By Stephen Byrne
The Fifa World Cup begins tomorrow and we have been looking at Rovers’ connections with all participating countries.
Our neighbours from 'across the pond' welcomed an exodus of professional footballers to North America back before World War II, players hoping to further their careers.
At least eight former Rovers players during this period played professionally in the States either as young men or in the twilight of their career, whilst others moved to Canada.
Mick Cosgrove (with Rovers, 1928-30) played for Brooklyn Wanderers from 1923 to 1924; Alec Donald (1932-36) was with Indiana Flooring, 1926-27, and New York Nationals, 1928-30; Fleming Falconer (1927-29) played for Providence Clamdiggers in 1926, for J and P Coats in 1927 and for New Bedford Whalers later in 1927; Sam Irving (1932-33) was player-manager of New York Centrals in 1925-26; Joe Kissock (1921-22) spent the 1922-23 season as an amateur in the States; Jock Rutherford (1922-23) did likewise in 1921-22 with Pennsylvania and Danny Tolland (1937-39) from 1939; and Jack Thomson (1921-22) played for New York Nationals in 1928-29.
Through the 1970s in particular, the arrival of luminaries such as Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer saw an increase in interest in American football. Several Rovers players plied their trade at this stage across the Atlantic.
Amongst them were: Alan Ball (1982-83) at Philadelphia Fury in 1978; Mike Barry (1977-79) at Columbus Magic, 1979-80; Ian Davies (1985-86) at Detroit Express in 1978; Graham Day (1974-79) at Portland Timbers for three summers and then from 1979-81; Gordon Fearnley (1970-77) at Miami Toros in 1977 and New Lauderdale Strikers the following year; Brian Godfrey (1971-73) at Portland Timbers in 1975; Ray Graydon (1965-71) at Washington Diplomats in 1978; Joe Haverty (1964-65) at Chicago Spurs in 1967-68; Kenny Hibbitt (1986-89) at Seattle Sounders in 1982; Harold Jarman (1959-73) at New York Cosmos in 1973-74, where he was replaced by the great Pelé; Roy McCrohan (1964-65) at Detroit Express and Minnesota Kicks; Bob Newton (1986-87) at New England Teamen in 1985; Tim Parkin (1981-86) at Port Lauderdale Strikers in 1977; and Ted Purdon (1960-61) at New York Ukrainians from 1965 to 1972.
Recently, young players have coached football in the States towards the start of their careers. Andy Beasley, Allan Cockram, Ian McLean, Marcus Law and Kevin Austin are amongst this category. Junior Agogo joined Chicago Fire in February 2000, Colorado Rapids two months later and San Jose Earthquakes briefly in June 2001.
Will Packwood, born in Massachussetts in May 1993, became the first American-born player to appear for Rovers when he made his début against Wycombe Wanderers in October 2013.
Moussa Dagnogo, who made two substitute appearances for Rovers in 2000, later joined Indiana Blast, Indiana Reggae Boyz and Cincinnati Kings. Andy Dorman and Stuart Campbell are amongst others to transfer their playing skills “stateside”, whilst Rovers manager Don Megson’s son Neil won two full caps for the States.
Eight former Rovers players died in the States. Jimmy Smith, a Scottish-born centre-forward in the 'Guinness Book of Records' for his goal-scoring feats in Scotland and who played for Rovers between 1933 and 1935, emigrated to the States and died at Bridgepoint, Connecticut in 1975, at the age of 73.
Joe Kissock, a full-back between 1921 and 1922, who played amateur football in the States, died in San Francisco in September 1959. Jack Thomson, a goalkeeper in the 1920s, died in Westchester, New York in May 1980. Mick Cosgrove, a 1920s wing-half, died at Erie, New York State in December 1972.
Willie McWhinnie (1876-1936) scored three times in eight games for Rovers at the tail end of the 1897-98 campaign and emigrated to the States, where he died.
Sandy McCubbin, who scored twice in nine Southern League games for Rovers in the 1908-09 season, died in 1971 in San Francisco.
Frank McCourt, who died in Washington in June 2006, scored once in 32 immediate post-war League fixtures for Rovers.
Centre-half Bobbie Walker, born in 1884, scored eleven goals in 108 Southern League games for Rovers between 1912 and 1915 and died in Cleveland, Ohio during the 1940s.
In August 1969, the touring Dallas Tornado side, coached by the former Portsmouth centre-forward Ron Newman, was defeated 4-0 at Eastville on their European tour. Robin Stubbs, Bobby Jones, Harold Jarman and Stuart Taylor scored once each.
Jimmy McGuire, who played twice for Northampton Town against Rovers in the 1934-35 season, was responsible, as President of the United States Football Association, for setting up the NASL in July 1966.
Seventeen US-born players have opposed Rovers in the League, plus four others in cup competitions, whilst nine men have represented the States in international football and also played against Rovers, of which five were in the League (Frank Simek, Ian Feuer, Kasey Keller, Marcus Hahnemann and Roy Wegerle).
Numerous opponents have furthered their careers across the Atlantic, amongst them Chelsea’s Charlie Cooke, Jimmy Hill of Fulham and Detroit Express, James McLuckie of Plymouth Argyle, who died in New York in August 1924 and Queen’s Park Rangers’ Charles Shaw, who died in New York in March 1938.