Why Adrian Alston was a Socceroo trailblazer

David V. Roar Rookie

By David V., David V. is a Roar Rookie

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    Joe Marston did it with Preston North End in the 50s. Two decades later, 1974 World Cup player Adrian Alston became something of a pioneer when he signed for Luton Town after the World Cup, thus meaning that an Australian international would play in England’s top flight.

    Luton had been promoted under the management of Harry Haslam and were to taste top-flight football for the first time since 1960.

    But it wasn’t a happy star t- only 9 points in the first 21 games left them rock bottom. But in one of the most competitive seasons of top-flight football in English history, and following a shock win over Derby (who would win the league that season), Luton’s second half form was as good as anybody, only for them to be relegated with 33 points.

    This Luton team contained such players as the Futcher brothers (who went on to have long careers), Jimmy Ryan (who’d later manage the Hatters), Peter Anderson, Jimmy Husband (a title-winner with Everton in 1970) and John Aston (a European Cup winner with Manchester United in 1968), while ever-present and wearing no.10 was cultured midfielder Alan West.

    Alston played in only half the league games for that season, yet finished as joint top scorer along with Ron Futcher.

    It was not a bad return considering, and certainly for one who played for what was regarded as a “minnow” team in a World Cup, which Australia, where the game was struggling for acceptance and still a part-time affair, were considered.

    While second half form was too little, too late for Luton, given the quality of some of the above players, it does highlight the strength in depth of the English club game at the time.

    To give you a further impression of the strength of domestic club football in Europe, the 1975 European Cup final was played between Bayern M√ľnich and Leeds United- Bayern finished 10th in the Bundesliga, and Leeds 9th in the old English First Division!

    The following season, Alston moved to Cardiff City. There he struck a productive partnership with Tony Evans as Cardiff returned to the Second Division. With players as Phil Dwyer, Willie Anderson, Doug Livermore, John Buchanan and Alan Campbell, Cardiff also competed in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup. Alston would have his moment there – he scored in European competition, becoming the first Socceroo to do so.

    It was on to the NASL with Tampa Bay Rowdies, before returning to Australia.

    Alston has remained involved in the game in the Illawarra region. In a sense, he was a pioneer- someone who’d represented Australia on the world stage, going on to play at the highest level of club football and holding his own.

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    The Crowd Says (25)

    • July 24th 2010 @ 11:57am
      Midfielder said | July 24th 2010 @ 11:57am | ! Report

      David

      A great read one of the sad things about footballs past management is the lack of knowledge of many of our pass greats…

      Adrian Alston was one such player … Joe Marsden you mentioned IMO one of Australia’s greatest ever sports person yet outside a few he is unheard of.

    • July 24th 2010 @ 12:27pm
      Realfootball said | July 24th 2010 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

      Wasn’t Alston an English ring-in who had failed to make the grade in England before coming out to Aus in his early 20s? I have dim memories of hearing him speak with a very strong English accent on the tele.

    • July 24th 2010 @ 12:30pm
      apaway said | July 24th 2010 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

      Adrian Alston was quite possibly the first Australian international to appear on London Weekend TV’s legendary football show “The Big Match”, hosted by Brian Moore. For any kid growing up in the 70s, this was THE soccer show to watch. In fact, along with, curiously enough, early Saturday morning repeats of the German Bundesliga on Channel 10, it was the ONLY soccer show to watch. Alston was featured a few times playing for Luton Town, and the funny thing is, I don’t think all the commentators were aware that he was Australian (his accent was still pretty English).

      Players from outside the British Isles were virtually unheard of in the mid 1970s English game so “Noddy” was very much a pioneer. Thanks for reminding us of his influence, David.

      • July 24th 2010 @ 1:53pm
        David V. said | July 24th 2010 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

        Jorge Robledo and Preben Arentoft were but two. In Scotland, Aberdeen had Zoltan Varga for a year.

        • July 25th 2010 @ 4:05am
          Dublin Dave said | July 25th 2010 @ 4:05am | ! Report

          Another historical curiousity about the 1970s was the dearth of black players in the football league. Especially in the early part of the decade.

          Back then there was a comedy show called “Love thy Neighbour” which by today’s standards would be impossibly risque to show on TV. Its premise was the racial tension between an ordinary English couple and the West Indian neighbours who had moved in next door. It was trying to get a laugh out of what were genuine racial tensions in the UK at the time.

          I mention this only because I remember that one of the episodes centred around a home defeat by Manchester United, of whom the white man was a huge fan, to West Ham United. Why to West Ham?

          Well, so that it could be written into the script that the Hammers striker Clyde Best scored two goals. Clyde, no relation to George, (that was actually one of the gags from the show) was a Bermudan who was at the time probably the only prominent black player in the Football League.

          Of course within a few years, the children of the West Indian immigrants who had come to Britain in the wake of the second world war would grow up and become prominent in the game. Before the decade was out, Viv Anderson would become the first black English soccer international.

          And less than 20 years later came the Bosman ruling. So now the English Premier League isn’t really English any more.

          • July 25th 2010 @ 7:18pm
            sheek said | July 25th 2010 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

            DD,

            I remember ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ as a truly wonderful comedy. The Brits were unbeatable at comedy in the 60s & 70s.

            Years later, they brought the English lead down to Australia as a supposed immigrant. When he discovered his new home in Sydney would be in the suburb of Blacktown, you could imagine his reaction!

    • Roar Guru

      July 24th 2010 @ 12:35pm
      dasilva said | July 24th 2010 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

      Thanks for the article David V.

      It’s always nice to learn more about past socceroos.

      Here is another good article about Adrian Alston (apparently written by Mike Salters who is a renown Australian football blogger although uncredited). Apparently he also was a co-founder of the Cruyff turn as well.
      http://www.fifa.com/classicfootball/stories/doyouremember/news/newsid=835000.html

      • Roar Guru

        July 24th 2010 @ 12:48pm
        dasilva said | July 24th 2010 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

        Interestingly enough, Adrian Alston regretted his move to England and he wished he took up offers to play in Germany

    • July 24th 2010 @ 1:52pm
      David V. said | July 24th 2010 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

      When Alston left for the USA, Cardiff replaced him with the extremely gifted and enigmatic Robin Friday. It was him in a Cardiff shirt that inspired an album cover! Friday didn’t last long but was still voted an all-time cult hero.

    • July 24th 2010 @ 8:37pm
      AA said | July 24th 2010 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

      Craig Johnston left Australia for England around 1976 or 1977? Am I right in saying that? Also I seem to recall Ray Baartz getting a Man Utd contract in the mid-1960’s.

      There’s a book by Neil Montagna-Wallace which discusses the Socceroos from these days. The book came out around 2003 or 2004.

      • July 24th 2010 @ 10:36pm
        David V. said | July 24th 2010 @ 10:36pm | ! Report

        Johnston began his career at Middlesbrough. His sale to Liverpool in 1981 began a terrible decline for Boro that they got out of by the end of the decade.

        Alston played in a league with such players as Brooking, Bowles, Hudson, Currie, McKenzie, Birchenall, etc etc. And yet today’s England stars are some kind of “Golden Generation” when they don’t have half the ability or entertainment of those. Not even half.

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