Grand National 2020 – Betting Offers & Odds – New Customers

What a USL D1 league might look like

TL;DR: Man with too much time on his hands goes deep down the rabbit hole on a concept this sub already didn’t seem that enthusiastic about. If you really want to skip ahead, CTRL+F “verdict” and it’ll get you there.
Two days ago, u/MrPhillyj2wns made a post asking whether USL should launch a D1 league in order to compete in Concacaf. From the top voted replies, it appears this made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.
But I’ve been at home for eight weeks and I am terribly, terribly bored.
So, I present to you this overview of what the USL pyramid might look like if Jake Edwards got a head of steam and attempted to establish a USSF-sanctioned first division. This is by no means an endorsement of such a proposal or even a suggestion that USL SHOULD do such a thing. It is merely an examination of whether they COULD.
Welcome to the Thunderdome USL Premiership
First, there are some base-level assumptions we must make in this exercise, because it makes me feel more scientific and not like a guy who wrote this on Sunday while watching the Belarusian Premier League (Go BATE Borisov!).
  1. All D1 teams must comply with known USSF requirements for D1 leagues (more on that later).
  2. MLS, not liking this move, will immediately remove all directly-owned affiliate clubs from the USL structure (this does not include hybrid ownerships, like San Antonio FC – NYCFC). This removes all MLS2 teams but will not affect Colorado Springs, Reno, RGVFC and San Antonio.
  3. The USL will attempt to maintain both the USL Championship and USL League One, with an eventual mind toward creating the pro/rel paradise that is promised in Relegations 3:16.
  4. All of my research regarding facility size and ownership net worth is correct – this is probably the biggest leap of faith we have to make, since googling “NAME net worth” and “CITY richest people” doesn’t seem guaranteed to return accurate results.
  5. The most a club can increase its available seating capacity to meet D1 requirements in a current stadium is no more than 1,500 seats (10% of the required 15,000). If they need to add more, they’ll need a new facility.
  6. Let’s pretend that people are VERY willing to sell. It’s commonly acknowledged that the USL is a more financially feasible route to owning a soccer club than in MLS (c.f. MLS-Charlotte’s reported $325 million expansion fee) and the USSF has some very strict requirements for D1 sanctioning. It becomes pretty apparent when googling a lot of team’s owners that this requirement isn’t met, so let’s assume everyone that can’t sells to people who meet the requirements.
(Known) USSF D1 league requirements:
- League must have 12 teams to apply and 14 teams by year three
- Majority owner must have a net worth of $40 million, and the ownership group must have a total net worth of $70 million. The value of an owned stadium is not considered when calculating this value.
- Must have teams located in the Eastern, Central and Pacific time zones
- 75% of league’s teams must be based in markets with at a metro population of at least 1 million people.
- All league stadiums must have a capacity of at least 15,000
The ideal club candidate for the USL Premiership will meet the population and capacity requirements in its current ground, which will have a grass playing surface. Of the USL Championship’s 27 independent/hybrid affiliate clubs, I did not find one club that meets all these criteria as they currently stand.
Regarding turf fields, the USSF does not have a formal policy regarding the ideal playing surface but it is generally acknowledged that grass is superior to turf. 6 of 26 MLS stadiums utilize turf, or roughly 23% of stadiums. We’ll hold a similar restriction for our top flight, so 2-3 of our top flight clubs can have turf fields. Seem fair?
Capacity is going to be the biggest issue, since the disparity between current requirements for the second-tier (5,000) and the first tier (15,000) is a pretty massive gap. Nice club you have there, triple your capacity and you’re onto something. As a result, I have taken the liberty of relocating certain (read: nearly all) clubs to new grounds, trying my utmost to keep those clubs in their current markets and –importantly--, ensure they play on grass surfaces.
So, let’s do a case-by-case evaluation and see if we can put together 12-14 teams that meet the potential requirements, because what else do you have to do?
For each club’s breakdown, anything that represents a chance from what is currently true will be underlined.
Candidate: Birmingham Legion FC
Location (Metro population): Birmingham, Ala. (1,151,801)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Legion Field (FieldTurf, 71,594)
Potential owner: Stephens Family (reported net worth $4 billion)
Notes: Birmingham has a pretty strong candidacy. Having ditched the 5,000-seater BBVA Field for Legion Field, which sits 2.4 miles away, they’ve tapped into the city’s soccer history. Legion Field hosted portions of both the men’s and women’s tournaments at the 1996 Olympics, including a 3-1 U.S. loss to Argentina that saw 83,183 pack the house. The Harbert family seemed like strong ownership contenders, but since the death of matriarch Marguerite Harbert in 2015, it’s unclear where the wealth in the family is concentrated, so the Stephens seem like a better candidate. The only real knock that I can think of is that we really want to avoid having clubs play on turf, so I’d say they’re on the bubble of our platonic ideal USL Prem.
Candidate: Charleston Battery
Location (Metro population): Charleston, S.C. (713,000)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Johnson Hagood Stadium (Grass, ~14,700)
Potential owner: Anita Zucker (reported net worth $3 billion)
Notes: Charleston’s candidacy isn’t looking great. Already disadvantaged due to its undersized metro population, a move across the Cooper River to Johnson Hagood Stadium is cutting it close in terms of capacity. The stadium, home to The Citadel’s football team, used to seat 21,000, before 9,300 seats on the eastern grandstand were torn down in 2017 to deal with lead paint that had been used in their construction. Renovation plans include adding 3,000 seats back in, which could hit 15,000 if they bumped it to 3,300, but throw in a required sale by HCFC, LLC (led by content-creation platform founder Rob Salvatore) to chemical magnate Anita Zucker, and you’ll see there’s a lot of ifs and ands in this proposal.
Candidate: Charlotte Independence
Location (Metro population): Charlotte, N.C. (2,569, 213)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Jerry Richardson Stadium (Turf, 15,314)
Potential owner: James Goodnight (reported net worth $9.1 billion)
Notes: Charlotte ticks a lot of the boxes. A move from the Sportsplex at Matthews to UNC-Charlotte’s Jerry Richardson stadium meets capacity requirements, but puts them on to the dreaded turf. Regrettably, nearby American Legion Memorial Stadium only seats 10,500, despite a grass playing surface. With a sizeable metro population (sixth-largest in the USL Championship) and a possible owner in software billionaire James Goodnight, you’ve got some options here. The biggest problem likely lies in direct competition for market share against a much better-funded MLS Charlotte side due to join the league in 2021.
Candidate: Hartford Athletic
Location (Metro population): Hartford, Conn. (1,214,295)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Pratt & Whitney Stadium (Grass, 38,066)
Potential owner: Ray Dalio (reported net worth $18.4 billion)
Notes: Okay, I cheated a bit here, having to relocate Hartford to Pratt & Whitney Stadium, which is technically in East Hartford, Conn. I don’t know enough about the area to know if there’s some kind of massive beef between the two cities, but the club has history there, having played seven games in 2019 while Dillon Stadium underwent renovations. If the group of local businessmen that currently own the club manage to attract Dalio to the table, we’re on to something.
