Paul Gardner writes on late NASL pioneer Phil Woosnam

2 Comments

Phil Woosnam, who did more to stretch the old North American Soccer League from a fledgling operation to a globally known property, died late last week.

Woosnam (pictured) was NASL commissioner from 1969 to 1982, overseeing the development and the league’s outrageous growth curve thanks largely to the Cosmos and giants of the game like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff.

True enough that Woosnam was in charge as the league flew too close to the sun, broadening itself boldly, yet fatally in the late 70s and early 80s. Still, how very different the professional game would look in the United States today without those efforts, without the NASL to ignite to ignite so many brushfires of ideas and passion that would develop into everything we have now.

Longtime Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner, uniquely positioned to write about Woosnam, does so poignantly in his piece at the magazine’s website.

He tells some great stories about the man and his manic work ethic; truly, what other pace could have served to launch the game into greater cultural relevancy against so much inertia and (sometimes) outright hostility from media and those fearful of a changing world?

Gardner also writes about how Woosnam gets an unfair share of the blame for the league’s demise:

As the NASL hurtled toward its second — and this time fatal — demise, the owners turned on Woosnam. He got the blame for expanding the league too quickly — a process that could not have happened without the agreement of those same owners. And so in 1983 he was thrown out. Woosnam, a genuine soccer man who had worked harder than anyone to grow the NASL, was replaced as Commissioner by Howard Samuel, a wealthy New York businessman, a soccer know-nothing, with a work ethic quite different from that of the workaholic Woosnam.

“Not surprisingly, in 1984 the NASL collapsed. And the saddest part was to hear Woosnam blamed for it all. But it was not his fault. Of course he wanted a bigger league … but if that was the wrong course, then it was the responsibility of the owners, all those successful businessmen, to let Woosnam know, and to rein him in. They never did that. The failure was theirs.”

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
Leave a comment

Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

whufc.com
Leave a comment

West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

Leave a comment

In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.