Fond Memories

Alan Hinton has a happy recollection of his time with the Vancouver Whitecaps. However, his allegiances lie with Seattle and the Sounders FC.

White is the color
Soccer is the game
We’re all together
Winning is our aim
Cheer us on through the sun and rain
‘Cause Whitecaps, Whitecaps is our name

The year was 1978 and Alan Hinton was just starting the season with the Vancouver Whitecaps when the opportunity arose for some good old-fashioned team bonding.

Hinton got his teammates together over a few drinks and convinced them to record a song to rally the fans behind them and the adjusted lyrics to a Chelsea song fit the bill.  Within ten days, Hinton says, the record sold 10,000 copies in Vancouver as attendance spiked from around 10,000 to over 33,000 by the end of the season.

Hinton would play just the one season for the Whitecaps, going back to coach Vancouver in 1984 before the North American Soccer League folded.  And while Vancouver still holds a dear place in his heart, his home is Seattle, where he was a steward of the Sounders name for many years and even coached the team in the NASL and A-League.

His road to the northwest, though, came through Vancouver in that 1978 season.

Already a legend as a left-winger in England, where he played 75 matches for Wolverhampton, 112 matches for Nottingham Forest and 253 matches for Derby County, Hinton took the 1976 season off after the death of his young son to cancer, he played in 1977 for the Dallas Tornado in the NASL, winning the division at 18-8.

He had a chance to go back to England with Nottingham Forest and Brian Clough in 1978, but felt that Clough made the offer out of sympathy because of the loss of his child.  Without an offer from Dallas, Hinton declined the offer and opted instead to retire.

One of his teammates with the English National Team, Tony Waiters, asked if I’d join him at the Vancouver Whitecaps as an assistant coach.  He agreed, signing on players like Kevin Hector, from Derby County and Jon Sammels from Leicester City.

One other player that Waiters wanted on the team was Gordon Taylor, who had been the left winger the year in Vancouver in 1977.

“Tony, I’m better than him,” Hinton recalls telling Waiters.

So he lost some weight and came out of retirement to play again.

And play he did – finishing the season by smashing the previous assist record held by the likes of Pele and George Best when he finished with 30 assists to help the Whitecaps to a 24-6 record and the Western Division title.

“I’ll never forget when we won the Western Division, we had the trophy and on the far side of the field – where I loved to be because the fans were great to me – and I grabbed the trophy and ran over to the fans with the trophy, Hinton recalls.  “It was just wonderful.”

After that one season, he coached the Tulsa Roughnecks in 1979 before coming to Seattle to be the head coach from 1980-1982.  After taking 1983 off, when the Sounders would fold, he returned for one final season as head coach of the Whitecaps in 1984.

In those years in the NASL, then again when he brought the Sounders – both in name and in team – back in 1994 to the A-League, he saw firsthand the magnitude of the rivalries shared by the three clubs in the Cascadia region.

He sees the tremendous support in all three cities as an homage to the history that the three teams share.

“The Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders are where they are today in part because of the history of these three teams.  There’s a love affair going on between the old fans and the new in all three cities,” he said.  “It’s just so beautiful that the rivalry is beginning to happen again.”

Although he loved his time in Vancouver, there was no hesitation when he asked what his rooting interest will be when the Sounders and Whitecaps meet for the first time on the MLS stage on Saturday at Qwest Field.

“I’ve lived in Seattle since November of ‘79, so my allegiance is completely with the Sounders.  I wish the Whitecaps all the best.  I hope it’s a great game on Saturday night and it will be.  It will bring back a lot of memories,” he said.  “For me, it’s all happening again.  It’s the I-5 rivalry and it’s wonderful.”

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