Candidate: Indy Eleven
Location (Metro population): Indianapolis, Ind. (2,048,703)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Lucas Oil Stadium (Turf, 62,421)
Potential owner: Jim Irsay (reported net worth of $3 billion)
Notes: Indy Eleven are a club that are SO CLOSE to being an ideal candidate – if it weren’t for Lucas Oil Stadium’s turf playing surface. Still, there’s a lot to like in this bid. I’m not going to lie, I have no idea what current owner and founder Ersal Ozdemir is worth, but it seems like there might be cause for concern. A sale to Irsay, who also owns the NFL Indianapolis (nee Baltimore) Colts, seems likely to keep the franchise there, rather than make a half-mile move to 14,230 capacity Victory Field where the AAA Indianapolis Indians play and expand from there.
Candidate: Louisville City FC
Location (Metro population): Louisville, Ky. (1,297,310)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Lynn Family Stadium (Grass, 14,000, possibly expandable to 20,000)
Potential owner: Wayne Hughes (reported net worth $2.8 billion)
Notes: I’m stretching things a bit here. Lynn Family stadium is currently listed as having 11,700 capacity that’s expandable to 14,000, but they’ve said that the ground could hold as many as 20,000 with additional construction, which might be enough to grant them a temporary waiver from USSF. If the stadium is a no-go, then there’s always Cardinal Stadium, home to the University of Louisville’s football team, which seats 65,000 but is turf. Either way, it seems like a sale to someone like Public Storage founder Wayne Hughes will be necessary to ensure the club has enough capital.
Candidate: Memphis 901 FC
Location (Metro population): Memphis, Tenn. (1,348,260)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Liberty Bowl Stadium (Turf, 58,325)
Potential owner: Fred Smith (reported net worth $3 billion)
Notes: Unfortunately for Memphis, AutoZone Park’s 10,000 seats won’t cut it at the D1 level. With its urban location, it would likely prove tough to renovate, as well. Liberty Bowl Stadium more than meets the need, but will involve the use of the dreaded turf. As far as an owner goes, FedEx founder Fred Smith seems like a good local option.
Candidate: Miami FC, “The”
Location (Metro population): Miami, Fla. (6,158,824)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Riccardo Silva Stadium (FieldTurf, 20,000)
Potential owner: Riccardo Silva (reported net worth $1 billion)
Notes: Well, well, well, Silva might get his wish for top-flight soccer, after all. He’s got the money, he’s got the metro, and his ground has the capacity. There is the nagging issue of the turf, though. Hard Rock Stadium might present a solution, including a capacity of 64,767 and a grass playing surface. It is worth noting, however, that this is the first profile where I didn’t have to find a new potential owner for a club.
Candidate: North Carolina FC
Location (Metro population): Durham, N.C. (1,214,516 in The Triangle)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Carter-Finley Stadium (Grass/Turf, 57,583)
Potential owner: Steve Malik (precise net worth unknown) / Dennis Gillings (reported net worth of $1.7 billion)
Notes: We have our first “relocation” in North Carolina FC, who were forced to trade Cary’s 10,000-seat WakeMed Soccer Park for Carter-Finley Stadium in Durham, home of the NC State Wolfpack and 57,583 of their closest friends. The move is a whopping 3.1 miles, thanks to the close-knit hub that exists between Cary, Durham and Raleigh. Carter-Finley might be my favorite of the stadium moves in this exercise. The field is grass, but the sidelines are artificial turf. Weird, right? Either way, it was good enough for Juventus to play a friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara there in 2011. Maybe the move would be pushed for by new owner and medical magnate Dennis Gillings, whose British roots might inspire him to get involved in the Beautiful Game. Straight up, though, I couldn’t find a net worth for current owner Steve Malik, though he did sell his company MedFusion for $91 million in 2010, then bought it back for an undisclosed amount and sold it again for $43 million last November. I don’t know if Malik has the juice to meet D1 requirements, but I suspect he’s close.
Candidate: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Location (Metro population): Pittsburgh, Penn. (2,362,453)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Heinz Field (Grass, 64,450)
Potential owner: Henry Hillman (reported net worth $2.5 billion)
Notes: I don’t know a ton about the Riverhounds, but this move in particular feels like depriving a pretty blue-collar club from its roots. Highmark Stadium is a no-go from a seating perspective, but the Steelers’ home stadium at Heinz Field would more than meet the requirements and have a grass surface that was large enough to be sanctioned for a FIFA friendly between the U.S. WNT and Costa Rica in 2015. As for an owner, Tuffy Shallenberger (first ballot owner name HOF) doesn’t seem to fit the USSF bill, but legendary Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Hillman might. I’m sure you’re asking, why not the Rooney Family, if they’ll play at Heinz Field? I’ll tell you: I honestly can’t seem to pin down a value for the family. The Steelers are valued at a little over a billion and rumors persist that Dan Rooney is worth $500 million, but I’m not sure. I guess the Rooneys would work too, but it’s a definite departure from an owner in Shallenberger who was described by one journalist as a guy who “wears boots, jeans, a sweater and a trucker hat.”
Candidate: Saint Louis FC
Location (Metro population): St. Louis, Mo. (2,807,338)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Busch Stadium (Grass, 45,494)
Potential owner: William DeWitt Jr. (reported net worth $4 billion)
Notes: Saint Louis has some weirdness in making the jump to D1. Current CEO Jim Kavanaugh is an owner of the MLS side that will begin play in 2022. The club’s current ground at West Community Stadium isn’t big enough, but perhaps a timely sale to Cardinals owner William DeWitt Jr. could see the club playing games at Busch Stadium, which has a well established history of hosting other sports like hockey, college football and soccer (most recently a U.S. WNT friendly against New Zealand in 2019). The competition with another MLS franchise wouldn’t be ideal, like Charlotte, but with a big enough population and cross marketing from the Cardinals, maybe there’s a winner here. Wacko idea: If Busch doesn’t pan out, send them to The Dome. Sure, it’s a 60k turf closed-in stadium, but we can go for that retro NASL feel and pay homage to our nation’s soccer history.
Candidate: Tampa Bay Rowdies
Location (Metro population): Tampa, Fla. (3,068,511)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Raymond James Stadium (Grass, 65,518)
Potential owner: Edward DeBartolo Jr. (reported net worth $3 billion)
Notes: This one makes me sad. Despite having never been there, I see Al Lang Stadium as an iconic part of the Rowdies experience. Current owner Bill Edwards proposed an expansion to 18,000 seats in 2016, but the move seems to have stalled out. Frustrated with the city’s lack of action, Edwards sells to one-time San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., who uses his old NFL connections to secure a cushy lease at the home of the Buccaneers in Ray Jay, the site of a 3-1 thrashing of Antigua and Barbuda during the United States’ 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign.
