Adrian Alston remembers playing in the Socceroos ‘class of 74’

Photo: England born striker Adrian Alston played for the Socceroos in Australia's first World Cup finals in 1974. (National Archives of Australia) 

Adrian Alston remembers playing in the Socceroos ‘class of 74’In 1974 Australia played at the World Cup Finals for the first time and striker Adrian Alston was there.

Their group was not an easy one, with the highly fancied Chile, East Germany, plus host country and eventual winners West Germany.

"Every single player was an absolute superstar ... they had players of the calibre of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller," Alston recalls.

"If you put it in perspective, West Germany won the World Cup and they only lost one game and it was against East Germany."

In the 1970s, football in Australia was very much a minor sport and many of the Socceroos team were born on foreign soil.

Despite this, coach Rale Rasic, himself born in Yugoslavia, instilled self belief in the squad.

"He was building us up to cope with anything ... he had us believing we could do anything," Alston said.

Despite their best efforts, Australia did not progress beyond the group stage and failed to win or even score a goal.

Adrian said that this didn't matter, simply representing his newly adopted country and being a part of the team was enough.

"I spent more time with the team than I ever did with my wife; it was special, really special."
Early days of football in Australia

Just a few years before Adrian played in the World Cup, he had been playing football in the north of England.

Jim Kelly, then the coach of Wollongong based side South Coast United, coaxed Adrian away from his homeland with quadrupled wages and stories of endless sunshine.

"He saw me playing for the Preston North End youth team and said, 'Would you like to go to Australia? I think you'll do well'."

And he did. It wasn't long before Alston's name was on the team sheet for New South Wales and then Australia for the first time in 1969.

"I thought 'gee whiz' and said to the coach 'I suppose that's the end of my England career then?'," Alston said.

Though he was now playing for a foreign country, it wasn't long before he called Australia home.

"It was just a matter of putting that green and gold shirt on realising that I was now Australian," he said.

"I wrote a letter to my girlfriend and said 'get your papers ready and get yourself over' ... [she is] still my wife 46 years later.

"The only thing English about me now is my accent!"

Photo: Members of the 1974 Socceroos squad gather for a team photo in Sydney on April 21, 2006. (AAP) 

After the World Cup: Best, Pele, Cruyff and Canberra

Though Australia had little success in 1974, Alston's playing style was noticed by those in the post-tournament transfer market.

In 1974 he made the move back to the UK and to play with Luton Town, later joining Welsh side Cardiff City in 1975.

In 1977 he moved to play with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the emerging North American Soccer League (NASL).

He was in good company.

"I ended up playing against Pelé, George Best, Johan Cruyff. You name them, I was lucky enough to play against them," he said.

In the 1977 NASL off-season, he played a series of games as a guest with the newly formed Canberra City, coached by Johnny Warren.

"I had an enjoyable time and met some wonderful people in Canberra ... they will always be fond memories for me."
Socceroos chances in Brazil?

Though they are the lowest-ranked country in the tournament, Alston is confident Australia can put up a good fight in Brazil.

"I think we will do well against the Netherlands," he said.

"The first game against Chile will be a hard one; the first game is always the most important.

"You never know, anything could happen."

Photo: West German forward Gerd Muller scores against the Socceroos in Hamburg on June 18, 1974. (AFP) 

This article originally appeared in : World Cup 2014: Adrian Alston remembers playing in the Socceroos ‘class of 74’ | | By James Vyver | Updated 7 hours 37 minutes agoPosted Thu 12 Jun 2014, 4:46pm AEST

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