Football League Stars gone American

Posted by on Sep 10, 2010 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A remarkable characteristic of the soccerine blogosphere is the healthy percentage of the better sites that are North American controlled, with Run of Play and Pitch Invasion two notables in this respect. Although distance from the action leads to an often unhealthy reliance on secondary sources (we ourselves can clutch at straws and take the moral high ground as my fellow blogger Lloyd makes the trek to Colchester tomorrow), their coverage continues to meet a high standard and nowhere more so than in their analyses of the stateside game’s showpiece platform, Major League Soccer.

Now, I myself am being forced to undergo exile under the Star Spangled Banner, and from my bolthole on the Upper West Side have been eagerly acquainting myself with stateside soccer. A blisteringly vibrant atmosphere and a crowd of over 86,000 for the first big college gridiron encounter of the season in Landover, Maryland last Monday does illustrate how far the global game still has to go in these parts and I have explored before the clear comparisons between BCS college football and our Football League…but, the MLS is thriving for all that. I therefore thought it would be informative to uncover a few of the former English league stars plying their profession à l’americaine. Rafael Márquez, Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg and some fella from Leytonstone are all here of course, but nostalgists may also be surprised to discover some familiar names with less storied backgrounds.

Columbus Crew, in possession of one of the best crests in football, number Léandre Griffit among their ranks. Players who have etched up little more than 50 appearances for 9 clubs in more than a decade must be two a penny and it’s true that the Frenchman’s spells at Southampton, Leeds, Rotherham and Palace were more notable for constant and erroneous anglicization of his name – be it to Griffith or Griffiths. His time in the US has been hardly more noticeable and he has scored just once from the bench since coming to Ohio in July.

To the east and the nation’s capital, and DC United number in their ranks Danny Allsopp, author of 39 goals in 102 matches for Notts County and 22 in 64 for Hull, sadly before the Tigers hit the Big Brown Time. The Aussie followed this with a productive spell back in his home country with Melbourne Victory before heading to the Mall this year via a spell in Qatari football. He was a mooted wunderkind at Man Citeh although his Wikipedia entry mentions a pre-season goal he scored for the Citizens against Newquay – do you remember when you had to put “Tuck Shop Monitor” on your CV?

Jaime Moreno is the kind of player who can give a whole league a bad name. Miserable in England with Middlesbrough, the Bolivian came along with other more successful South Americans and racked up just two goals in a quarter of a century of appearances, one of them, somewhat ignominiously, in the Anglo-Italian Cup. Lightweight and entirely lacking in impact, his elevation to become the all time leading scorer in the MLS has US apologists twitching with defensiveness of their League. Now 36, he continues to fire them in for the District club and he has hit the back of the net a cool 132 times. My fellow blogger Mike of The Two Unfortunates and Strife of Brian will no doubt have a view.

In a roster of footballing nepotists, Craig Rocastle would surely feature. How many times must a coach have decided to give the kid another chance because of an absurd soft spot for George Graham’s Championship winning Arsenal side of 1989. He’s the cousin of the late legend and wingside artist David of course, but Craig has never hit those heights and none of his 14 English clubs will remember him with much fondness; Sheffield Wednesday having provided him with his highest profile and afforded him a berth in a dramatic play off victory over Hartlepool. He’s now at Kansas City Wizards.

I saw Adrian Serioux put in some crunching tackles and some seriously long throws for Millwall in a match against Reading back in 2004. At the time, the dreadlocked Canuck looked the part and a cockney wide boy columnist in the Lions programme of that day purred at how much other players would just hate playing against him. But, he only made it onto the pitch 24 times at the New Den, quickly fading from view and is now in his second stint at Houston Dynamo. Sharing a midfield with Dennis Wise may not have suited him.

That same match featured Royals’ diminutive hope Bobby Convey, and a performance short of confidence left him prone to the boo boys that first campaign in England. Happily, he came back for Year 2 utterly refreshed – a dramatic three quarters of the pitch dash crowned a massive win over the same opponents and provided the launchpad for an annus mirabilis and 106 points. Injuries blunted his latter years at the Mad Stad and he is now rehabilitating himself amid the hi-tech start ups of San Jose and their Earthquakes.

Convey graced the pitch during the United States’ patchy 2006 World Cup campaign and another alumnus of those finals can be found alongside the megastars at LA Galaxy. Trinidad and Tobago’s first white player for eons was a familiar face on our screens at those times but a jump from Port Vale to Coventry City proved beyond Chris Birchall and he actually replaced Golden Balls to make his debut in the City of Angels a year ago. We can sneer, but one one might prefer Malibu or Beverly Hills to the Ricoh.

This is by no means an exhaustive trawl and PNE yeoman Eddie Lewis (LA Galaxy), Welsh mainstay Carl Robinson (New York Red Bulls), ex-Terrier John Thorrington (Chicago Fire) and Bradford City netminder Donovan Ricketts (also LA Galaxy) all deserve a mod, but I’ll close up by mentioning Geovanni. Sure, the Brazilian has never featured in the Football League, but his entanglement with Hull City Association Football Club is so completely symptomatic of where that business finds itself as we enter September 2010, that his presence alongside Convey at San Jose is telling.
Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

3 Comments

  1. Cruel geography
    September 11, 2010

    Ooh, MLS and the football league? That's right up me and my blog's alley.

    Former Preston, Millwall and many others star Danny Dichio has now retired but played 2 1/2 seasons at Toronto FC, is now an assistant coach, and is still very much a club legend.

    Serioux and Robinson were among Toronto's most successful FL imports, along with Jim Brennan, formerly of Forest. Also, former Ipswich legends Jason De Vos and Craig Forrest both commentate on our games. Less successful players brought in by our generally inept general manager Mo Johnston include Rohan Ricketts, Johann Smith, Ali Gerba and Andy Welsh, now back in the fl at yeovil.

    Reply
  2. Stanley
    September 11, 2010

    The best debut I have ever seen was by Adrian Serioux against Leicester at the Den. Despite not coming close that performance again in his short spell, he lives longer in the memory than most players of his era. What Stoke would give for a throw like that. (I take great pleasure from educating those who go goggle-eyed at Rory Delap's paltry efforts.) In one home game Serioux put the ball onto Dichio's head, inside the six-yard box, from the Millwall half of the pitch. (Now that's a long throw.) Another memorable incident was at Loftus Road, when the Superhoops deployed the tactic of standing a player on the touchline. It worked to such effect that Lee Cook eventually took the ball full in the face, when Serioux's frustration got the better of him. Needless to say, the bath taps were running shortly thereafter. He also had an impressive stint in goal during a game at the Mad Stad, if I recall correctly. Shame he wasn't as good at kicking the thing.

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  3. Lanterne Rouge
    September 12, 2010

    Thanks for jogging my memory over Serioux's appearance in goal at the Mad Stad Stanley – I was there that night too.

    Appreciate your comments Cruel Geography as well – Dichio got the winner in the 1-0 Millwall v Royals game I referred to.

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