Breather. Hey, we finished the Eastern Conference teams. Why are you still reading this? Why am I still writing it? Time is a meaningless construct in 2020 my friends, we are adrift in the void, fueled only by brief flashes of what once was and what may yet still be.
Candidate: Austin Bold FC
Location (Metro population): Austin, Texas (2,168,316)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Darrel K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (FieldTurf, 95,594)
Potential owner: Michael Dell (reported net worth of $32.3 billion)
Notes: Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC has some unexpected competition and it comes in the form of tech magnate Michael Dell. Dell, were he to buy the club, would be one of the richest owners on our list and could flash his cash in the new first division. Would he have enough to convince Darrel K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (I’m not kidding, that’s its actual name) to go back to a grass surface, like it did from ’96-’08? That’s between Dell and nearly 100,000 UT football fans, but everything can be had for the right price.
Candidate: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Location (Metro population): Colorado Springs, Colo. (738,939)
Time zone: Mountain
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Falcon Stadium (FieldTurf, 46,692)
Potential owner: Charles Ergen (reported net worth $10.8 billion)
Notes: Welcome to Colorado Springs. We have hurdles. For the first time in 12 candidates, we’re back below the desired 1 million metro population mark. Colorado Springs actually plans to build a $35 million, 8,000 seat venue downtown that will be perfect for soccer, but in our timeline that’s 7,000 seats short. Enter Falcon Stadium, home of the Air Force Academy Falcons football team. Seems perfect except for the turf, right? Well, the tricky thing is that Falcon Stadium is technically on an active military base and is (I believe) government property. Challenges to getting in and out of the ground aside, the military tends to have a pretty grim view of government property being used by for-profit enterprises. Maybe Charles Ergen, founder and chairman of Dish Network, would be able to grease the right wheels, but you can go ahead and throw this into the “doubtful” category. It’s a shame, too. 6,035 feet of elevation is one hell of a home-field advantage.
Candidate: El Paso Locomotive FC
Location: El Paso, Texas
Time zone: Mountain
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Sun Bowl (FieldTurf, 51,500)
Potential owner: Paul Foster (reported net worth $1.7 billion)
Notes: God bless Texas. When compiling this list, I found so many of the theoretical stadium replacements were nearly serviceable by high school football fields. That’s insane, right? Anyway, Locomotive don’t have to settle for one of those, they’ve got the Sun Bowl, which had its capacity reduced in 2001 to a paltry 51,500 (from 52,000) specifically to accommodate soccer. Sure, it’s a turf surface, but what does new owner Paul Foster (who is only the 1,477th wealthiest man in the world, per Forbes) care, he’s got a team in a top league. Side note: Did you know that the Sun Bowl college football game is officially, through sponsorship, the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl? Why is it not the Frosted Flakes Sun Bowl? Why is the cereal mascot the promotional name of the football game? What are you doing, Kellogg’s?
Candidate: Las Vegas Lights FC
Location: Las Vegas, Nev. (2,227,053)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Allegiant Stadium (Grass, 61,000)
Potential owner: Sheldon Adelson (reported net worth $37.7 billion)
Notes: Sin City. You had to know that the club that once signed Freddy Adu because “why not” was going to go all out in our flashy hypothetical proposal. Thanks to my narrative control of this whole thing, they have. Adelson is the second-richest owner in the league and has decided to do everything first class. That includes using the new Raiders stadium in nearby unincorporated Paradise, Nevada, and spending boatloads on high profile transfers. Zlatan is coming back to the U.S., confirmed.
Candidate: New Mexico United
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Time zone: Mountain
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Isotopes Park – officially Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park (Grass, 13,500 – 15,000 with expansion)
Potential owner: Maloof Family (reported net worth $1 billion)
Notes: New Mexico from its inception went deep on the community vibe, and I’ve tried to replicate that in this bid. The home field of Rio Grande Cr---I’m not typing out the whole thing—Isotopes Park falls just within the expansion rules we set to make it to 15,000 (weird, right?) and they’ve found a great local ownership group in the Lebanese-American Maloof (formerly Maalouf) family from Las Vegas. The only thing to worry about would be the metro population, but overall, this could be one of the gems of USL Prem.
Candidate: Oklahoma City Energy FC
Location: Oklahoma City, Okla. (1,396,445)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (Grass, 13,066)
Potential owner: Harold Hamm (reported net worth $14.2 billion)
Notes: There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow and it says it’s time to change stadiums and owners to make it to D1. A sale to oil magnate Harold Hamm would give the club the finances it needs, but Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (home of the OKC Dodgers) actually falls outside of the boundary of what would meet capacity if 1,500 seats were added. Could the club pull off a move to Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma – home of the Oklahoma Sooners? Maybe, but at 20 miles, this would be a reach.
Candidate: Orange County SC
Location: Irvine, Calif. (3,176, 000 in Orange County)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Angels Stadium of Anaheim (Grass, 43,250)
Potential owner: Arte Moreno (reported net worth $3.3 billion)
Notes: You’ll never convince me that Rangers didn’t choose to partner with Orange County based primarily on its name. Either way, a sale to MLB Angels owner Arte Moreno produces a fruitful partnership, with the owner choosing to play his newest club out of the existing Angels stadium in OC. Another baseball conversion, sure, but with a metro population of over 3 million and the closest thing this hypothetical league has to an LA market, who’s complaining?
Candidate: Phoenix Rising FC
Location: Phoenix, Ariz. (4,857,962)
Time zone: Arizona
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): State Farm Stadium (Grass, 63,400)
Potential owner: Ernest Garcia II (reported net worth $5.7 billion)
Notes: We’re keeping it local with new owner and used car guru Ernest Garcia II. His dad owned a liquor store and he dropped out of college, which is making me feel amazing about my life choices right now. Casino Arizona Field is great, but State Farm Stadium is a grass surface that hosted the 2019 Gold Cup semifinal, so it’s a clear winner. Throw in Phoenix’s massive metro population and this one looks like a lock.
Candidate: Reno 1868 FC
Location: Reno, Nev. (425,417)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Mackay Stadium (FieldTurf, 30,000)
Potential owner: Nancy Walton Laurie (reported net worth $7.1 billion)
Notes: The Biggest Little City on Earth has some serious barriers to overcome, thanks to its low metro population. A sale to Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie and 1.6 mile-move to Mackay Stadium to split space with the University of Nevada, Reno makes this bid competitive, but the turf surface is another knock against it.
