the case in those days though, moving to play for Sunderland – a distance of some 70 miles or so from his Cumbrian home did not entail Broadis moving from what was now his idyllic lifestyle in the area he had come to call home. He still lived in Cumbria, and continued to train with Carlisle United, under their new manager, a 36-year-old Scot who had briefly been on the books at Brunton Park, before playing almost 300 league games for Preston North End, and now setting out on what would become one of the most extraordinary managerial careers in the history of the British game. His name was Bill Shankly.

Despite his new-found status as a big money transfer from the club, if Ivor Broadis had any illusions that it would entitle him to preferential treatment at his old employer’s training sessions, the new man in the manager’s seat would quickly disavow him of such thoughts. In typical self-deprecating manner, Broadis describes the events when he turned up late for training. Safe to say that Bill Shankly was not impressed. “What do you think you’re doing? Who do you think you are?” the later to be sage of Anfield raged. “If you do the training we do you can train with us and we’ll play five-a-side and you’ll run your guts out as an example to everybody else.”

Years later, the man who would set the red side of Liverpool on the road to glory, and forge a culture at the club, remembered the days that Ivor Broadis was under his charge at Carlisle United. He didn’t claim that he had anything to do with creating the innate talent that the player had, but is quoted in an article by Geoffrey Mather for Perspective UK North as saying, “I made him realise what was needed to be a player, and Ivor Broadis was one of the strongest and most dangerous inside forwards that ever played.”

Comments given by Broadis himself, seem not to demur from Shankly’s assertion. “You sort of take the routine from the club you are with and that was not good enough for Bill. I was doing what I thought Sunderland would be doing, the way they were doing it. And that wasn’t Bill’s way. You had to come off jiggered. So Bill regarded himself as putting me right and I think there’s a lot of truth in that. His strength was not Liverpool. It was the strength he could give to anybody.” Whatever Shankly gave to Ivor Broadis certainly did him no harm.

His two years with Sunderland were largely successful but still carry a twinge of regret for what might have been. “The sad thing about that Sunderland side was that we should have won the League in 1950. They played me at centre-forward against a relegated Man City with three or four games to go and we lost. We finished third in the end. We should have won the league that year, it would have made such a difference.” After 79 league appearances when he netted 25 times for the Roker Park club, Broadis moved to Manchester City.

It took a fee of £25,000 to secure his services for the promoted club and manager Les McDowall wasted no time in deploying his new asset, giving Broadis his debut the day after the contracts were signed. It seemed that the club were heading for great times when, just two weeks after signing Broadis, McDowall also brought Don Revie to the club. What, to many, seemed like an ideal partnership between the two new signings just didn’t happen though. Perhaps their styles were too similar, and both looked to play the same role. For whatever reason the manager’s grand plan failed to deliver and, despite Broadis winning his first England cap just a month after joining the Maine Road club, his stay there would come to an end when Newcastle united offered £20,000 to take him back to the North-East.

As with the move to Sunderland, Broadis was again dropped into a team full of stars. Jackie Milburn and Len White were in residence at St James Park, and as with Trevor Ford at Sunderland, Newcastle United had their own Welsh wizard in Ivor Allchurch. It was with the Geordies that Broadis enjoyed his first success as Newcastle won the 1955 FA Cup. It was a bittersweet moment though, following a disagreement with trainer Norman Smith, Broadis was left out of the Wembley showpiece team and when the opportunity came to return to Carlisle United, by now in his mid-thirties, Broadis decided to go back to Cumbria as player/coach under the then manager Fred Emery. During his time with the Magpies, Broadis earned the last of his 14 caps during which he scored eight times for England.

He would stay in Cumbria for four years before seeing out his playing days north of the border with Queen of the South. The club he had rescued from dire financial circumstances welcomed him back and despite the club being in the Third Division (North) and somewhat a step down form his days with some of the country’s top clubs, it was as if he was returning home.  After retiring, Ivor Broadis moved into journalism, writing about football for a number of publications. He remained living in the same Carlisle house that he moved into in 1955 though. It appears that you can take the player from Carlisle, but you can’t take Carlisle out of the player – even if he had to sell himself to prove it.

(This article was originally produced for the ‘Pioneers’ series on ‘These Football Times’ website).

The greatest goalscorer in the history of football.

In the pantheon of the greatest Portuguese goal scorers to have graced football over the years, one man stands head and shoulders above all others. Whilst some would say this must surely be Cristiano Ronaldo, others, with longer memories, may advocate the case for accolade going to Eusebio, Mário Coluna, José Augusto Torres or reaching further back, perhaps to José Águas. But, no. None of these celebrated luminaries have records that can come remotely close to the man who is not only the greatest scorer in the history of Portuguese football, but also has a reputable claim to be most prolific striker in world football across national championships in the history of the game, with 309 goals scored in 189 games.

Take a look at that stat again. No, that’s not the wrong way around. That’s right. No less than 309 goals in less than 200 games. This averages out at a scarcely believable, but entirely verifiable, rate of 1.63 goals per game. In comparison, Eusebio’s strike rate is marginally above a goal per game, whilst Ronaldo averages a comparatively insipid 0.75 per game. Portugal’s – and indeed, statistically, the world’s – greatest goal scorer of all time is, surely unarguably, Fernando Peyroteo. Continue reading →

British football’s first European success and the ‘Glory, Glory’ nights of Tottenham’s 1963 Cup Winners Cup triumph.

