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July 18, 2012 at 1:25 PM

An enjoyable stop and chat with NASL Sounders great Roger Davies

roger davies.jpgPhoto credit: Barry Wong, The Seattle Times

Roger Davies, who starred with the NASL Sounders from 1980-82, will be honored with a Golden Scarf before Wednesday’s friendly against Chelsea FC. An English forward, Davies was the league MVP in 1980 after scoring 25 goals, and a guest post Sounder at Heart has a great recollection of his impact here.

Davies shared some time reporters on Tuesday and here is the transcript of that interview:

* * *

(When was the last time you were in Seattle?) “Oooo, I was trying to think when I came back, back to Seattle. I’ve been back to the States a few times, but to different places. The last time I was in Seattle was about 17 years ago. I came and visited and I think I had a walkout at Memorial (Stadium) in front of the fans there. It’s been 17 years since I’ve been in Seattle.”

(So what brings you back this time?) “I’m actually coming back for this Golden Scarf award, which is fantastic. … It’s been 30 years since I’ve played in Seattle. It really is an honor. It was something that was trying to be arranged last year and through other reasons I couldn’t make it. I thought, ‘Well, that’s gone. That’s a shame.’ But they got it going again this year — through Alan (Hinton), I believe — and they’ve got me back. I’ve really had a great time. I’ve been here about three days now and it’s been fantastic. I’m looking forward to (Wednesday), but it’s just great to be back. I’ve seen lots of friends and people that I knew before.”

(Have you kept track of the Sounders?) “I keep watching what’s up. Obviously, I still work for Derby County in ways — I do radio, like Alan does. … I do corporate hospitality at Derby County. So I try to keep up with football and I go on the websites and have a look to see what’s happening with Seattle. It’s great what they’ve got back again. It’s just amazing. I don’t know whether they realize sometimes what they’re achieving. With the fan base you’ve got, it’s incredible. … People might think about (taking) soccer in the U.S.A. a bit seriously now that you’re competing at that level.”

(But things were hopping here back when you played, right?) “Oh, were they ever. … The most disappointing thing of my whole football career was that we didn’t win the Soccer Bowl (in 1980), because we were by far the best team in that division. We lost to L.A. Aztecs in a penalty shootout. We should’ve gone onto the final and won it. The crowd just grew and grew and grew as the season progressed. We were pulling 40-, 50,000 in that season. And people must realize what the Pacific Northwest has got back. You’ve got Portland back. You’ve got Vancouver back. I think it’s imperative that Major League Soccer keeps those teams in because they are the backbone of Major League Soccer, I think.”

(So this appears to you to be a sustainable growth in the league compared to the NASL?) “Well, I hope so. In the NASL, I don’t think at the time American sport realized what it had in soccer. You had the best players in the world — not the also-runs, the best players in the world — coming to play soccer in the USA. Whether some of them came with the right reasons or not, I don’t know. But they were all coming. You take the Peles, the Beckenbauers, the Cruyffs, the Bests, they were all coming to play in this country. And I think everything just grew too quickly. You went from nothing to a pinnacle and very quickly came down again. I think it all grew and fell too quickly and fell away. The MLS seems to be doing it the right way. It’s building and building slowly, and that’s the way to do it. It’s got to grow and grow. I keep telling people, when I was here and I spent my time in America, I said it won’t be long until the USA will win the World Cup. They haven’t got there yet, which is a big disappointment for me because it’s proved me wrong, but I always thought they would get there because they were building lots of good players coming through. You always produced good athletes, that’s a part of it, and technically the players were good, but they just haven’t got there yet. It’s coming back again and I’m sure my prediction that they’ll win a World Cup will happen eventually.”

(How important is it for the current Sounders to keep a connection with the old Sounders?) “We have American owners at Derby now … and when those guys come over to work they start talking about the alumni of the club, and I think any club has to do something with its history. Don’t ever forget your history. I don’t think they do it at the other levels of sport, and fans really live with that. The Derby County club I’m at, fans still remember their championship winning years, they remember their old players and hopefully Seattle will be the same. I’m going out on the pitch (Wednesday) in front of lots of fans there that weren’t born when I was playing. I’ve just said go on YouTube and having a look (at my highlights). It’s a bit ironic we’re playing Chelsea. They can go and have a look at my miss against Chelsea because it’s one of the best ever. (laughs) So if they want to see what Roger Davies was like, go and have a look at this miss against Chelsea.”

(Do you have any good Alan Hinton stories?) “I think the Sounders owe a lot to Alan for what he did for the club, and I remember lots of stories with Alan. One I keep saying to people is we played at San Jose and we came in at halftime and we were losing. This was very rare. David Nish and myself were sitting near one another and … we’re losing 1-0 and Alan came in. He was giving his chat and turned around and he had a go at one of the defenders. I can’t remember who it was, and he said, ‘Look at the state of you! You’re still clean! You haven’t got any mud on your knees or anything!’ I remember David Nish and myself looking at one another and we rubbed our hands on our boots and starting rubbing our knees so he wouldn’t catch us. (laughs) But as a guy to work for, Alan, he was fantastic. He really was.”

(Last thoughts…) “I’m looking forward to (Wednesday) night — especially playing Chelsea, as well. I’m looking forward to the game. … The fans at the one end who are standing, they’ve become very, very English. I’m really looking forward to that.”


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