Candidate: Rio Grande Valley FC
Location: Edinburg, Texas (900,304)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): McAllen Memorial Stadium (FieldTurf, 13,500 – 15,000 with expansion)
Potential owner: Alice Louise Walton (reported net worth $45 billion)
Notes: Yes, I have a second straight Walmart heiress on the list. She was the first thing that popped up when I googled “McAllen Texas richest people.” The family rivalry has spurred Walton to buy a club as well, moving them 10 miles to McAllen Memorial Stadium which, as I alluded to earlier, is a straight up high school football stadium with a full color scoreboard. Toss in an additional 1,500 seats and you’ve met the minimum, despite the turf playing surface.
Candidate: San Antonio FC
Location: San Antonio, Texas (2,550,960)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Alamodome (FieldTurf, 64,000)
Potential owner: Red McCombs (reported net worth $1.6 billion)
Notes: I wanted to keep SAFC in the Spurs family, since the franchise is valued at $1.8 billion. That said, I didn’t let the Rooneys own the Riverhounds based on the Steelers’ value and it felt wrong to change the rules, so bring on Clear Channel co-founder Red McCombs. Toyota Field isn’t viable in the first division, but for the Alamodome, which was built in 1993 in hopes of attracting an NFL franchise (and never did), San Antonio can finally claim having *a* national football league team in its town (contingent on your definition of football). Now if only we could do something about that turf…
Candidate: San Diego Loyal SC
Location: San Diego, Calif. (3,317,749)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm) (Grass, 70,561)
Potential owner: Phil Mickelson (reported net worth $91 million)
Notes: Yes, golf’s Phil Mickelson. The existing ownership group didn’t seem to have the wherewithal to meet requirements, and Phil seemed to slot right in. As an athlete himself, he might be interesting in the new challenges of a top flight soccer team. Toss in a move to the former home of the chargers and you might have a basis for tremendous community support.
Candidate: FC Tulsa
Location: Tulsa, Okla. (991,561)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium (FieldTurf, 30,000)
Potential owner: George Kaiser ($10 billion)
Notes: I’m a fan of FC Tulsa’s rebrand, but if they want to make the first division, more changes are necessary. A sale to Tulsa native and one of the 100 richest men in the world George Kaiser means that funding is guaranteed. A move to Chapman Stadium would provide the necessary seats, despite the turf field. While the undersize population might be an issue at first glance, it’s hard to imagine U.S. Soccer not granting a waiver over a less than a 10k miss from the mark.
And that’s it! You made it. Those are all of the independent/hybrid affiliates in the USL Championship, which means that it’s time for our…
VERDICT: As an expert who has studied this issue for almost an entire day now, I am prepared to pronounce which USL Championships could be most ‘ready” for a jump to the USL Prem. A reminder that of the 27 clubs surveyed, 0 of them met our ideal criteria (proper ownership $, metro population, 15,000+ stadium with grass field).
Two of them, however, met almost all of those criteria: Indy Eleven and Miami FC. Those two clubs may use up two of our three available turf fields right from the outset, but the other factors they hit (particularly Silva’s ownership of Miami) makes them difficult, if not impossible to ignore for the top flight.
But who fill in the rest of the slots? Meet the entire 14-team USL Premier League:
Hartford Athletic
Indy Eleven
Louisville City FC
Miami FC
North Carolina FC
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Saint Louis FC
San Antonio FC
New Mexico United
Phoenix Rising FC
Las Vegas Lights FC
Orange County SC
San Diego Loyal SC
Now, I shall provide my expert rationale for each club’s inclusion/exclusion, which can be roughly broken down into four categories.
Firm “yes”
Hartford Athletic: It’s a good market size with a solid stadium. With a decent investor and good community support, you’ve got potential here.
Indy Eleven: The turf at Lucas Oil Stadium is no reason to turn down a 62,421 venue and a metro population of over 2 million.
Louisville City FC: Why doesn’t the 2017 & 2018 USL Cup champion deserve a crack at the top flight? They have the market size, and with a bit of expansion have the stadium at their own SSS. LCFC, you’re in.
Miami FC, “The”: Our other blue-chip recruit on the basis of ownership value, market size and stadium capacity. Yes, that field is turf, but how could you snub Silva’s chance to claim victory as the first division 1 club soccer team to play in Miami?
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC: Pittsburgh sacrificed a lot to be here (according to my arbitrary calculations). Their market size and the potential boon of soccer at Heinz Field is an important inclusion to the league.
Saint Louis FC: Willie hears your “Busch League” jokes, Willie don’t care. A huge market size, combined with the absence of an NFL franchise creates opportunity. Competition with the MLS side, sure, but St. Louis has serious soccer history and we’re willing to bet it can support two clubs.
Tampa Bay Rowdies: With a huge population and a massive stadium waiting nearby, Tampa Bay seems like too good of an opportunity to pass up for the USL Prem.
Las Vegas Lights FC: Ostentatious, massive and well-financed, Las Vegas Lights FC is everything that the USL Premier League would need to assert that it didn’t intend to play second fiddle to MLS. Players will need to be kept on a short leash, but this is a hard market to pass up on.
Phoenix Rising FC: Huge population, big grass field available nearby and a solid history of success in recent years. No brainer.
San Diego Loyal SC: New club? Yes, massive population in a market that recently lost an absolutely huge sports presence? Also yes. This could be the USL Prem’s Seattle.
Cautious “yes”
New Mexico United: You have to take a chance on New Mexico United. The club set the league on fire with its social media presence and its weight in the community when it entered the league last season. The market may be slightly under USSF’s desired 1 million, but fervent support (and the ability to continue to use Isotopes Park) shouldn’t be discounted.
North Carolina FC: Carter-Finley’s mixed grass/turf surface is a barrier, to be sure, but the 57,000+ seats it offers (and being enough to offset other fully-turf offerings) is enough to put it in the black.
Orange County SC: It’s a top-tier club playing in a MLB stadium. I know it seems unlikely that USSF would approve something like that, but believe me when I say “it could happen.” Orange County is a massive market and California likely needs two clubs in the top flight.
San Antonio FC: Our third and only voluntary inclusion to the turf fields in the first division, we’re counting on San Antonio’s size and massive potential stadium to see it through.
Cautious “no”
Birmingham Legion FC: The town has solid soccer history and a huge potential venue, but the turf playing surface puts it on the outside looking in.
Memphis 901 FC: Like Birmingham, not much to dislike here outside of the turf playing surface at the larger playing venue.
Austin Bold FC: See the other two above.
FC Tulsa: Everything’s just a little bit off with this one. Market’s slightly too small, stadium has turf. Just not enough to put it over the top.
Firm “no”
Charleston Battery: Small metro and a small potential new stadium? It’s tough to say yes to the risk.
