Loyalty on the Comeback

Seemingly a lost art, loyalty may be a virtue now on the rebound.

Seemingly a lost art, loyalty may be a virtue now on the rebound.

Ripped from the headlines, as they say, are two instances from the world of soccer in the last couple days.

The first is Dutch master Johan Cruyff returning to his original club, Ajax, in an undetermined leadership role.

Particularly impressive are the words and actions of Harry Redknapp, who is pledging to help AFC Bournemouth remain afloat, not just in England’s third tier but altogether.

Redknapp is the manager of Portsmouth but has not forgotten the club where he played four seasons and managed another eight.

Bournemouth, like Portsmouth, a South Coast club, has estimated debts in excess of $7 million, and there’s less than six weeks before it will be shuttered. Furthermore, the team was hit with a 10-point deduction in the standings and could now face relegation to the lowest tier of the Football League.

The dire circumstances have moved Redknapp.

“It's a great little club which means a lot to me and Bournemouth certainly need a league team,” Redknapp told The Times of London. “They have still been getting 5,000-6,000 gates even when they've been in trouble.”

“If a consortium was put together and wanted me to be an investor, I would do it, yes. I don't know how that would sit with league rules. I could put my son in couldn't I?” he added, referring to Jamie Redknapp, a former England midfielder. Jamie was a toddler when Harry was a winger/assistant coach to the original Sounders from 1976-79.

Another name from the Sounders’ past is the current Bournemouth manager. A central defender in Seattle, Kevin Bond scored 16 goals, including a record 11 from the spot, in 1981. Bond served as assistant to Redknapp at both Portsmouth and Southampton.

While few are surprised by Redknapp’s attachment to Bournemouth, the move by Cruyff to return home to Amsterdam has raised some eyebrows. Cruyff can come off as a bit cold or distant. Maybe at age 60 he’s discovering his sentimental side.

Certainly there are fond memories to cherish. He joined the club on his 10th birthday, and at 20 led them to a domestic title. Cruyff and Ajax were at their peak in the early 70’s, winning three consecutive European championships before he left for Barcelona.

Job One for Cruyff is to make football its primary concern. He had been critical of Ajax management being all too focused on it financial books and stock price.

Barring a miracle, Holland’s biggest club will go a fourth successive season without a championship. It is rumored that Cruyff’s first move will be to install Marco van Basten

Now that he’s back, the question is whether the magic will return as well.

Twice in a Lifetime?


And the race is on for the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

Belgium and Holland jumped into the pool first, submitting a joint bid to FIFA headquarters this week. England is expected to follow, along with Australia, China, Russia and, presumably, the United States.

Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer, will decide by June 1 whether to bring back the globe’s second-largest (to the Olympics) and most-watched event. Attendance records were shattered in 1994 when the World Cup last came to America.

England would appear the favorite, with its tradition, its stadiums and the fact it’s overdue. The Three Lions won their one and only cup at the old Wembley back in 1966.

It could be a rocky ride for FIFA at the next two quadrennials in South Africa and Brazil, where infrastructure construction will be massive. So, England could be a comfortable choice. Then again, so could the U.S., which now has an emerging league in MLS and superior venues.

If Gulati goes ahead, Qwest Field could be part of the bid. In ’94, Seattle was sought as a site but no deal could be done for Husky Stadium. Talk about the World’s Game coming to Seattle.

On the Tube


Be honest, did you stay awake for both ends of the Pan Pacific Championship Wednesday night? Thought not.

Ah, but rising before the sun to see Fulham-West Ham is no big deal, right? Then see you Saturday at 7 on Fox Soccer Channel. Nice jammies!

Eddie Johnson could be making his debut for the Cottagers in this London derby. Following that will be Newcastle-Manchester United at 9:15. Sam Allardyce got the boot following United’s 6-0 rout Jan. 12. Kevin Keegan’s still looking for his first win since his return to the Magpies.

Will Tina Fey and Saturday Night Live prove more alluring than the consolation game and final of the Pan Pacifc? That’s for you to decide. Houston and Osaka meet for the title at 10:30 on ESPN Classic, followed by Becks and the Galaxy facing Sydney at 12:30 a.m.

On Sunday the best bets are Roma-Fiorentina at 6 on FSC, the Carling Cup final between Spurs and Chelsea at 6:30 on Setanta and Bayern Munich-Hamburg at 8 on GolTV. For midweek fare, Wednesday’s lunch hour offers the top two teams in Serie A, Inter hosting Roma, at 11:30.

Throw-Ins


Word is that the U.S. Open Cup will be squeezed into the summer proper. MLS teams will enter the draw beginning June 1 and the final will be played Aug. 26–six weeks earlier than 2007, when the Sounders advanced to the semifinals…Speaking of cup ties, the Washington State Championship and Challenge Cup semifinals are this weekend at Starfire. The Challenge Cup finals come Mar. 1-2 and the Championship Cup finals are Mar. 8-9, again at Starfire…Richland and UW grad Hope Solo was named to the U.S. roster for the Algarve Cup in Portugal, Mar. 5-12. Missing from the roster: fellow keeper Brianna Scurry…Feb. 28 has been leaked as the announcement date for Philadelphia (OK, Chester, Pa.) becoming the 16th MLS franchise. Then again, those first few rumored announcements for Seattle never panned out, did they?