Waiters familiar with Rennie's critics
Tony Waiters has seen this before.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie has been criticized in some circles for bringing in too many players from his home country, Scotland, and from his former team, the Carolina Railhawks of the second-division North American Soccer League (NASL).
When the Whitecaps won the 1979 Soccer Bowl in the original NASL, Waiters, then coaching the club, adopted a similar strategy.
“It’s better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,” said Waiters, who was in the Tournament Capital last week helping out with a Kamloops Youth Soccer Association clinic.
“In 1978, Alan Hinton joined me and we started doing some fairly intensive recruiting — and we recruited from where we knew best.
“We became the English mafia.”
The list of English players on the 1979 championship roster included Alan Ball, Trevor Whymark, Phil Parkes, Ray Lewington, John Craven, Roger Kenyon, Kevin Hector, Jon Sammels, Peter Daniel, Carl Valentine and Derek Possee.
Willie Johnston, a Scot, was also signed,
“Some of them were getting a little over the hill and people didn’t like it because we were loading up the team,” said Waiters, who in 1986 coached the Canadian men’s team to its lone World Cup appearance, in Mexico.
“When we started winning, it didn’t matter.”
Rennie’s Scottish mafia is a lot smaller in size, but there are similarities.
New to the Whitecaps this season are Scotland products Barry Robson and Kenny Miller, both in their early-to-mid 30s, as Ball and Whymark were when they came to Vancouver three decades ago.
Paul Ritchie, a Scot, was an assistant to Rennie in Carolina.
Ritchie, now an assistant with the Whitecaps, had a hand in bringing Robson and Miller to Vancouver, much like Hinton aided Waiters in attracting Brits to Empire Stadium.
Ritchie is a former teammate of both Robson and Miller.
Whitecaps assistant Carl Robinson, a Welshman, also played with Miller.
The jury is still out on the Railhawks brought in by Rennie, as it is on the success of the Scottish imports, but there is some close-to-home evidence the model can work.
“That’s how we built the team,” Waiters said.
“You know they’re good pros and great competitors.”