Charlotte Independence: A small new stadium and the possibility of having to compete with an organization that just paid over $300 million to join MLS means it’s best for this club to remain in the USL Championship.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC: When a club’s best chance to meet a capacity requirement is to host games at a venue controlled by the military, that doesn’t speak well to a club’s chances.
El Paso Locomotive FC: An undersized market and a turf field that meets capacity requirements is the death knell for this one.
Oklahoma City Energy FC: Having to expand a baseball field to meet requirements is a bad start. Having to potentially play 20 miles away from your main market is even worse.
Reno 1868 FC: Population nearly a half-million short of the federation’s requirements AND a turf field at the hypothetical new stadium makes impossible to say yes to this bid.
Rio Grande Valley FC: All the seat expansions in the world can’t hide the fact that McAllen Memorial Stadium is a high school stadium through and through.
Here’s who’s left in the 11-team Championship:
Birmingham Legion FC
Charleston Battery
Charlotte Independence
Memphis 901 FC
Austin Bold FC
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
El Paso Locomotive FC
Oklahoma City Energy FC
Reno 1868 FC
Rio Grande Valley FC
FC Tulsa
With MLS folding the six affiliates it has in USL League One, the league is a little bit thin (especially considering USSF’s requirements for 8 teams for lower level leagues), but seems definitely able to expand up to the necessary numbers with Edwards’ allusions to five new additions this year:
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
Forward Madison FC
Greenville Triumph SC
Union Omaha
Richmond Kickers
South Georgia Tormenta
FC Tucson
Format of Assorted Leagues – This (like everything in this post) is pure conjecture on my part, but here are my thoughts on how these leagues might function in a first year while waiting for additional expansion.
USL Premier – We’ll steal from the 12-team Scottish Premiership. Each club plays the other 11 clubs 3 times, with either one or two home matches against each side. When each club has played 33 matches, the top six and bottom six separate, with every club playing an additional five matches (against each other team in its group). The top club wins the league. The bottom club is automatically relegated. The second-bottom club will enter a two-legged playoff against someone (see below) from the championship playoffs.
USL Championship -- 11 clubs is a challenge to schedule for. How about every club plays everyone else three times (either one or two home matches against each side)? Top four clubs make the playoffs, which are decided by two-legged playoffs. The winner automatically goes up. I need feedback on the second part – is it better to have the runner-up from the playoffs face the second-bottom club from the Premiership, or should the winner of the third-place match-up get the chance to face them to keep drama going in both playoff series? As for relegation, we can clearly only send down the last place club while the third division is so small.
USL League One – While the league is so small, it doesn’t seem reasonable to have the clubs play as many matches as the higher divisions. Each club could play the other six clubs four times – twice at home and twice away – for a very equitable 24-match regular season, which would help restrict costs and still provide a chance to determine a clear winner. Whoever finishes top of the table goes up.
And there you have it, a hypothetical look at how the USL could build a D1 league right now. All it would take is a new stadium for almost the entire league and new owners for all but one of the 27 clubs, who wouldn’t feel that their property would be massively devalued if they got relegated.
Well that’s our show. I’m curious to see what you think of all of this, especially anything that you think I may have overlooked (I’m sure there’s plenty). Anyway, I hope you’re all staying safe and well.
submitted by Soccervox to USLPRO [link] [comments]

Kubala, the path to glory of Barcelona's most loved legend: A story of overcoming, adventures, crazy nights, majestic matches and of a good man who made everybody around him happy.

Nothing in Kubala's life was normal. Now that TV series about sportsmen are fashionable, the one that could be made about the adventures of Ladislao Kubala Stecz (Budapest, 1927) would raze through many seasons. In one season we could go deeper into his facet of legendary footballer, capable of changing the way of playing this sport, how he saved his life at the very last moment by not getting on the Torino plane that crashed in Superga, or how he was ten minutes away from signing for Real Madrid or enrolling in the Pirate League of Colombia, all of this in order to end being Barcelona's biggest icon... who ended playing for Espanyol.
We could add a season of adventures due to his incredible escape from communist Hungary. His journey through Italy with a football team, the Hungaria, of stateless people in which in addition to Hungarians also played Croats, Albanians, Romanians and Serbs who were looking for a life as good as they could get. One could also add to this the facet of the social phenomenon that dazzled a country during the dark years of Franco's regime by becoming a pop star, and end up with another season about the legends, real, invented or simply exaggerated, of his adventures in Barcelona's nightclubs.
Everything about Kubala is like a movie.

The legend of the escape.

Born in Budapest to a Hungarian man and a Slovakian woman, he always considered himself as both Hungarian and Slovakian, even when this republic was part of the now extinct Czechoslovakia. By the age of 20, Kubala was a football star known for his performances with Slovan Bratislava and Vasas Budapest. In fact, he had already been capped by Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Later, he would go on to play for Spain, and is still the only player to have been capped by three countries. But fed up with the system that was preventing him from developing his professional football career, he embarked on an escape proper of a movie to the West. He contacted a human trafficking organisation, a mafia that, in exchange for a large amount of money, facilitated a partial escape. As is now the case with criminals who gamble with the lives of people who want to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe or pass to the United States through the southern border, the smugglers did not secure anything. The last part of the journey depended on the luck and expertise of the escapees and often ended tragically.
"I remember that when I escaped from Hungary I was just a kid. The traffickers left us in the middle of a mountain to do the last stretch on foot. We were a large group. The adults gathered the children and gave us palinka. A liquor similar to brandy to get us drunk and fall asleep. A child's cry could alert the border guards patrolling the mountain. And they had orders to shoot to kill. The group split in two. My group was lucky and we were able to win the Austrian border. Once we were safe, we learned that the other group that had travelled with us and took another road was discovered and killed." The chilling story is that of Zoltan Czibor, the son of the former Barça player who tells how he had to flee Hungary with his family to join his father in Italy. The odyssey of Kubala, six years earlier, was mirrored.
The traffickers disguised Kubala as a Russian soldier and put him in a truck that would leave the escapees at an undetermined point in the mountains so that they could cross the border into Austria on their own. Kubala remembered that this journey scared him to death because unlike his comrades, he was a national celebrity and any soldier who checked the military truck would recognize him. He was endangering his life and the lives of those who accompanied him.
When they were left in the mountain on January 27, 1949, Kubala walked, and crossing a river helped by a tire that carried him, managed to reach Innsbuck, Austria, without any documentation. He was a stateless man starting from scratch.
In Austria he managed to sign with Pro Patria, a team from Milan, but he could only play friendly matches. His escape provoked the anger of the Hungarian regime, which denounced him and blocked his registration. Kubala had married Anna Daucik two years earlier, sister of Fernando Daucik, a veteran player of the era who would later become a famous coach. When Kubala fled, he left behind his family, whom he was unable to reunite with until six months later, when Anna was able to cross the border and meet Ladislao in Udine. He arrived with one more member of the family. A baby, her firstborn, whom Kubala did not yet know.
