I was fortunate to play for Hearts in the very first Pro soccer tournament in the USA, the list of Professional Football Clubs were Bahia (Brazil), Werder Brehemen (Germany), Vicence Lanarossa (Italy), Blackburn Rovers (England) and Hearts (Scotland). All of the teams were representing their country either as League winners or Runners Up. The competition was played at various stadiums in or around New York where we were located at The ——- an Apartment Hotel in the very posh district known as Manhatten. I shared a room with Johnny Hamilton and Danny Ferguson.
It’s such a long time ago that I’m finding it difficult to remember the scores but I think we won 1-0 against Blackburn and I scored. I remember playing against Blackburn Rovers at a stadium that has now been demolished, the particular arena in question was a legendary Baseball Stadium in New York on an island.
We walked into the Stadium from an underground entrance which was a bit different to our normal pitches in Scotland such as Ibrox, Celtic Park and of-course our own home ground Tynecastle Park, Gorgie Edinburgh. Blackburn were laden with the best players in the world, players like Ron Clayton, Fred Else who played in goals and playing directly against myself was a young whipper snapper called Mike England Centre Half. Although I was in my mid-twenties I was slightly lacking in hair, I was troubled with it but you have to get on with it. I remember a situation that Mr England showed me down the line, the right wing was the place Mike kindly offered to me, including ushering me with a very kind comment of (Old Man). I couldn’t refuse and I duly obliged leaving Mr England in my wake as I meandered down the wing crossing with the ease of an (Old Man).
I also remember scoring that day when I bumbled the ball across the line from outside the eighteen yard line, the reason I say that I bumbled the ball in the back of the net was that it bounced several times before crossing the line and bulging the net. I wasn’t embarrassed but maybe Mike England was, and so he should be.
The next game that I can write about is Vincence Lanarossa of Italy the result was a 1-1 draw T. W scored the goal again. Some shenanigans happened in this game, the match was played in a district either up or down New York State, it was like a local pitch somewhere that they held sporting events at. There was about five thousand spectators which appeared to be a full house.
Before the game began Lanarossa felt the desire or need to introduce themselves to the spectators. They used their own priest to do the introductions, he started by climbing up onto a platform on the halfway line, he was OK but could only speak in Italian. All we heard from this platform was Viva Lanarossa, Viva Lanarossa, Viva Lanarossa. Next thing was bedlam, all hell let loose, the crowd invaded the pitch, American Police Officers pulled their six guns and started to threaten the spectators clearing the pitch as they went along, wow, completely bizarre!
After the strange goings on, the game got started, we were about ten minutes into it when another altercation happened, our Captain John Cummings, fabulous player that he was got a ball straight in his privates. He was very much wounded and could hardly draw any breath to claim his injury, the game rolled on and so did our brave Captain who was not a happy boy! Next I was involved in a fracas that was just made for me. With a wounded Captain and the ball rolling towards the Italians net I decided to chaperon the ball, unfortunately the Italian defenders tried to stop this happening and with the ball heading goal ward, it took a fierce bounce away from the goal and came to rest behind the net, where a bit of wrestling took place between the Italian defenders and myself. After a lot of scrimmaging, which the referee ignored along with our Captain as well, the game continued ending in a 1-1 draw, I won’t name the scorer again!!
The 3rd match was against Bahia of Brazil which we won 1-0, Willie Wallace scored for us, I have to be honest to you all and say that I don’t remember much about this game. I don’t even remember where this match was played, maybe it will come to me later. I do remember that we played the Germans against Werder Brehmen, the match was played in Toronto Canada a huge stadium to boot and my abiding memory of this game was that we should have won the match hands down. We had lots and lots of chances which we were unable to convert, whereas they had one lone striker with white hair and was a flyer, very very quick.
What sticks in my mind is this lone striker scoring and them beating us 3-0. I must ask the question (Did) we win the 2nd world war or was it just a dream, it grates me getting beat with the Germans but such is life. This match was played on the 19/06/1964 a long time ago! They did hammer us and I was flummoxed, but fair play to them. Were they being smarter, more streetwise and better than us, NO, I’m not having it! LUCK always plays a part in games, even after all this time I can’t accept the score. We had loads of scoring chances but unfortunately for us we were unable to convert them into goals. I have to accept the result but it felt like a travesty then, and very much one now!
We played the Italians a 2nd time where we won 2-0, Johnny Hamilton scored both goals. He was a great player, sadly Johnny is no longer with us, passing into another life not that long ago. God rest you my friend!
Continuing the tour matches, we played Blackburn Rovers for a 2nd time beating them 2-0, White and Traynor scoring for the Jambo’s and we played another match against Canadian All Stars which we also won winning 2-0 with Roy Barry and Alan Gordon the scorers.
All in all we had a successful tour of the States, but it appears that any game that has some kind of incident I can remember, otherwise my memory fails me.
I’m sorry to you all but such is life!