Saturday, June 13, 2015


Tueart celebrates his second goal v Rochester Lancers 1977

1977. New York was on the football map then, just as it is today.

Whilst the Red Bulls and New York City FC may just be beginning to discover the weird world of local derby insults and brickbats, the original New York Cosmos were a thriving entity long before the present day MLS came into existence, plying their more than successful trade in the old North American Soccer League. 

The football world in 1977 - on both sides of the Atlantic - was a slightly different place, however.

It is the 1977-78 season and Manchester City have just endured a torrid four days exiting both domestic cups. First a League Cup 5th round replay is lost at Arsenal in front of a heaving Highbury crowd of nearly 58,000, then a postponed 4th round FA Cup tie at Nottingham Forest is thrown to the four winds in the East Midlands mud and puddles. For dashing striker-cum-winger Dennis Tueart they are to be his final recollections of playing for City. 

The season had a few weeks earlier thrown up a home league fixture with Chelsea, a game made memorable for the torrid afternoon dished out to Graham Wilkins, the Chelsea left back brother of captain Ray, by City's Dennis Tueart, who grabbed a hattrick in a rumbustious 6-2 home win. A few weeks earlier Tueart had been left out of the League Cup side to play Luton Town, a reason for relief for first-teamers these days, but in those days an apt enough trigger for clear-the-air talks for a player beginning to make himself a fixture in Don Revie's England squads.

Unhappy with the response he got from manager Tony Book, Tueart asked for a transfer. A swift return to the first team brought goals and rich form, but the damage had been done. The prolific striker had decided to take the next step, a big step, a complete gamble, but a lucrative one. Tueart takes up the story:
"I had fallen out with Tony Book, and the American opportunity came when it was beginning to boom in the NASL. It was a great honour when I realised that I would be replacing the great Pele. I had been approached by Manchester United and Nottingham Forest, who were managed by Brian Clough at the time, but the American challenge was something that I felt I couldn’t refuse, so I turned them both down."

At first thought to be heading towards city rivals United, Tueart had other ideas. With the offer of $2,000 per week on the table, Tueart, a dazzlingly popular figure in City’s great late 70s side, decided to sign for New York Cosmos and, in the process, become the first current England international to cross the pond for good.
The Daily Express breaks news that Tueart wants to leave City

In the 70s it had become customary to see many stars of the First Division spend a busman’s summer holiday topping up their tans and boosting bank balances in a brief trans-Atlantic flirtation with glitz and glamour. The so-called razzamatazz of the NASL attracted Rodney Marsh, George Best, Trevor Francis and Alan Ball, but also Alan Durban, Alan Hinton, Kevin Bond, Carl Valentine and a stream of B and C-listers, hoping for their slice of the giant, sweet smelling pie. Gordon Banks was in goal at Fort Lauderdale, ex-Spurs and Wales stopper Mike England shored up the Seattle defence and Luton's Alan West was midfield lynchpin at the aptly named Minnesota Kicks. Players often dovetailed the end of the domestic season in England with a gentle two month keep-fit exercise with the delightfully named Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats or the Seattle Sounders.

Beckenbauer makes the news
At the forefront of this revolution in stars and stripes were New York Cosmos (soon to become just Cosmos), bankrolled by movie dollars, followed by movie stars and manned by the movers and shakers of the finest leagues in Europe and South America.
The flood was by no means just from English shores. World Cup luminaries Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens, Carlos Alberto, Teofilio Cubillas, Franz Beckenbauer, Eusébio, Gerd Muller and the king of them all, Pelé, were all there too. It was a true cavalcade of stars in a cascade of ostentatious cash and glitz.

Tueart, a robust member of Sunderland’s down to earth 1973 FA Cup overturning of Don Revie’s big hitting Leeds United side and by now a budding England international under the same Revie regime was already a full-blown star of Manchester City’s title pushing side. 

He played what was supposed to be his last game for the Blues at the City Ground, Nottingham, on a night with more than 38,000 freezing witnesses, as League champions Forest squeezed past City in what was clearly the tie of the round. As Tueart trudged from the muddied pitch at the end, he already knew he would be swapping the quagmires of wintry England for the flat sheen of the Yankees Stadium astroturf in New Jersey. What he could not have imagined, was the size of the difference awaiting him on the Atlantic seaboard.