While he is irregularly enrolled in the Pro Patria, he gets the chance to sign with Torino, Italy's dominant team at the time. He is offered a trial match. Nothing better than a friendly match that Il Grande Torino had in Lisbon as a tribute to Xico Ferreira. However, when the Turin team's plane is about to take off, the president of Torino prevents Kubala from boarding because he fears a federal sanction. On the return flight, on 4 May 1949, the Fiat G 212 of Avio Linee Italiana crashed into the retaining wall of the Basilica of Superga due to the wind, poor visibility and an error in the altimeter of the aircraft. At 180 kilometres per hour and with a visibility of 40 metres, the pilot saw the stone wall of the basilica too late when he thought the plane was at 2,000 metres and was actually at 690 metres above sea level. The 31 people who were travelling in that aircraft died. Kubala had saved his life again.

The legend of Hungaria.

With no possibility of playing in Italy because the back then very powerful Italian Communist Party was pressing to prevent people fleeing from countries in the orbit of the USSR from taking refuge in Italy, Kubala had no choice but to form a team of stateless people who hired their services throughout Europe to play friendly matches against whoever hired them.
The team was called Hungaria, was managed by his brother-in-law Fernando Daucik and was mainly made up of Hungarians, although there were also players of other nationalities. It was made up of: Kis, Marik, Torok, Mogoy, Lami, Rákosi, Hrotko, Majteny, Nagy, Kubala, Otto, Licker, Turbeky, Monsider (Croatian), De Lorenzi (Albanian), Szegedi (Romanian) and Arangelovic (Serbian).
They played their first match against Italy's B team, but again pressure from the PCI forced them to play outside Italy. And that is how they arrived in Spain, hired by Santiago Bernabéu. On June 5, 1950, they faced Real Madrid in Chamartin, losing 4-2, but with a stellar performance by Kubala, who scored both of his team's goals. Three days later, they beat the Spanish team that was preparing for the World Cup in Brazil, where they came in fourth, 1-2 again with a great performance by Kubala, who received an offer from Real Madrid to be signed.
Kubala requires that to join the team, Madrid must also hire Daucik as a coach, something that Bernabéu does not agree to. The Madrid coach at that time was the Briton Keeping, a great connoisseur of WM tactics. Daucik is offered to train the Plus Ultra, a Madrid branch that plays in the third division. That negative and the federative problems that drags Kubala cause that Madrid becomes disinterested in his transfer, that was already agreed lacking of some fringes that turned out to be determinant.
The Hungaria moves two days later to Barcelona, where on June 10 plays against Espanyol losing 6-4 in a match with Pepe Samitier, the technical secretary of Barça, in the stands. It is necessary to emphasize that Hungaria had been playing three matches in five days with a very short team and without being able to make substitutions. Even so, Kubala amazes and Samitier does not mess around. Six days after that match, on 16 June 1950, at half past six in the evening, Kubala signed his three-year contract with Barça at the Pasaje Méndez Vigo. Obviously, with Fernando Daucik as coach. President Montal, Sr., signed him as an "amateur player" in order to avoid any trouble for the federation.
Real Madrid rages and is shocked. Pablo Hernández, general secretary of the white entity and Santiago Bernabéu's right hand, assures that Barça had broken a non-aggression pact between both teams and had hired a player with whom they were in talks. Samitier, who was unbeatable in the media, declares that he had been following Kubala for months and that the pact had not been broken because it referred only to players who played in Spanish teams. And Hungaria was not Spanish. In fact, it wasn't from anywhere.
But Kubala's problems didn't end there. He still didn't have a registration card or an international certificate. Vasas in Budapest and the Hungarian Federation had reported him to FIFA. Barça used the weak argument that since professionalism had been abolished in Hungary, any amateur player could choose his destiny. But the fight was not going to be so easy.
Barça, it is fair to say, had the total support of the regime and the Federation to carry out the transfer. At the level of anti-communist propaganda, Kubala was perfect. A young and extraordinary sportsman who fled from the red hell to take refuge in Franco's Spain was a candy too sweet to let go. Muñoz Calero, president of the Federation, rowed in favor of Barça as did Ricardo Cabot, secretary of the organization, who, in addition to his affection for the regime, was a well-known Barcelona supporter.
But the procedures were very slow and Kubala could only play friendly matches. He made his debut against Osasuna on 12 October, scoring two goals on the day the Barça fans knew instantly that they had just signed a star. Then he played against Zaragoza, Frankfurt twice, Girona and the Badalona. In six friendlies he scored 11 goals. The fans and the player himself were eager to meet in an official match. For all this, the Federation to play the role with FIFA fined Barça every time he lined up Kubala with the symbolic figure of 50 pesetas.
It is at this time that Kubala is about to leave everything and go away from Barça. He needed the money and wanted to play at the highest level and in Colombia he was offered the chance to do so. The South American country had organised the so-called Pirate League outside FIFA and many of the world's biggest stars joined, including Alfredo Di Stefano who went to Millonarios in Bogota. Kubala had a tempting offer from Atletico Bucaramanga. With the option of Kubala leaving, events accelerated. To begin with, Barça fixed his financial situation by means of a peculiar amateur contract in which they paid him 1,200 pesetas for "compensation" and 3,800 for "encouragement and overfeeding".
On April 2, 1951, he was granted the status of political refugee as a stateless person, which was a step towards granting him Spanish nationality. But for this step, Kubala first had to be converted to Catholicism through the sacrament of baptism. Every Spaniard had to be a Catholic. Kubala was baptized in Aguilas, Murcia, the birthplace of Muñoz Calero, president of the Federation. It is then when Barça, to avoid problems, settles its differences economically with Vasas, which despite being against capitalism accepts a payment of 300,000 pesetas to provide the transfer, while the Pro Patria, which also complained, is satisfied with 12 million lire.
The Kubala era could now really commence.

The legend on the field.

Kubala made his official debut with Barcelona in Sevilla in a cup match. The Sevillistas at that time were one of the best teams. Sevilla and Barça had developed in that period a great rivalry in the high places of the table. In 1946 Sevilla had stolen the possibility of winning the championship from Barça by drawing in Les Corts on the last day, in 1948 Barça beat the Sevillians in the final of the Eva Perón Cup (which would be the current Supercup) and in that campaign a Barça without Kubala had lost all its options to win La Liga after losing 4-0 in Nervión three days before the end of the season.
The Cup, by that time was played once the regular season was over and in those circumstances the official debut of Kubala took place. On April 29th in Nervion, Barça arrived to play against Sevilla in the middle of a difficult atmosphere. The Andalusians had lost the league in a dramatic outcome when they drew at home in the last match against Atletico Madrid with a refereeing performance that the locals judged scandalous. For further concern, the Federation allowed Kubala to line up with Barça in the first round of the Cup, which in Sevilla was taken as a surprise.
