Dennis Tueart: A prime mover in tale of two Cities
As Henry returns from New York, the man who replaced Pele at the Cosmos tells how he came back to set up Manchester's new empire
Sunday 01 January 2012
Manhattan's skyscrapers offer spectacular views but during his days at the New York Cosmos, the glamour club of the North American Soccer League in the 1970s, Dennis Tueart had a glimpse of something even bigger: the future.
His bold decision to leave Manchester City for the Cosmos in 1978, making him the first England international to join the NASL full-time, offered Tueart a taste of what would become a reality in English football, not least the blue half of Manchester: a club with mega-bucks owners, studded with world stars.
This was nowhere more visible than in the Cosmos offices high in the heart of the Big Apple. "We were owned by Warner Communications, a multi-million-dollar organisation. In England the football clubs were owned by the local entrepreneur," says Tueart. "The Warner building was in Rockefeller Plaza and the Cosmos offices were on the 19th floor. As the elevator doors opened, there was a life-size picture of Pele and Franz Beckenbauer on one side – and on the other side Carlos Alberto and Dennis Tueart."
Tueart, who arrived in 1978 as Pele's replacement, saw "how close business and sport are linked" – something which would serve him well both as a City director and in running his conference business. He also experienced "a dressing room of 13 nationalities", providing a foretaste of the "global mercenary culture" pervading today's Premier League, along with staggered kick-off times, private club jets and brand-flogging tours to faraway places.
For New York Cosmos 1978, read Manchester City 2012. While Tueart relished playing alongside Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Johan Neeskens – "they never, ever entered the comfort zone" – he fears the same does not apply to some players today and is not surprised City's ego surplus has created problems. "I knew it would come sooner or later," he says of the Carlos Tevez problem.
"Tevez is not going to get as well paid as we are paying him anywhere. I can't understand it [but] I'm sure he has his reasons and his advisers, in particular. What a manager like Mancini needs is to be strong but also he had to have good support from the owners. You have to have a team ethic. They have that now because Mancini has worked hard at it, he doesn't suffer fools and he doesn't bow down to individual people's ego."
David Silva is the current favourite of Tueart (pictured), who hit 108 goals in 268 games in two spells at Maine Road. "He's interchangeable – he can play off the one, he can play left, he can play right. No matter where he receives the ball, he looks comfortable."
Tueart would have suited Mancini's fluid front line, given his own "wide striker" role. At Sunderland, where he won the 1973 FA Cup, he and Billy Hughes played either side of Vic Halom; with City's 1976 League Cup-winning side he and Peter Barnes buzzed around Joe Royle. "I used to chase Barnes over to the right wing occasionally and say 'go and have a go at him' – full-backs were used to having people go down the outside. Now Ashley Young plays on the wrong side, so does [Lionel] Messi. You could say I was about 30 years ahead of my time."
Tueart's overhead kick won the League Cup at the expense of Newcastle, his boyhood team. It was City's last trophy until last season's FA Cup. "It was great for me to keep being mentioned but the club is far too big to be reminiscing for such a long time," says the 61-year-old, whose new book My Football Journey documents how he laid the foundations for today's success as a director from 1997-2007. "The academy, the communications, the relationship with the supporters, the new stadium, that was all in place."
He is confident there will not be another 36-year wait for silverware but has concerns about City's title bid. "If we beat Manchester United in the FA Cup, it means that United will only have two trophies to be involved in while [City] would have four. That will be a test for Mancini, to manage his resources." Still, the view, as in Manhattan all those years ago, is pretty good.
Dennis Tueart's autobiography
My Football Journey is published by Vision Sports, £18.99. Royalties from the book will be donated to the teenage and young adult cancer unit at The Christie cancer centre.
Sunderland v Manchester City is this afternoon, kick-off 3pm
Dennis Tueart scored City's winner in the 1976 League Cup final and then struck twice as the Cosmos won the 1978 NASL Championship final.
The Cosmos were bankrolled by Warner Communications and run by Turkish brothers Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun. City's Sheikh Mansour is a member of Abu Dhabi's royal family.
The Cosmos flew on Warner's jet; City have a sky blue Etihad place.
Where City have Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli, the Cosmos had former Lazio and Italy striker Giorgio Chinaglia, son of a Cardiff restaurateur who once punched a club executive after a disagreement over expenses.
Mick Jagger and Henry Kissinger were regulars in the Cosmos' locker room. City's biggest celebrity fans are the Gallagher brothers.
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