My first game: working for the yankee dollar
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Working for the Yankee Dollar
Brendan Moffett takes you on a journey from S2 to the U S of A
In April 1975, my dad took me to my first ever game. What a day it was ….The sun beating down, packed into a then-three-sided ground with the stunning new South Stand almost complete. The Blades were in the ascendency. An emphatic 4-0 victory over Leicester City, including a long-range stunner from Tony Currie, left us 6th in Division 1 and within grasp of a UEFA Cup place.
A nail-biting (certainly if you were listening to a crackly wireless) 0-0 draw away at Birmingham in the last game meant the Blades ultimately came up short in their quest for a European adventure. Despite this, optimism was high for ’75-‘76.
The opening game of the following season was played on my ninth birthday, 16th August 1975. As if stage managed by the Football League as an official opening of the South Stand, the visitors were none other than the reigning League Champions, Derby County.
It was a thrilling game which ended 1-1 and a report in the Sunday Mirror the following day suggested that one of these two sides might win the League that season. Little did we know at the time that this optimism was to be very short lived. A series of injuries, suspensions and players on the wrong side of 30 (old for a player back then) meant that United could not sustain that level of performance. A run of one win in eleven games at the start of the new campaign resulted in the dismissal of manager Ken Furphy. Incredibly, however, in early 1976 he crossed the Atlantic to manage the New York Cosmos in the nascent NASL (North American Soccer League).
In the Blades line-up in that opening fixture against Derby were three players that would leave mid-season to join Furphy at the Cosmos. Captain Keith Eddy, midfielder Terry Garbett and striker Tony Field all took the opportunity to leave the struggling Blades and finish their careers in the Big Apple.
Eddy was named captain of the Cosmos and led an eclectic squad which included Pelé (yes, Pelé) and former Lazio and Italy striker Giorgio Chinaglia. In Furphy's first year, the Cosmos finished second in the NASL's regular season and were knocked out in the play-off quarter-finals by the Tampa Bay Rowdies. However, they had created enough of a wave to move to Yankee Stadium and went on to recruit the likes of World Cup-winning captains Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer. The quarter-final defeat was not however what the owners had in mind after signing Pelé, and Furphy left the club, later having spells at Detroit Express and Washington Diplomats.
Seven of the Blades starting line-up that day in August ’75 ended up in the NASL at some point in the next three years. The others were keeper Jim Brown (Detroit, Washington and Chicago Sting), Colin Franks (Toronto Blizzard), David Bradford (Detroit, Washington and Tulsa Roughnecks) and Alan Woodward (Tulsa). Eddie Colquhoun who was suspended that day also went on to star for Detroit and Washington.
No-one can blame these Blades for taking the opportunity of a life-changing experience and some undoubted financial gain, but it’s hard to separate this talent drain from a Blades slump which ended in eventual relegation to Division Four in 1981.