With the stadium full to the flag, Barcelona defeated Sevilla in an exhibition of Kubala. He wasn't just the best of the match but he showed Spain a way of playing football unthinkable until that time: chest controls, shots with curve, millimetric changes of play of 40 meters, protection of the ball with his back, use of the body in the shot and touches with the heel.
Domenech, Sevilla's attacker who was the direct protagonist of that match, explained years later how he remembered that day.
"It was something never seen before. Ramallets kicked it and he would receive her with his chest, or with either of his legs. If you tackled him he would dribble you in a brick. He'd put the ball where he wanted her. Besides, from time to time he changed with César, he'd be a center forward and César would be a midfielder. They drove us crazy. The anger of the people became clamours. We were witnessing something extraordinary. It was like going from black and white cinema to colour," explained the former Sevilla player. The Sevilla crowd, who had welcomed Barça and its new superstar with anger, ended up giving Kubala a standing ovation for every action as if they were watching a glorious bullfighting performance.
Kubala's actions on the field change football forever. Since there was no television, his exploits are reported orally. There is no other way to see it than to go to the field of Les Corts, which is packed for every game Barça plays as a local. It is a very common argument to say that Kubala forced Barça to build the Camp Nou because the old Les Corts was not enough to accommodate all the people who wanted to admire him. Maybe he had an influence, but as the journalist Frederic Porta, author of an interesting biography of Kubala (Kubala, l'heroi que va canviar la història del Barça. Ed. Saldonar) explains, "the truth is that Barça had already bought the land to build the Camp Nou two years before and the idea of making a bigger field already existed, but Kubala advanced everything and justified the change".
Blessed with brutal technique, a sensational strike of the ball and an unusual physical strength, Kubala changed football. He would throw free-kicks over the wall with curve or by making the ball bounce in front of the goalkeeper, he would take penalties (he was practically infallible) with what was later called paradinha and was credited with the Brazilians although he was the first in Europe to do so. Physically he was a bull. In his youth he had practiced boxing and if he didn't become a recognized fighter with a great career it was because he had short arms. His lower body was sensational. He had a butt and legs that allowed him to protect the ball like no one else. Frederic Porta says that "in his time of splendour they measured his thighs and each one had a circumference of 69 centimetres, which would be the waist of one of his companions". He was also capable of running the 100 metres in less than 11 seconds. A total athlete with a very refined technique.
However, that physical strength and the confidence he had in her, for he never avoided a collision, were his downfall. Kubala became the target of a hunt by rival defenders. He never went into hiding and that's why in eleven years at Barcelona he suffered up to eleven injuries of some seriousness. With matches without television, the harshness that bordered on violence was the order of the day. He was being kicked to death.
But Barça was living its most golden period to date. Moreover, the club revolved around Kubala. Frederic Porta compares it with the present time: "Now they say that Messi commands the club and surely he commands, but nothing to do with the influence that Kubala had. Kubala was the boss and even the one who decided the transfers. And no one was surprised. That Barça adopted the socks with the horizontal stripes blaugrana is his imposition. He saw them on the rugby team, liked them and incorporated them into the football team by decree. In fact, it is he who insists on signing Luis Suarez when he impresses him in a match against Deportivo. Kubala was Suarez's first fan, but what happened in the stands, which was divided between Suaristas and Kubalistas, is another matter.
Suarez was eight years younger than Kubala. He arrived at Barcelona at the age of 19, Kubala was 27 and his physique was very punished by his injuries and the life he was living, as he did not deprive himself of anything. If he held out, it was because of privileged genetics.
Therefore, there never was a real competition between them, but there was a lot of influence here from the figure of Helenio Herrera, the Barça manager, who saw Kubala as older and slower and was looking forward to a quick change by the young Galician as the leader of the team. The debate reached the stands and the media. It was an absurd debate, because they didn't play in the same position, with whom Kubala really had a certain rivalry with Eulogio Martínez, who was the one with whom he alternated the position.
Kubala's physical problems were not only due to injuries. He had the whole of Spain in suspense when he suffered a tuberculosis that could have cost him his life. There are apocryphal versions that explain that this tuberculosis was actually a stab wound he suffered in a fight in a cheap pub in the fifth district (Barcelona's Chinatown) and he has to retire to Montseny to recover. Nobody is betting on his return to the pitch if he survives a "hole in the lung the size of a silver bullet" according to the chronicles of the time. But once again, Kubala's ability to survive prevails. He returns to the pitches, but already heavily punished and slowed down.
It is against this backdrop that the 1961 European Cup final arrives, with Kubala arriving at the age of 34 with a herniated disc that barely allows him to walk, but he wants to play. He knows that the club is going through a critical situation despite having reached the final of the maximum trophy for the first time: the club is bankrupt because of the construction of the Camp Nou, the fights in the board of directors are chaotic, Luis Suarez has signed for Inter (the one in Bern will be his last game with Barça), which was where Helenio Herrera had left the team in the hands of Enrique Orizaola.
Kubala tells Orizaola to line him up, that like all the Portuguese will go for him and he can barely move because of the back pain and will play with painkillers, it will give more opportunities to his teammates. But the match is a pile of misfortunes for Barcelona. Ramallets scores an own goal, Barça shoots three times to the damn square posts of the goals (from then on they would change their shape) even Kubala kicked a ball that hit a post, went through the goal line until it hit the other post and came out repelled. Barça lost and Kubala's time at Barcelona came to an end.

The man of the year.

Kubala's significance goes beyond the playing field. According to a vote made for Radio Barcelona by journalist Joaquín Soler Serrano in the mid-50s, the Catalans most loved by their fellow citizens were Doctor Barraquer and Ladislao Kubala.
"He was literally the most famous person in the city, people really venerated him, and even Messi's influence cannot be compared to that of Kubala in those years," explains Porta.
His life off the field was notorious. An unrepentant night owl, it was common to see him in Barcelona's fashionable coffee shops and nightclubs. He was a man who stood out. Alfredo Relaño defines him in some of his articles as "a demigod. Tall, strong, blond with blue eyes and an overflowing personality. He aroused the admiration of men and women alike. An idol". Frederic Porta sums it up with the argument that "he would be the sum of Messi and Beckham and on top of that, he would go out every night".
Faced with Kubala's disorganised life, the Barcelona management decided to set up a private detective agency to follow him at night. The reports of the detectives are still in the Centre de Documentació del FC Barcelona and Frederic Porta published them in the history magazine 'Sàpiens'. In them, he gives a detailed account of the nocturnal wanderings of "Mr. K.", the code name of the Blaugrana star in an exercise in absurd discretion. There is also a letter from a Sabadell businessman in the club's archives, expressing concern that Kubala and Czibor had been "found in a Sabadell establishment after 2.30 in the morning accompanied by some of those ladies who were once gentlemen, I don't know if you understand". What the businessman doesn't explain in the letter is what he was doing in the same place.
