‘His legacy is already cast in gold’: why US soccer owes a indebtednes to Ron Newman

4 months, 3 days ago

The ex-Pompey forward , now 80, accrued a US-record 753 wins in outdoor and indoor soccer, and did more than anyone to set the American game on its way

After finishing with the best regular-season record in the North American Soccer League the previous year, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers suffered an atrocious start to the 1978 season. They were a sorry 0-3 and outscored by an astounding 13 -2 margin. So for their next home game at Lockhart Stadium on 22 April, the team decided to do something about that.

A pre-game funeral procession was keep. A hearse was driven to the middle of the field and a coffin was taken out. Head coach Ron Newman popped out of the coffin, ran to a microphone and called: Were not fucking dead! The crowd of 7, 718 went wild and the Strikers went on to a 2-0 victory. That outcome helped right Fort Lauderdale, who went on to reach the play-off semi-finals. Vintage Ron Newman.

Later Newman admitted that he was nervous the players were going to nail[ the coffin] shut. He quipped: They wanted a coffin, but I didnt trust my players. Not many coaches would pull off a stunt like that.

I cant imagine Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho doing something like that, said Newmans son Guy, who played for and coached with and against his father. He was willing to do anything to get things going.

It was a schmaltzy, cornball kind of time the North American Soccer League was in, said beIN Tv analyst Ray Hudson, who played under Newman. We used to parade in on different things into the stadium, whether it was on horseback, fire engine, police car or Harley-Davidson motorbikes. Typical showman. We were all selling the game. We truly had to be that type of pioneer because the country was a football desert.

Newman , now 80, was part innovator and proportion promoter who always had full-time passion for the sport, and a fairly damn good coach-and-four. He accrued an American-record 753 victories( against 296 loss and 27 depicts) in outdoor and indoor soccer.

In many routes, Newman defined the American football experience in a career that spanned four decades.

As a member of the Atlanta Chiefs in 1967, Newman began teaching children of all ages the beautiful game, which he continued with the Dallas Tornado and Strikers. He objective up as a legend after directing the San Diego Sockers to 10 titles over 11 NASL and Major Indoor Soccer League seasons, finishing his career in the Continental Indoor Soccer League and the Kansas City Wizards( now Sporting Kansas City) in Major League Soccer.

No surprise that Newman has earned honors in the US National Soccer Hall of Fame, the US Indoor Soccer Hall of Fame, Atlanta Hall of Fame, San Diego Hall of Champions( his superstar is in the walkway of the San Diego Sports Arena, between Frank Sinatra and Bette Midler ), the USL Hall of Fame and the Dallas Walk of Fame.

Ron was a great recruiter, said Kenny Cooper, who kept objective for Dallas and was a coaching adversary in many an MISL championship series. He had the unique ability to put people together, different backgrounds, cultures, heritages. He could pick out a player maybe somebody else couldnt. He always figured out a style of bringing out the best out of people. He was an excellent motivator.

Cooper added Newman was very consumed with the game, lived video games, loved the game. Very passionate about the game.

Newman was a players coach. Hudson discovered that when he landed in south Florida for the first time. Not only did Newman greet him and Tony Whelan, Newman brought his entire family.

It was all about the personal touch, Hudson said. He was such a congenial, friendly, warm, happy coach. Im like: Wow, this is different. The first impression. It was a different world for me landing on a different planet, south Florida. Ron built us so at home.

He was a seducer. He seduced with a little glisten in his eye. He knew how to get the best out of you.

Newmans coaching philosophy? Whatever you do, dont ever damage the passion of video games, he said.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers coach Ron Newman greets the Peruvian Teofilo Cubillas at a press conference in Miami, March 1979. Photograph: Kathy Willens/ AP

Given the cosmopolitan nature of the game, a soccer coach not only has to be an Xs and Os man, but part psychologist and portion envoy. Melding a world of cultures along with personalities and qualities was a terrific accomplishment, Newman said. At one time I had 11 nationalities on the field at one time. The antics, comedy off the field, traveling and celebrating were great times. More narratives than I can tell.

Here are just a few of them. Nearing the end of a successful career in England that included stints with Portsmouth, Leyton Orient, Crystal Palace and Gillingham, Newman mulled the possibility of playing in South Africa or in the United States. As it turned out, he gale living in the former home of Phil Woosnam, who had preceded him at Leyton Orient. He received Woosnams old mail, brought it to him and struck up a friendship. When Woosnam attained plans to play and coach-and-four in the fledgling National Professional Soccer League, he persuaded Newman to join him.

He said: Come with me to America, Newman said. I cant go to America, I said. They dont know how to play the game. We have to go over and teach them, he says.

Which he did. Newman helped jump-start youth soccer in Atlanta and Dallas as his pioneering spirit became a family affair. Guy and daughter Tracey officiated youth games. Newman co-founded the North Texas High School League along with soccer aficionado Ron Griffith, the Tornados game day announcer.

Always down to earth, Griffith said. What a trooper!

In Atlanta, Newman represented the Chiefs on a float during a parade. The spectators did not know football from Adam.

He got up and started juggling a soccer ball and everybody started seeming, watching it, Guy said. He would get some children out going down the road having them start kicking balls. Nobody even knew what video games was about. He was trying to promote the game.

In Dallas, Cooper recollected participating in as many as three or four clinics a day.

