"After the death of the father, we support the son."
I cannot let the year 2006 end without mentioning Lamar Hunt, a quiet genius who had such a big influence on professional soccer and other sport in the USA. He and others saw the 1966 World Cup on TV and was a founder member of the USA-United Soccer Association,and North American Soccer League. He owned the Dallas Tornado and lost lots of money. He also started the American Football League with the Dallas Texans, later the Kansas City Chiefs lost the first Super Bowl in 1967-his invention, 35-10 to the Green Bay Packers. He ran WCT World Championship Tennis, was part owner of the Chicago Bulls and founder owner of Major League Soccer with Kansas City Wiz(later Wizards), Columbus Crew and later bought Dallas Burn, now FC Dallas.
Where did I get the title? Well, its the motto of the small market town of Pontefract, whose residents supported the Royalist King Charles I in the mid 1600's. He was executed and Oliver Cromwell and the Roundheads ran the country with The Commonwealth until he died and so did the grand idea, and Charles II took over. More about Pontefract in a later blog. Lamar's three sons and daughter need all the support possible to succeed a legend.
I first met Lamar at the Houston Astrodome-the 8th wonder of the world, as I was the only British reporter covering the first indoor match there, Real Madrid vs West Ham United in the Spring of 1967. That same year the Dallas Tornado, really Dundee United, opened the USA season at the Cotton Bowl. A late rush of fans and Lamar manned the turnstiles and loaned the referee a rare Roman coin for the toss. I covered the season for "The Dundee Courier" as Our Man in Texas - three columns a week plus photos and phoned in reports after each match. Coach Jerry Kerr and his team were 'dour' to say the least and didn't set the league alight. At the end of each match it is usual for the American media to be allowed in the locker room for quotes, which would fill up their columns, since they hadn't a clue about what was happening on the field. Kerr, British style, didn't want to open the door and Steve Perkins of the Dallas Times Herald, and a Dallas Cowboys beat writer, started to kick the door in until it was opened.
Perkins and others had been taken on a free junket by Lamar to Dundee earlier in the year to watch the team in their quaint stadium at Tannadice Park, a couple of hundred yards nearer town than their rivals Dundee FC on the same street. The party also went to watch an F A Cup Semi-Final at Villa Park, Birmingham but their chauffeur driven car arrived after half time due to a breakdown on the motorway. Dundee United, who were away from home for about four months in the States were put up at Lamar's old fraternity house on the Southern Methodist University campus, as a home from home. Well, when the team travelled on the road to see the Hiltons, and other top resort hotels that the likes of Sunderland, based in Vancouver, L A Wolves - Wolverhampton Wanderers, Shamrock Rovers -Boston Shamrocks, Cerro from Montevideo - NY Skyliners, Bangu, from Rio- Houston Stars at the White House motel near the Astrodome etc. they were not a happy bunch. I did an interview and the next morning the headline in The Dundee Courier was "Its like a prison here in Dallas" They went on and on about the black and white TV not working and other problems. The United chairman evidently called Lamar in the middle of the night and threatened to bring the team home if they were not put up in a hotel. Well they were moved to The Melrose in Oak Lawn, a circa 1920's elegant hostelry, and I visited and interviewed some of the other residents, film and TV stars Carol Burnett and Jim Nabors (Gomar Pyle). They even provided Kerr with an Oldsmobile Toronado luxury car. I also went to a party on exclusive Swiss Avenue for mint juleps with team directors who had flown in, and Tornado hierarchy. I had earlier called Lamar for comments about the accommodation and he had thought that the fraternity house would have been more of a home.
That fall Bob Kap had been hired and formed a squad of young Americans, some sight unseen, at Real Madrid's training ground prior to a world tour. I got a look at a personal letter hand delivered by the P.R. Director from Lamar to Kap in Madrid, reminding him that he was spending lots of money without any receipts. Well, it continued that way around the world, with huge attendances and precious art being shipped to the Kap home in Park Lane, Dallas from Istanbul, Isfahan, Rangoon, Hong Kong etc. I did a promotional tape for KLIF radio, The cool sport for a warm summer's evening. Well, I guess it was warm, up to 105F.(42C). I was reporting the tour for Soccer West, later Soccer America, from wire reports. The team returned to Dallas and lost about about 14 in a row. I had reported their 10-0 romp over a local Dallas League All Stars at Arlington's Turnpike stadium,but a week later they were crushed by The Houston Stars with experienced players from Brazil, Denmark, Hungary and Greece. Bob Kap was sent to Europe for new players. "Surely Ron they only need four or five new players", asked Steve Perkins. I replied that only 3 or 4 were worth retaining. Kap was fired, I became in -stadium announcer, and ex Ajax coach Keith Sturgeon took over. (he had discovered a little player called Johann Cruyff). They finished the season 2-20-4.
In the meantime Perkins and I went on a road trip to Kansas City and St. Louis with Lamar Hunt as coach of the Tornado. With losses of, I think 6-2 in K C and 8-1 in St Louis he dismissed the team bus and made the players walk home to the hotel. As I woke up, ate breakfast and assembled in the foyer of the St. Louis hotel at 9.00 am Brian Harvey finally showed up. Lamar never coached the team again. 0-2.
The new FC Dallas coach is ex Arsenal's Steve Morrow. I used to call him Steve Tomorrow when he defended for the team 3 years ago, then Dallas Burn, since he was always late arriving for a tackle.