Clive Toye's Blueprint, Part One: The First Coach and Player Signings
Few figures have had as great an influence on the sport of soccer in New York as Clive Toye. The first General Manager of the New York Cosmos, Toye was responsible for building the club from scratch, coming up with the name Cosmos and, through his persistent efforts, including his signing of Pelé in 1975, helped make the club a global phenomenon.
The National Soccer Hall of Famer took time last week to meet with Club Historian David Kilpatrick, to reflect upon those early days and contemplate the parallels as the club follows the blueprint for success set by those pioneers in the early days of the Cosmos in the NASL.
What do you recall about putting the first team together?
At that time when I came here in January of ‘71, the Cosmos didn’t have a name. I had to create that over the next few weeks!
Then I had to get players. A good idea, huh? I mean, if you’ve got a team you might need some players and a coach! I decided all the players, at least the vast majority of the players, were going to be local. The local ethnic leagues then were pretty good, so I was going to get all the players from there.
If I was to get players, I needed someone who knew who those players were, who could play. And there were only two candidates. One was Gordon Bradley and one was Alkis Panagoulias, who later became coach of Greece in the World Cup here in ‘94. Very nice guy, good coach, and all the rest of it.
But I needed someone who was going to work his balls off, off the field, as well as do a decent job on the field. And my judgment was absolutely spot on there, that the fellow who was going to work his balls off was Gordon Bradley. So I hired Gordon, $8,000 a year – hugely overpaid, of course.
Knowing what my needs were: coach who knew the local players, coach who’d work like hell, someone who would be everywhere. I was going to be everywhere and he was going to have to be everywhere. And I didn’t think that Alkis would be the kind of guy who would do that. He was a coach. Gordon was so much more than a coach.
And a pretty good centreback, too, right?
Oh he wasn’t a bad player at all. In a sense that was immaterial. It was the other two things that I needed him for. And we got along wonderfully well, which is also good. So that’s why I hired Gordon Bradley and that’s why he stayed so long. Because I mean, at a practice session wherever, you’d see Gordon sitting there on the grass with all the journalists around, talking and laughing and telling jokes.
Everybody liked Gordon. Was he the best coach ever? Probably not, but who is? But was he the best man for the job? Oh absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, he was. He was somebody who could relate to people. It all comes back to relating to people. So that’s why I hired Gordon.
So you first spotted your first Cosmos signing, Jorge Siega, playing in Westchester?
I did. I remember seeing Jorge Siega play and I thought, “oh boy, there’s one.” He was playing indoor, six-a-side indoor at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. Jorge was a left-footed player, and he had this great left foot. I used to say to him, and to Gordon afterward, I said, “I’m bloody sure when you’re going down the left and you wanna cross the ball, you wanna get it past the fullback,” I said, “your left leg grows two feet and sticks out there and gets the ball across!” He’d always do that, suddenly “boop,” gets that foot ahead. I used to laugh and say it’s because your bloody left foot grows, that’s how you do it!"
Was there much fanfare with your new signings?
One Sunday, at a hotel right by JFK, we got all the players we wanted to sign. We took them there and said, “here you are, sign for the Cosmos.” The negotiation was minus-seven-seconds a player, because it was $75 bucks a game.
They spent more time out doing the promotional job than they did playing, that’s for sure. And we trained twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and whenever we could, with no extra money, we’d have them get out there, go there, do this.
Any thoughts then on Giovanni Savarese as the new Head Coach of the Cosmos?
Knowing where (The Cosmos) are, it’s important. I don’t know Savarese, don’t believe I’ve ever met him, but I’m aware that he has loads of local ties. So that’s a good move and it’s a good move that people know him, and a lot of local soccer people like him for what he’s done before.
Clive Toye’s latest book, Toby and the Greatest Game, a children’s novel about soccer, was published earlier this year by iUniverse Press. His autobiographical account of the Cosmos’ formation and the first incarnation of the North American Soccer League, A Kick in the Grass, is available from St. Johann Press.