One of Tueart's 6 England caps: scoring with fellow City striker Joe Royle v Finland WC77
Without their chief goalscorer, City were soon to be on a gradual slide away from title pretentions. The rumours of fading relations between Tueart and manager Tony Book were the first rumbles of the quake that would finish City's great side of nearly men (League Cup winners 1976, League runners-up to Liverpool 1977, 4th place 1978). The team that had featured internationals Asa Hartford, Joe Royle, Mike Channon, Brian Kidd and Dave Watson was about to be broken up by the return of prodigal son Malcolm Allison. As ever with Allison, it was to be risk-filled revolution ahead of gentle replacement.

Before Allison could set foot in the cramped Maine Road foyer, however, Tueart had made up his mind to leave.

What he found at the other end of his journey must have been quite an eye-opener. Manhattan's skyline offers a singular image of death-defying cubes of steel and glass, not one that could in any form be copied amongst the litter-strewn streets of Rusholme and Moss Side, or anywhere else in the fading red brick post-industrial decline of late70s Manchester for that matter. 

Suddenly, from training that involved catching a medicine ball thrown at him by Kenny Clements in City's cramped gymnasium, stashed away in the bowels of the ancient Main Stand at Maine Road, Tueart was starting his days drinking kiwi juice and vitamin breakfasts with Brazilian World Cup winning captain Carlos Alberto. Ironic now, perhaps, to think that Manchester City might be seen as a dirt-spattered anachronism alongside the high-tech approach at Cosmos, but Tueart had left the slow burn of Coronation Street and disembarked plumb in the middle of the set of Kojack. 

These days, a sack of cash and the sight of the sun streaming down on the Statue of Liberty can still prise the likes of Frank Lampard from the grasp of the English game, but in the late 70s and early 80s, the NASL offered journeymen like Steve Hunt - shortly to be a team mate of Tueart's at Cosmos and later a star at Aston Villa, Coventry and on two occasions for England - the opportunity to play against the best the world of football had to offer.
Hunt would later say of his move from Aston Villa's reserves to Cosmos, "I think it was when they said they'd be signing Pelé that I made up my mind. The first two games I was involved in were in Las Vegas and Hawaii..."

Whilst Pelé and his countrymen Francisco Marinho, Paulo Cesar and Carlos Alberto were clearly Stateside for one last, generous payday, Hunt and Tueart represented the other side of the playing staff in the NASL; hungry, competitive and ambitious. Tueart's arrival even marked something of a watershed as he was the first current international to swap England for the US. 

The game was growing, taking real shape and beginning to turn heads in Europe.
"There were thirteen nationalities in the dressing room in 1978. All the problems that are happening now in the Premier League, and all the little culture issues and breakdowns in communication and man-management…I had that myself at Cosmos in 1978." - Dennis Tueart.
Cosmos were the height of star-studded, glamour-loaded pop culture. The club was owned by Warner Communications and carried itself on and off the pitch as any multi-million-dollar backed organisation would. Leaving behind a club bolstered by the feeble rewards Peter Swales had gleaned from a life selling television sets and electrical appliances in Altrincham, Tueart arrved amongst real wealth and ambition. The only toasters and fridge freezers that played a part in the diamond-paved corridors of Warner Brothers at 1, Rockerfeller Plaza were in the lavishly decorated hospitality suites that greeted the great and good of film and sport. 

Swales’ infamous Cuban heels might have more or less passed muster amongst the glitterati, but little else of City’s murky old Maine Road ground would have made it past the behatted concierge guarding the revolving doors down at ground level.

Tueart had been summoned to a club whose headquarters were dripping in opulence, the Cosmos offices perched loftily on the 19th floor. As the elevator doors opened on starry-eyed visitors to the building, they were met by life-size cut-outs of Pele and Franz Beckenbauer on one side – and on the other side Carlos Alberto. 

A year or so later a cardboard Dennis Tueart would also stand proudly by the Warner Bros elevators, a one-dimensional tribute to the Geordie's highly successful stint in New York. Tueart was walking with giants.