That was expected of you, he said. He instilled all that into all of us. When I went into coaching, I patently utilized some of those influences that Ron would share with us.

Wife Olive put up goal nets and rinsed jock straps at home. With the Sockers years in the 1980 s, she made protective gear out of waistbands for Martin Donnelly and Guy, who got burns on their thighs playing indoors.

She bought[ beige] girdles and removed all the lace, Tracey said. She was in the store buying extra large. The ladies were confused. So yes, they wore womens girdles.

During a best-of-three semi-final play-off series against the Rochester Lancers in 1971, Dallas dropped the opener 2-1 in the 176 th minute, aiming everyones agony in the longest game in USA soccer history.

When the goal ran in, that was the only period a team scored and both teams celebrated, Newman said.

Dallas prevailed in the next two matches, including a 148 -minute marathon that propelled the team into a victorious championship series against Atlanta.

Despite rarely getting paid, Newman directed the LA Skyhawks to the 1976 American Soccer League championship.They didnt have enough fund, but he maintained running and running, Guy said. A plenty of people would have said: Im going back to England. I had enough of this. It built him more determined than ever.

Demonstrating what he accomplished on a shoestring budget, Newman was hired by the Strikers in 1977.

Fort Lauderdale pulled off road wins at Team Hawaii and the LA Aztecs with only one day of rest between games.

That was a hell of a feat, Hudson said. The manner and the feeling of that we had via Ron, we can enjoy ourselves, but, man, were going to die on that field for one another. He burned that into you, that attitude. You work hard, you develop hard, you play hard but during the times you can enjoy one another, enjoy life.

When the Cosmos trampled the Strikers in the quarter-finals, 8-3, before a then American football record mob of 77, 691 at Giant Stadium, Newman found a silver lining.

We got killed, Hudson said. For Ron, it was history, it was an occasion. It was one of those games where the Cosmos had to attain the statement to the world that soccers being born here. We were decimated but Ron was always more positive.

Newmans humor diffused many a controversial scenario. Fifa had denied George Best from participating in the Strikers 1979 season opener because Fulham of the English League claimed he did fulfill a contractual arrangement. After the ban was lifted, Best started against New England but was substituted in the second half.

As he walked off the field, Best removed his shirt and hurled it into Newmans face.

How can I get fit if Im taken out 29 minutes before the game is over, Best told Soccer Digest. To which Newman responded with a grinning: I always wanted one of his shirts. Hes an Irishman with a hot bloody temper and we forgive all Irishmen.

Another coach might have exploded and turned it into a circus.

In this day and age, it wouldnt be a big deal, Guy said. In those days, players didnt like being replaced and Best said: Youre taking me off and nobody has ever taken me off. If he gets all upset, they have to suspend George Best again. Thats not good for George, thats not good for anybody. He had to make light of the whole situation so it quieted down. Everybody chuckled. George played the next game and all of a sudden everything was fine.

If you thought that Newman was merely warm and fuzzy, there was at least one incident where reference is put his foot down after English defender Bobby Bell kicked the crap out of Rochester forward Mike Stojanovic during a 3-1 loss in 1977.

Ron told Bobby: Ive had enough. Well give you a ticket back home. Well pay your wages up. We dont want you on the team. I can do without that sort of thing, Hudson said.

That genuinely regenerated the teams spirit because he was a bad apple. It wasnt pleasant to find or hear that because we had not seen that side of Ron before. He was a hard-line human when he needed to be.

In 1979, Newman, then 44 and who last played in 1970, was forced to perform at forward for the final half hour of a 4-0 loss to the Washington Diplomats. Phil Woosnam[ then NASL commissioner] told me to get a team on the field at all costs, he said. We had 15,000 spectators at the game. I think they were upset insuring people like me and people off the street.

Newmans picture in a Strikers uniform adorned the covering of the 19 April 1979 edition of Soccer America. He had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with Guy.

It should have been a charity exhibition game, he said.

Newman became the Sockers coach in 1980, starting an incredible 14 -year association and that title run.

Every year we were astonished at the success, he said. As the championships were won it was hard to imagine doing it the next year and the next year. It was never presumed and always astonishing to win. Perhaps it didnt help the league that we maintained winning but it was a great ride. It was a very long time for a coach to stay in one place. The love affair with the city and the intimacy that the indoor game brings to the fans was special. I love the outdoor game, but the indoor game will be forever in my heart.

Besides accumulating all that hardware, Newman helped revolutionize the indoor game. He discovered his team could gain several precious yards of advantage as one player entered the bench through one doorway while a teammate exited through another farther up the field. He also introduced the sixth attacker, pulling his goalkeeper.

I enjoyed the challenge that came with the strategy of indoor, he said.

The sixth attacker and the position of the benches of the doors was paramount to our success.

Newman became the first coach to sign with an MLS team Kansas City in 1995. He directed the Wizards to the Western Conference title in 1997 before he was fired two years later. Regardless, Newman proved that nice guys can finish first again and again.

His legacy is already cast in gold, Cooper said. I cant think of anybody better if you would mold yourself as a person, as a coach-and-four than Ron. Just an incredible level of consistency, which led to excellence.

He was a fantastic coach-and-four and very successful to maintain doing it and doing it, Guy said. He left a legacy with all the children and all the people playing soccer.

Added Hudson: His legacy will be he was a successful coach with a way about him, a sweet way that not only won players hearts, but won championships and helped set this game in this country on its way.

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