‘Dennis Viollet – A United Man’ Asia Pacific premiere: An interview with Jeremy Blain

A young boy was sitting on his own after a particularly disappointing soccer training session. Looking down at his boots, he felt physically sick believing he had let his coach down.

The coach noticed this lonely figure, made his way over and put his arm around the forlorn player seemingly attuned to the pain that was filling the youngster but didn’t say anything at first allowing the moment to speak for itself. Finally, he spoke sagely to the boy:

“If you want to achieve your dream, you have to be prepared to chase it.” The coach paused to let the words sink in. “Figure out what your dream is Jeremy and you will make it. For certain”. There was a pause again before he finally said “now let’s get Rach and go have a great meal at Applebee’s!”

Those words were delivered to Jeremy Blain by a man simply known to him as “Uncle Dennis”. The rest of the soccer world better knows “Uncle Dennis” as Dennis Viollet, one of the first of Manchester United’s celebrated Busby Babes.

The journey of Dennis Viollet is an interesting, if undertold, story of a man whose impact on the game was not just restricted to his years at Old Trafford The striker had a successful playing spell at Stoke City before embarking on a mission to coach soccer in the US.

“Dennis was soccer in the US,” Blain said. “When I stayed with the family it was soccer 24/7. Dennis wasn’t just committed to soccer he ate it, drank it, breathed it, lived it, talked it, celebrated it, cursed it (occasionally!) and loved it. It was his other family. No question. Coach Viollet to this day is mentioned with a smile and with honor – and quite rightly too. Not many people outside the US will understand just how great an impact Dennis made on the game there – as a player in ‘those’ power teams and as a coach focused on building the game from the ground up, with American talent and with an eye on the long game – not just the short term wins.” 

Indeed Viollet donned the jersey of the Baltimore Bays as well as the coaching the likes of the Washington Diplomats and the New England Tea Men.

Rachel Viollet, Dennis’ daughter, sought to tell the world about the trail her father blazed particularly his contribution to soccer in the United States producing and directing a documentary about his life: Dennis Viollet – A United Man. The production itself is a family affair with Blain teaming up with his cousin as an associate producer. Blain, who lives in Singapore, suggested the possibility of screening the documentary in Asia allowing Dennis’ story to be told to a whole new audience.

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