He would get a taste of the future of the game as we now embrace it playing at Cosmos, a future that would also engulf his own Manchester City in a big way. Speaking of "a dressing room of 13 nationalities" would not bat many eyelids at the Etihad these days, but in 1977, the club’s idea of foreign exoticism stretched only to Colin Viljoen, a South African born midfield player from Ipswich Town and later Dragoslav Stepanovic, one of Malcolm Allison's quirkier recruits, whose grasp of English was said to stretch only to repeatedly shouting Come On You Blues at his team mates. 

(Allison, of course, immediately made this great communicator amongst men his new captain.) 

Further foretaste of what was to come could be seen in the seamless relationship between business and sport in the NASL set-up. There were staggered kick-off times for tv schedules, private jets for the players and grueling tours to the other side of the planet to get the brand placed in the Far East subconscious. The modern passion of making a fast buck was being suitably dealt with in the US 35 years ago. 

To the stuffy leaders of the game in England, a motley crew of pork butchers and tv rental moguls, the American Way was vulgar and populist. Even beside-the field innovations like pom pom girls,  giant foam-filled mascots and emoticon-obsessed scoreboards appeared anathema. On field 35 metre penalty runs, squad numbers and players' names on the back of the shirts appeared to turn what the British felt sacrosanct into a lude festival of kitsch. What did we know. 75,000 in Giants Stadium couldn't always be wrong, however, and Cosmos regularly played to huge crowds as they made thier way to SoccerBowl 77 v Seattle Sounders. Cosmos won 2-1, the goals scored by Hunt and Chinaglia in Pelé's farewell match.The following year they reached the Soccer Bowl again, this time with Tueart at the forefront.


Cosmos in 1978 bore eery similarities to present day Manchester City. From the celebrity backers – including founding Turkish brothers Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun, who ran the club day to day – to the lavish private jets and the showbiz stars dropping in (Mick Jagger and Henry Kissinger were regular faces in the Cosmos' dressing room), the place was dripping in cash and being constantly lavished with media attention. Maverick striker Giorgio Chinaglia, an ex-Swansea and Lazio bruiser and one of the NASL’s biggest stars, most talked about personalities and most unpredictable employees, also drew certain parallels with City's own modern day brushes with Italian short fuses, Mario Balotelli.

Tueart clearly relished playing alongside the greats of world football, stating that "they never, ever entered the comfort zone" and, like many of his slovenly, overweight and poorly informed peers from the English first division, he quickly picked up a completely new set of habits as a professional sportsman. 
“Franz Beckenbauer. He was so, so pedantic and particular about things. In the locker
Tueart takes a blow from the nattily-dressed Dave Clements
room…he had a little box he put on the side of the basin and he opened the box and in it he had a gold plated shaving bush and shaver. On the pitch, he did not give the ball away just like Carlos Alberto and his desire to win was deeply rooted – despite all of the success he had already achieved”

Tueart’s energetic style as a winger who could cut in and score so regularly that he was often thought of simply as a striker, went down well in the States. He and Billy Hughes had played either side of big central striker Vic Halom in Sunderland’s glory run to Wembley in 1973 and again in City's 1976 League Cup-winning side, Tueart had balanced the flying left wing raids of Peter Barnes perfectly as they both bore down on the heavily built Joe Royle in the middle of the City attack. 

Having experienced the glory of scoring City's flamboyant winner in the 1976 League Cup final, Tueart also struck transatlantic gold, scoring twice as the Cosmos won the 1978 NASL Soccer Bowl. A total of 26 goals would come in 47 appearances over two seasons, as Tueart made a mark for himself as a player, who was as valuable as any of the global stars on show. 

Within two years, however, he was back in England after a personnel shake-up at Cosmos demanded new stars be brought in to give the place a face lift. Malcolm Allison, by this time back in charge of City, had met up by chance with ex-Birmingham City manager Freddie Goodwin, then coaching Minnesota Kicks and on a scouting mission in England for the new NASL season. Asking Goodwin if Tueart would be a sensible buy for City after two years "in the lesser environment of the NASL", Allison sought reassurances of the player's form in America. The glowing report from Goodwin sealed Tueart's return, where he made his second City debut against Norwich at Maine Road on March 1st 1980.

He would stay on at City for another four years, dropping back into a productive midfield role in his final two seasons. He remains - for those who began watching City in the 70s - one of the club's most popular players ever, but the nagging feeling refuses to go away that Dennis Tueart's best years were actually spent in the green and white of Cosmos in another football world altogether.  


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