Glentoran Says “Goodbye Belfast, Hello Detroit”

Written by Ian Thomson

Chelsea slipped out of London after their season-ending 2-1 win over Everton at Stamford Bridge last Sunday to make their way across the Atlantic for tonight’s exhibition game against Manchester City in St. Louis. No fanfare on the King’s Road. No flags at the airport. No fuss.

On May 23, 1967, the part-time players from Northern Irish side Glentoran were treated to an entirely different response from their ardent fans on the rain-drenched streets of East Belfast.

Cougars 67 Road Team

The Glens were on their way to North America to represent the Detroit Cougars franchise during that summer’s inaugural United Soccer Association tournament. Glaswegian player-coach John Colrain and his men would be punching well above their weight against professional teams from England, Scotland, Holland, Italy, Brazil and Uruguay, yet there was a pride within the team, mirrored in the faces of the well-wishers cheering the team bus along Mersey and Dee streets near The Oval stadium, that would prevent Glentoran from being overawed.

William Clay Ford Sr., the 42-year-old grandson of Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford, was part of the ownership group behind the Motor City’s soccer franchise – exalted company for the Glens players who created a positive first impression by arriving at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport sporting green linen blazers, grey flannels and Panama hats.

“I had been told by everyone that Glentoran would not live with the opposition when they came here,” Cougars executive Jack Anderson would tell reporters after his team’s final home game later that summer.

Were they right?

“Summer Of ’67: Flower Power, Race Riots, Vietnam and the Greatest Soccer Final Played on American Soil” charts the story of the 1967 USA tournament. It recalls the capers, the gimmicks, the celebrity brushes and the games that provided its participants, including former Glens winger Eric Ross, with the trip of a lifetime.

The book is set for release through Amazon.com in July 2013.

detroit at la
Detroit Cougars (Glentoran) players and officials at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum ahead of their clash with the L.A. Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanderers).

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