In Both Camps, NASL

Picture: Frank Worthington

NASL had been established a number of years before Pelè arrived, with former Leicester City stars Howard Riley, Frank Large and Tony Knapp among those early arrivals. They played in the NASL during a time when little or nothing was known about “soccer” in the States, appearing for Atltanta Chiefs (Riley), Los Angeles Wolves (Knapp) and Baltimore Comets (Large).

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The growing interest of soccer from Pelè’s arrival in 1975, made the import of stars huge and especially English players dominated. This was of course down to the appointments of British managers and executives around in the different clubs and among those great number of arrivals you would find former and Leicester City players to be.

Often stamped as a league recruiting “old” stars, but looking into it with a clever eye you will find players in their teens also joining before returning to England and starting a career around in clubs in England.

Little is known about Dean Smith’s time with Houston Hurricane as a teenager, scoring 6 goals in 17 games, and the fact that Larry May played a season with New England Tea Men before breaking through at Leicester City, but with a modest amount of games playing only 4 times.

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Gordon Banks made an astonishing come back in football turning out for Fort Lauderdale Strikers, playing alongside George Best and Gerd Muller and also being in the same team as Teofilo Cubilas and Bernd Holzenbein, and he was “with only sight on one eye” the best goalkeeper in the NASL. Banks also appeared for Oakland Stokers a number of years earlier as the team was established with a number Stoke City players in the side and being managed by Tony Waddington.

Keith Weller also moved over the pond and became a sought after player turning out for New England Tea Men, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tulsa Roughnecks. he also appeared in inside soccer representing Fort Lauderdale Sun. He later moved to coaching and had roles at a number of clubs and among them Dallas Stars and San Diego Sockers.

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A number of the players from the Leicester City sides of the seventies made the move over the pond and lengthened their career with games in the NASL. Jon Sammels moved to Vancouver Whitecaps and played two seasons for the Canadian club, also winning the major top trophy, The Soccer Bowl, in 1979. Sammels made 54 appearances for The Whitecaps before moving back to England and ended his career playing for Nuneaton Borough.

Len Glover a glittering winger with Leicester City made the move to the NASL in 1976 and captained Tampa Bay Rowdies, appearing in 32 games, leaving in 1978. Alan Birchenall, Steve Earle, Brian Alderson, Roger Davies and David Nish also played in the NASL with a number of different clubs.

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Frank Worthington had two spells in the NASL, first with Philadelphia Fury and later appearing for Tampa Bay Rowdies. Worthington played football in the states in 1979 and 1981. Steve Kember made the move and played for Vancouver Whitecaps as well, appearing from 1980 to 1981, playing a total of 22 games and scoring 2 goals.

Jimmy Holmes joined Leicester City from the same club and one of those players coming back after a time in the NASL, and he was among a number of additions from the NASL during the days of Jock Wallace.  Derek Strickland, Martin Henderson and Alan Lee were all recruited from spells in the NASL. Alistair Brown also had a spell “over there” with Portland Timbers.

  • Goalkeepers
    • Gordon Banks
  •  Defenders
    • Larry May
    • David Nish
    • Tony Knapp
    • Jimmy Holmes
  • Midfield
    • Keith Weller
    • Alan Birchenall
    • Steve Kember
    • Brian Alderson
    • Len Glover
    • Howard Riley
    • Jon Sammels
    • Joe Waters
  • Forwards
    • Roger Davies
    • Frank Large
    • Alistair Brown
    • Frank Worthington
    • Dean Smith
    • Martin Henderson
    • Derek Strickland
    • Alan Lee
    • Lammie Robertson

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