Interview with Ian Plenderleith, author of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the NASL’

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In September 2014, Ian Plenderleith’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League hit bookshelves around the world.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer is a portrait of the original North American Soccer League and the salad days of the professional game in the US and Canada. Throughout the book, Plenderleith recounts the tales of a league that few today will remember; and in some cases, ever have watched. From the ill-fated Team America in Washington DC to Eusebio’s four team NASL sojourn, Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer is an extensive look at the fly-by-night league.

While other books and documentaries have been based on the New York Cosmos or Pele, Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer takes a broader view of the league, with many of the stories told by the NASL players and coaches themselves.

This week, World Soccer Talk was able to sit down with Ian Plenderleith to talk about the NASL, soccer in the US and Canada and the years of North American soccer that are unknown to younger generations today. 

Drew Farmer: Firstly, I just want to say how much I enjoyed reading your book Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League. How did the concept for the book come about and how connected were you to the original NASL?

Ian Plenderleith: How the book came about is simple – I wrote a few features about the league down the years, and was amazed that there had been no comprehensive book written about it. There are books about individual teams, especially the Cosmos, or by individual players who featured in the league, but nothing covering the whole league’s evolution and demise, and looking at the bigger picture of the NASL’s 17 years.

I had no connection to the NASL at all while it was actually in existence, other than knowing it as a faraway league where a lot of British players went during the summer, and that they wore garish kits, had weird names, and played on ‘plastic’ (artificial turf) pitches. The Tulsa Roughnecks actually came and played at my home town club Lincoln City in 1979 (we beat them 9-2), but I missed it completely as I was on holiday with my Mum. I bought the program off eBay, but I have no recollection of it happening at the time.

Drew Farmer: You are a resident of Washington DC, though originally from the UK. Compared to the 70s glory years of the NASL, what is your current opinion of US soccer and Major League Soccer?

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