After securing the domestic ‘Double’ in 1961, Tottenham Hotspur went into the following season’s European Cup competition with an ambition born of conviction. They would, however, come up short against Benfica in the semi-final. Furthermore, the exertions in Europe may also have compromised their domestic league campaign, and Bill Nicholson’s team ended up in third place. They did however retain the FA Cup, with a 3-1 victory over Burnley. The title went to Ipswich Town, under the guidance of Alf Ramsey. The Suffolk team would fall against AC Milan in the First Round of the European Cup, after romping through the preliminaries against a Maltese side. For Spurs however, it was the Cup Winners Cup, and although the poor relation of European club competitions, lifting the trophy would still give the North London club the not inconsiderable distinction of being the first British club to triumph in such company. Continue reading →

John Neal – The unsung and often forgotten manager who saved Chelsea Football Club.

In the years well before the whizz-bang super-duper transfer days that followed the arrival of Roman Abramovich to Stamford Bridge, the West London club was one of fairly modest ambition – staying in English football’s top flight was probably the main one. It was also one that was sometimes missed and an occasional cup run was the closest thing to glory.  Such times did not require the services of celebrated foreign coaches who could weld an oft unruly bunch of superstars and supposed-stars into a team capable of bringing silverware to the club. In the 1980s, with the club languishing in Division Two again, the requirement was for a manager who knew the domestic game, could spot talent available at a reasonable price and knew how to develop and deliver a successful team. Continue reading →

How a Scot and a dog with a Welsh name saved a Devon club from relegation.

Many pub landlords have stories to tell. They’ve heard thousands and retold them all in any number of different ways. Some are barely believable, some are unbelievable, others should not in any circumstances whatsoever be believed. But, back in 2009, the landlord of ‘The Exeter Inn’ in West Street, Ashburton in rural Devon recalled a tale that may fit in either of those three categories. It was about the day that an unfortunate coming together between himself and a dog with a Welsh name, saved a club from relegation. Continue reading →

Jock Stein at Dunfermline and the launch of a legend.

The name of Jock Stein is lauded – and rightly so – throughout British football as one of the greatest managers of all time. Whilst manager of Celtic, he would accumulate ten Scottish league championships, eight Scottish Cups and six Scottish League Cups. He would also lead the club to unheralded glory when they lifted the European Cup in 1967, becoming the first British club to ascend to such honour.

Many years before that momentous Lisbon evening however, Jock Stein, coach to Celtic’s reserves after injury ended his playing career, would be told that he would never be promoted to the manager’s chair due to his Protestant beliefs. It was this barrier that caused him to leave the club in 1960, in pursuit of a managerial CV that would compel the cub to rethink. Five years later, he achieved that goal and returned to Celtic Park as manger to lead the club to glory. In between those times though, he would cut his teeth as manager and begin the legend of Jock Stein the manager that wold lead to European glory, at lowly Dunfermline Athletic.  Continue reading →

The golden years of Sampdoria – Calcio’s ‘Hipster’ club.

 On 6 September 1992, Channel Four launched its ‘Football Italia’ series relaying live Serie A games to a UK audience broadly unaware of the delights of the domestic Italian game. Experience of Italian football had been largely limited to teams competing against British clubs in European competition, but from that date, the gates to a broader appreciation of Calcio were thrown open. Any thoughts that viewers may have had that the experiment would wilt as defensively dominated football would be a turn-off were dispelled by the opening game as Sampdoria and Lazio featured in a hugely entertaining 3-3 draw.

Whoever chose that particular match-up to introduce Serie A to a potentially sceptical public had selected wisely. Lazio had just secured the services of Paul Gascoigne, although injury prevented him taking part in this game and ‘Samp’, as they were widely known, were one of the top clubs in the country. In fact, the previous season market the zenith of their powers and the end of a glorious four-year period for the Genoese club who had risen to prominence with a roster of legendary players, a coach who delivered outstanding performances from his players, and a shirt that became the byword for football hipster wear at the time. Continue reading →

Geoff Hurst – The stand-in who took Centre Stage

Some players go into major tournaments believing they are fated to play well, others settle for just expecting to play at all. For some however, there are tournaments where you’re selected as a squad player. The players in front of you seem well set in your position and there’s an inevitable dawning rationale that in all likelihood, you’re just there to make up the numbers. Most of the time, that’s just how it plays out. No-one remembers the players who never got on the pitch, and that seems to be your fate. Just occasionally though, the fates take a hand and the stand-in steps onto the stage to steal the show. In the 1966 World Cup, Geoff Hurst enjoyed such an experience. Continue reading →

Marta’s stellar World Cup performance and the goal that even Pelé couldn’t score.

After the game against Czechoslovakia in the group stages of the group stages of the 1970 World Cup, when he audaciously tried to chip opposing goalkeeper Viktor from the halfway line, Pelé was asked why he had attempted such an outrageous piece of skill. The most celebrated of World Cup heroes replied that he wanted a ‘signature’ goal; something that would forever be remembered as ‘the Pelé Goal’. It wasn’t hubris or extravagance, it was a search for a defining moment of his career. Continue reading →