CHESTER, Pa. – It was July of 1980. Alex Ferguson had just ended the Old Firm’s domination of Scottish football by steering Aberdeen to the country’s Premier Division title and a 17-year-old Canadian midfielder named Sasho Cirovski had arrived at Pittodrie Stadium for a trial with The Dons.
Aberdeen’s long-standing goalkeeper Bobby Clark, approaching his 35th birthday, was being slowed by niggling injuries and increasingly challenged for his No. 1 jersey by the up-and-coming talents of Jim Leighton. Clark’s thoughts were turning toward coaching, and Ferguson placed the former Scotland national team player in command of the club’s new youth development program.
“My first memory was that he didn’t play me in our first game,” recalled Cirovski of his brief training stint in the north-east of Scotland. “I was not happy.
“But he played me the next couple of games and I was much happier.”
Clark and Cirovski cross paths again Sunday afternoon when their respective Notre Dame and Maryland sides meet in the NCAA College Cup Final at the Philadelphia Union’s PPL Park. Cirovski is aiming to lead Maryland to a third national title in nine years. Clark is appearing in his second final. His Stanford side lost out to Indiana in 1998.
The two storied coaches have become good friends since Cirovski turned down Aberdeen’s contract offer in favor of attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Cirovski and Virginia women’s soccer head coach Steve Swanson played together in America’s indoor leagues before Swanson began his coaching career at Dartmouth in 1990. Clark led the Ivy League school’s men’s team at the time.
Clark brought Swanson to Stanford to coach the women’s team in 1996 after the Scot returned from leading New Zealand’s national and youth teams to become the school’s Director of Soccer and men’s coach.
“He’s a person that’s dear to me and that I respect tremendously,” Cirovski said.
“Hopefully Sunday we can work together to provide a good advertisement for college soccer.”
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Note – Three of the players pictured behind Cirovski featured in Aberdeen’s 2-1 extra-time win over Real Madrid in the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in May 1983. Neale Cooper and Neil Simpson played the entire game. Goalkeeper Bryan Gunn was an unused substitute.
The full squad pictured (left to right): Dolty Sweeney, Sasho Cirovski, Neil Shand, Neil Bourke, Brian Mitchell, David Muir, Neale Cooper, Steve Morrison, Neil Simpson, Ian Porteous, Bryan Gunn, George Middleton, Peter Mutch, Dave Lawrie.
Peter Mutch identified the players.
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