Lofty Thrilled By Tribute From Afar

Wilson, McNab Honoured, Too

Les Wilson.....set for another collar-and-tie occasion.

Les Wilson, Phil Parkes and Bob McNab have had their place in Canadian football folklore cemented by recognition in the country’s Soccer Hall of Fame.

The former Wolves trio were part of the outstanding 1979 Vancouver Whitecaps side who have just been named as the 2011 Team of Distinction to be inducted in Toronto in late May.

The Whitecaps lifted the North American Soccer League Championship 32 years ago and were honoured by induction into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in May, 1988 – the same month that Wolves won the Sherpa Van Trophy.

Now, in the year the city of Vancouver celebrates its 125th anniversary, they are being toasted nationally.

Parkes was previously named in the 1979 NASL first All Star Team and Wilson, who was then the Whitecaps team’s administrator, recalls: “I was proud of Phil for his outstanding performances over here.

“I contacted Bill McGarry to get him on loan and Bill agreed. Bob McNab also brought so much experience as assistant to the coach Tony Waiters.

“We had experienced people who had learned the professional game well in Great Britain.  Having the likes of Alan Ball, Willie Johnston, Jon Sammels, Ray Lewington, captain John Craven, Kevin Hector, Trevor Whymark, Roger Kenyon, Carl Valentine, Peter Daniel (the Derby one), Derek Possee and a young Bruce Grobbelaar certainly helped our cause.

“But British Columbia produced some excellent players as well at that time, such as Buzz Parsons, Bob Bolitho, Gerry Gray, Drew Ferguson, Steve Nesin, Carl Shearer and Bob Lenarduzzi. They all played a part and most went on to represent Canada many times.”

Phil Parkes during his Whitecaps years.

All told, Parkes had no fewer than nine stints in the States, with three for Wolves (in the summers of 1967, 1969 and 1972) followed by a loan spell with Vancouver in 1976 and then longer stays in 1978 and 1979.

He also subsequently played for Chicago Sting for a season and a half, San Jose Earthquakes and Toronto Blizzard but remembers his time with the Whitecaps the fondest.

“We won the Western Division and the National Conference in 1979 to qualify for the Soccer Bowl,” he said.

“The play-off system is different over there and we beat Dallas home and away, then won in the semi-finals against Los Angeles Aztecs, who had Johan Cruyff playing for them.

“The Super Bowl was in New York at the Giants Stadium, which held around 80,000 and would have been full if the Cosmos had been playing in it.

“They were the defending NASL champions and had Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia in their line-up. But we beat them in a shoot-out after two legs and were back in New York the following week to play Tampa Bay Rowdies in front of nearly 60,000.

“Rodney Marsh was their star player and Gordon Jago was the manager but we won 2-1 with a couple of goals by Trevor Whymark.

A star in the United States, too!

“They were great times and, when we landed in Vancouver the next day, the streets were lined with people virtually from the airport to the city. It was estimated that around 120,000 people welcomed us home, so they are special memories.

“Les called me a few days ago, which he does every now and again, and it was lovely to hear the news, especially as football is by no means Canada’s main sport.

“I don’t plan to go to Toronto but there’s talk of something being done in Vancouver as well because they are going back into Major League soccer this year. I’d be interested in going there – it’s just sad that Alan Ball and John Craven are no longer with us. They were great lads.”