Thursday, 26 April 2018

Book Review: 'Circle of Life' by Adrian Webster

Reviewed by Alex Gillett

Image result for adrian webster circle of life

Webster's journey begins as a promising schoolboy footballer, before signing as an apprentice for Colchester United, at that time in the lower tiers of the English league.  After paying his dues, which included assisting the Groundman, preparing the team kit,  as well as training full-time with the team, he made the grade as a full-time professional.  

Crossing the ocean to try his luck in Canada, it wasn't too long before he was approached by a new NASL franchise, the Seattle Sounders, to be a part of its inaugural squad in 1974.  The Sounders was ambitious club with a solid plan to blend a team of ex-pat Brit professionals with up and coming local talent, so as to establish soccer as a sustainable concern in Seattle.

Webster enjoyed a successful few years on the Pacific Coast, highlights included big-ticket games against New York Cosmos (featuring Pele) and LA Aztecs (including George Best in their team).  Perhaps Webster's most famous moment was captaining the Sounders in the 1977 'Soccerbowl' Final, where they met Pele's NY Cosmos in an exciting game that culminated in end-to-end opportunities before the Cosmos eventually emerged victorious, in what was to be Pele's last competitive game.

Image result for adrian webster seattle wikipedia

Big-name stars came and went, and a key moment for the NASL occurred in 1979 when many of its players went on strike.  Webster provides some interesting narration about this, particularly the perspective of, and solidarity amongst the players.

After the strike was over the NASL recommenced and existed into the 1980s before television and sponsors began to lose interest.  As the NASL began to stall, many of its stars, including Adrian Webster, were lured by the opportunity to play indoor soccer in the MISL (Major Indoor Soccer League) and this proved to be a good move for a while.  

Leveraging his leadership abilities, there followed a spell working in coaching and leisure-centre management in the USA and UK , including chairmanship of the Special Olympics and a successful period back where his professional career began, with Colchester United.  Webster was then diagnosed with cancer, but after a period in hospital, he survived and wrote-up his memories from his life in football, deciding to donate royalties to a children's cancer charity.

All this and more is covered from first-hand experience in 'Circle of Life'.  Adrian Webster, provides highlights from two previous publications ('Eternal Blue Forever Green' and 'Soccer Bowl 77: Seattle Sounders v New York Cosmos') with subsequent reflections on his experiences and on his former team-mates, and new insights following his recent visit to Seattle, where he reunited with former teammates from the original 1974 Sounders team, Dave Butler and Dave Gillett.  During his visit Webster was awarded the prestigious Seattle Sounders 'Golden Scarf' in front of thousands of fans.

I really enjoyed reading this book, Webster has an accessible writing style and has a lot of great experiences to share. How many people can say they graduated almost seamlessly from Colchester Reserves to testing their abilities, in front of tens of thousands of fans, against opponents the likes of Pele and Best, and alongside team-mates including Mike England, Geoff Hurst, et al?  

Whilst not every city in the US took to soccer in the same way that they did in New York or Seattle, the NASL was still a fascinating time in the history of the sport, and this book provides a fascinating read with first-hand insight as to those halcyon  days.

All three of Adrian Websters books are available via Amazon, with a % of proceeds from sales donated to children's cancer charity.  Visit the following web page to order:

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