Frank Stapleton knew he was not first choice as coach of New England Revolution when he joined the Major Soccer League bandwagon at the start of the year - the Boston club wanted Jack Charlton - but he probably expected an easier ride.
As Revolution have struggled at the wrong end of the Eastern Conference, Stapleton has had flak for dropping a classy playmaker, Argentina's Alberto Naveda, and replacing him with a more defensive midfielder. Now the former Republic of Ireland centre-forward has come under fire from one of American soccer's heroes: Alexi Lalas.
Lalas, a veteran of the 1994 World Cup, left Revolution mid-season to play for his country at the Olympic Games. Now Stapleton has dropped him too, and questioned his dedication to the club. "This is a joke," Lalas stormed. "The audacity of someone to question my commitment to New England Revolution boggles my mind."
However, Lalas should not assume that the club's supporters will take his side. Before he went to the Olympics, Revolution's excellent fanzine, Pictures of Chairman Mao, ran not one but two articles highly critical of Lalas, claiming that he was interested only in promoting himself and not in the club. "Even his rock band sucks," wrote one angry Bostonian...
Scotland's John Collins, now with Monaco, was not the only British player to move across the Channel during the summer, and two other emigres scored last weekend. Phil Gray, the Northern Ireland striker who helped Sunderland win the First Division last term, opened his account for Nancy, while Allan Johnston (once of Hearts) was on target for Rennes.
Johnston has been joined at Rennes by another Scotsman, Gary Smith from Aberdeen, while Jamie Fullarton, an Under-21 cap, has distressed hard- up St Mirren by moving to Bastia for nothing. Chris Makin, a highly rated England Under-21 full-back, was expected to move to a Premiership club for a big fee when his contract at Oldham expired in June. Marseille had different ideas, however, and took him off to the south of France on another "Bosman" free.
The Bosman effect is also being felt in Germany. Franz Beckenbauer, the Bayern Munich president, described the first day of the new season as "the start of a new era - football without frontiers as a result of the Bosman ruling." On the first weekend of the Bundesliga, 16 goals were scored by foreign players while only 12 came from Germans.
"The fact that the Bundesliga runners-up will also get a place in the Champions' League next season won't affect us - because we'll be champions anyway," Beckenbauer added. Arrogance that awesome might lead to effigies of Der Kaiser being burned in Dortmund...
Leonardo Ricatti, an Argentinian striker, arrived at the Italian Serie C club, Avellino, last week for a trial - and was told to get his hair cut. He agreed - as long as he was offered a contract and the club paid for the visit to the barbers. The club president, Antonio Sibilia, agreed.
Rupert MetcalfReuse content