It's 1967, and amid the massive global cultural changes going on, the social upheaval, the attempted reordering of society's priorities and a swift but bloody war in Israel, the United States tried out football. They called it soccer. Philistines.
Every self-respecting Dons fan knows something of the Washington Whips. At the very least they know that back in 1967 the Club undertook an unusual North American tour and became the representatives of Washington DC in the inaugural season of the North American Soccer League. This was a tour like no other, and the Dons players and management were to experience an adventure like no other summertime football trip that Aberdeen have undertaken.Back in the North East of Scotland that summer, a young loon in Keith was trying very hard to contain his excitement and to follow the exploits of his heroes through the local papers. No internet, no television nor radio cover, just whatever column inches the Evening Express and the Press & Journal chose to offer in the subject. Follow it he did, with a passion and enthusiasm that never dimmed, to the extent that in late 1996 he began to research and write up the whole story, completing it just as the thirtieth anniversary of the final was played. The project, very much from a fan?s point of view, included personal conversations with many of the Aberdeen players who had made the trip and in particular a detailed interview with Eddie Turnbull, who shared many insights and assessments of the whole thing. Much of that material has, until now, never been seen by fans and it is fitting that David Innes's book, including present-day updates, Numbers on the Front is published in the fiftieth anniversary year of that legendary visit. It was a tour where the Dons, as the Whips, came up against many challenging opponents, and ultimately took on Wolverhampton Wanderers in Los Angeles to play off the final of the tournament in what American broadcasters described as the greatest final ever seen. The match is famous not only for the many goals scored by each side, but for its fire and passion - often turning into a powerfully physical contest with punches thrown and rivals chased on to the terraces. No other football club has ever before nor since been able to include the President of the United States amongst its season ticket holders, but the story of LBJ meeting Eddie Turnbull is in the book. Detailed match reports form all of the Whips games, and a great deal of coverage of the other teams involved, fill many pages. What the players got up to, how they travelled, their views on their treatment and on the unusual venues for some of the games, are all in there. All written with humour and topical references to colour the well-informed account of a great adventure. Numbers on the Front can be bought from the Trust's Trust Shop for £7.95 plus postage, or you can write to us AFC Heritage Trust, c/o Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, AB24 5QH
AFC Heritage Trust is a charity run by supporters for the benefit of supporters. Every penny of the proceeds from the book will go towards supporting The Aberdeen Collection and the planning of our Heritage Museum.
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WASHINGTON TRIBUTE TO THE DONSTHERE ARE VARYING VIEWS as to whether professional football will take on in America now that the Dons and the other clubs who were taken over there to boost the game have returned home. One man who seems to have doubts about the game really catching on is Steve Guback, staff writer on the "Washington Post." But he gives Eddie Turnbull's Dons full marks for their efforts. Here are extracts from a recent article: "They'll be gone but hardly forgotten. That's the rub, and the encore for 1968 becomes a staggering task. "It's obvious that the league next year will drop drastically in the calibre of play. Teams like Aberdeen gave American fans a fleeting glimpse of world-class soccer. It was just enough to whet the appetite. "Getting new fans was this year's problem. Keeping the old ones becomes an added ?68 task. Will the hard core, the long-time knowledgeable ones here, come out next year when the calibre of play drops? Who knows? "A few of the current Whips players say frankly that they wouldn't mind some day giving American soccer a fulltime whirl. But others like 18-year-old Martin Buchan, know what home-sickness Is and want no part of an American career. "The way the Scottish lads from Aberdeen captivated the Washington fans who saw them play makes It clear the Whips would have no soccer problem if they could keep this team. "But the Whips and the Dons parted ways in Los Angeles, sadly. A little bit of America has rubbed off on them, but a lot of their fiery championship brand of soccer rubbed off on us. And that, for a city not accustomed to winners, will be awfully hard to top."
Evening Express 22nd July 1967