Vancouver Whitecaps of days past: the Shaun Lowther Interview

March 25, 2011 at 5:18 am | Posted in My Own Footy Memories, Vancouver Whitecaps | 1 Comment

When I was a youth I got to train with the Vancouver Whitecaps youth team during its NASL days.  One night during a hot summer a fellow called Shaun Lowther came to train with us young lads at the Norwegian Seaman’s Centre in Burnaby.  He was fantastic and trained like a true professional.  Shaun played for the Vancouver Whitecaps from 1980 to 1984.  He contacted me through my blog and I asked if he would be willing to answer a few questions about his time with the Whitecaps in the North American Soccer League.  He agreed.  Here is the interview:

Could you describe where you came from… I think you were born overseas and came to Canada later…

I was born in North Shields a small town just outside of Newcastle in the North East of England. Like any other Geordie lad I grew up watching Newcastle United play. I played for my school and district teams and also played boys club football. I was fortunate to play for Wallsend Boys Club. Other notable players that played for Wallsend were Whitecaps team-mates Peter Beardsley and Ray Hankin as well as players such as current Sunderland Manager Steve Bruce and Burnley Manager Brian Laws. Players such as Alan Shearer and Michael Carrick also started their football with the Boys Club. I signed schoolboy forms with Sunderland at age 14.

In June 1978 at age 16 my family emigrated to Edmonton, Alberta and I got my first taste of football in Canada when I played for the Edmonton Scottish of the Alberta Major Soccer League. I also represented Alberta U18’s. The Edmonton Drillers were formed that year and I trained with them during the 1979 season. League rules stipulated that you had to be 18 to sign. In September 1979 Graham Leggatt decided to “hide” me by sending me to Manchester United. I arrived at Man United and started playing with their A team and represented them in the FA Youth Cup. In the NASL draft the Whitecaps who had been watching me play at United decided to take a chance on me and drafted me. A contract was offered and I attended training camp at Bisham Abbey in March 1980 and signed in due course.

Which seasons did you play with the Whitecaps?

My first season with the Whitecaps was in 1980 and my last was 1984 and the NASL folded later that year.

Which Coaches/managers did you play under?  Who was you favorite?

1st Team Managers in this order: Tony Waiters, Bob McNab, Johnny Giles, Derek Possee and Alan Hinton, Reserves: Richard Dinnis, Nobby Stiles, Alan Errington, Alan Goad and I would be remiss not to mention the backroom staff such as Les Wilson, Jock McDonald, Lou Moro, Barry Crocker, George Wright. My favorite amongst the lot was probably Gilesy. Although I played every game under Hinton, was very impressed with the orgainizational skills of Waiters and laughed my socks off with McNab, Johnny Giles was the Manager who I thought had it all. He knew the game inside and out. His memory of things that had occurred 5 or 6 months previous during matches was uncanny. I yearned for Gilesy to speak to me individually during training so that he could impart some of his wisdom to me. In training he was often the best player during the 5-a-side. I prided myself on being able to pass the ball well but Gilesy was the master in his playing career and even in retirement he was the best.

Name some top players you got to play with/against against during your career.

There are a lot of very good players. As a schoolboy/youth player in the UK played with or against players such as Steve Bruce, Peter Beardsley, Brian Laws, Trevor Stevens, Paul Radcliffe, Mark Hughes, Norman Whiteside, Neville Southall and more. For the Whitecaps, Alan Ball, Willie Johnston, Roger Kenyon, Bruce Grobbelaar, Bruce Wilson, Bob Lenarduzzi, Carl Valentine, George Best, Granitza, Margetic, Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens, Johhny Rep, Teofilo Cubilas, Rudi Krol etc, etc, etc. Without doubt the player that I thought was not only the best Whitecap but in my opinion the best in the whole league during that 5 year period was Frans Thijssen. An absolutely tremendous footballer but also a wonderful man.

What positions did you play for the Whitecaps?

Right back mostly sometimes left back and on the odd occasion Alan Hinton used to play me as a holding midielder with strict orders to “Kick the living shit” out of the oppositions best player.

Biggest match you played in with the Whitecaps?

This is a tough one. My home debut in 1980 against the Portland Timbers at Empire was pretty special. A game aginst the New York Cosmos at BC Place when 7 Canadians started and Terry Felix scored the winner. However, I think a match in 1984 against the New York Cosmos at Giants Stadium I was given the role of “kicking the shit” out of Vladislav Bogicevic undoubtedly their midfield general and one of the best players ever in the NASL. It was an important game as we had not guaranteed a play-off berth yet. I went out played out of my skin and shut him down receiving Man of The Match from BCTV.

I am very interested in the 1980 season in which Ball and Johnston left and Rudi Krol came on board.  Any memories?

My first season with the club I was a bright eyed 18 year old who was star struck as I had grew up in England watching all these fantastic footballers on TV and live at St James Park in Newcastle. In hindsight now it was a funny season. The Whitecaps had won Soccerbowl the previous season and the players were demanding pay raises. So there was a lot of tension in the squad. Tony Waiters had his hands full trying to manage some ver strong characters in Willie Johnston, Alan Ball. Ray Hankin, Trevor Whymark, Phil Parkes etc. One of my favorite footballing memories was the display that Ruud Krol and Alan Ball exhibited when they played together for the first time. The two of them put on a clinic of one touch football. I was in the stands that day and I was amazed at how the two of them tore the opposition apart with 1-2’s. Krol coming out of the back and linking up with Ball was tremendous. Krols passing range was phenomenal. It was a very good team and really we had the players to repeat but the off the field tension probably cost us in the end.

There are a few funny stories from that season.

1. Prior to a trip to California that had been speculation in the media that Tony was going to get rid of Bally and Willie. We trained at Norwegian Seamens Centre in Burnaby in the morning and were going to take an afternoon flight to LA straight after training. Tony Waiters was giving a bollocking to yours truly, Davey Norman and a couple of the other youngsters in the middle of the pitch because we had not been washing the kit correctly or something stupid like that. As we are getting this bollocking Willie comes side skipping past us with these massive joke sunglasses on. We are all staring at him thinking what the heck is he doing. He then turns around and he has this huge FOR SALE sign pinned to his back.

2. That same trip we are in Anaheim and we have a day off so we decide to go to Disneyland. In Disneyland Bruce Grobbelaar buys a fake arm cast. When we get back to the hotel, he puts on the cast and we call George Wright (Physio) and tell him that Grobs as had an accident at Disneyland. He comes to the room and he buys it. He then calls Waiters and Grobbelaar did such a good job that he convinced them both that his arm was broken. They were discussing who they were going to fly in, so they were not to pleased when we finally let them know it was joke.

I believe you played for the Canadian national team.  How many Caps?

17 Caps I believe…

Cheers Shaun!!!  (Perhaps we’ll get more out of him later…)


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