Kubala's fondness for drinking was no secret. Helenio Herrera explains in a television interview that "one day at an airport in customs they asked Kubala if he had anything to declare and he said two bottles of whisky. The official asked him to show them to him and he, laughing, touched his belly and said: 'X-ray, I have them inside'. On another occasion, in the same situation, but carrying the bottle in the bag, he was told to leave it at the airport because no alcoholic drinks were allowed to be taken on board. Neither shy nor lazy, he drank it in front of the astonished official.
The legends about the occasions when the night was made longer and he did not arrive at training sessions or matches were recurrent. In that case, he called on the services of Angel Mur Sr., the team masseur who knew where to find him. He would start a pilgrimage through the usual places or floors until he found him, took him to the changing room, gave him a cold shower, a coffee with salt, a massage and played. The fans forgave him everything and were aware that their star was a man of joyful life. But he never failed on the field. Among the crowd at the time there were comments about the Kubala ritual in those games that followed a busy night. "He started off badly, and vaguely, but the signal was when, ten minutes into the game, he rolled up his sleeves as if to say 'I'm here, let's start, I've already cleared off', and the machine started to work.
You can't find anyone in the world who speaks ill of Kubala. Absolutely no one. Everyone highlights his huge heart and that despite being by far the highest paid player of the time (he earned six times more than his teammates) he didn't have a no for anyone. His detachment from money was legendary.
As proof, the anecdote explained by his biographer Porta: "one day he arrived at the dressing room and commented that his car had been stolen and that in the glove compartment he was carrying an envelope with 200,000 pesetas, which was a fortune for the time (a good apartment could cost 130,000 pesetas). When his colleagues tried to encourage him, he simply said: someone who needs it more than I do must have taken it".
It was also usual for him to take off his coat and give it to a poor man who begged in Barcelona's winter, or to take in any Hungarian who came to Barcelona asking for help in his house in Carrer Duquesa d'Orleans. Kubala, remembering his times as a stateless refugee without papers, asked nothing. He would take them home and pay them a boat ticket to America. The motto among the refugees fleeing the Iron Curtain was that "if you get to Barcelona, look for Kubala, he will help you". He never failed.
Later, now retired, he set up a bar next to Czibor in Capitan Arenas Street, the mythical Kep Duna (blue Danube in Hungarian) that became an unofficial refugee reception centre that was monitored by the secret services of the United States, the USSR and the Spanish police. Something like the Rick's Café in the film Casablanca, but in the upper area of Barcelona.
He was the great character of Barcelona loved by all, but there was a moment when this was almost broken, strange as it may seem. It coincided with the defeat in Bern, when a part of the press came to write that "Barça must be de-Kubalized as the Soviet Union must be de-Stalinized" and, especially, when he signed for Espanyol. The earthquake was a huge one.

From the bench to Sarrià.

After the defeat in Bern's final, Kubala announced his retirement from the fields. He had taken the coaching course and was ranked number one in his class. He made a pact with the president Llaudet, who was also an interesting character as we will see, that in principle he would take charge of the footballers' school of the club and that in a couple of years he would be in charge of the first team.
Meanwhile, Barcelona is directed by Lluís Miró who faces a team in disarray. Suarez has been transferred to Inter in the worst decision in the club's history and myths such as Ramallets, Tejada and Czibor were in the decline of their careers. The season starts badly and after losing at Mestalla to Valencia by a humiliating 6-2 that forces the resignation of Miro. It was time for Kubala, who was promoted to the first team in front of the joy of the fans. And the project results from the beginning. The Barça of the second part of season 61-62 recovers in La Liga and finishes second (the distance with the white ones when Kubala arrived was almost insurmountable) and avenges the 6-2 of Mestalla beating Valencia in the Camp Nou 4-0.
Facing the next season, the 62-63, Kubala can make his team by giving painful drops of some of his former teammates as it is the case of Eulogio Martinez or Evaristo. One of Llaudet's reluctances to give Kubala the job of coach was that he would have to manage some of his former teammates.
The positive expectations about Kubala's first full project were frustrated at first when the Blaugrana team had to play the final of the Copa de Ferias against Valencia, the team that caused the fall of Miró and the promotion of Kubala. And the history, by rare that it seems, repeats: Valencia returns to him to put 6-2 to the Barça. The fans explode against the team. In the return match, obviously, there is nothing to do, but Llaudet's ability to self-flagellation has no limits. As Alfredo Relaño writes, the Blaugrana president calls a dinner with the press the day before the game and makes this statement that if it happened today would open all the news.
Llaudet, in front of the press and accompanied by the coach Kubala and Gràcia as captain, asks the fans to forgive him and announces changes in the protocol of the start of the second leg. "Valencia will go out first to receive the applause, then Barcelona, to receive the whistles. Then Kubala will come out, so he can get the thunders. And finally me, so that all the whistles fall on my person, because I am the barcelonist who loves the club the most and who is destined to die on the pitch, if necessary...". He ends his speech crying. As we can see, Gaspart didn't invent anything.
The match ended in a draw and Kubala's project as Barça's coach was doomed. The manager is fired in the middle of the season and then a bomb explodes in Barcelona. Kubala accepts the offer to return to the pitch, but not as a coach, will be as a player and nothing more and nothing less than in Espanyol, Barça's eternal rival.
On 3 September 1963 Espanyol, then Español, announced that Kubala would be hired as a player. At 36 years of age, he was capable of being competitive.
His decision divides the public opinion. On the one hand, Federico Gallo and Juan José Castillo support his decision, on the other hand, Carlos Pardo or Ibáñez Escofet shoot at him. They call him a "Jew who sells himself for a plate of beans", a "traitor" and they see political interests in his decision.
Kubala explains that he wanted to continue playing and that he saw himself capable of doing so, although he accepted that he was not at Barcelona's level. He had received offers from important clubs, including River Plate and Juventus, but he doesn't want to leave Barcelona, where he feels like another Barcelonian. The Espanyol meets his expectations.
His start of the season is not bad, on the contrary, he scores in his first two games, but the team doesn't work out. The coexistence between the veteran newcomer Kubala and the team's symbol, Argilés, is not easy. Scopelli is dismissed as coach and de facto command of the team is given to the two team leaders despite their differences. The crisis erupts when the Spaniard visits the Camp Nou. The periquitos lose by 5-0 in a match in which the Barcelona crowd booed Kubala who they are eager to humiliate with his new team. Even so, at the end of the match, Kubala has a gesture to his former team that shows that he does not hold any grudge against what he has heard from the stands. At the end of the match, he organizes his teammates to make the corridor to Barça applauding the rival in recognition of the exhibition made. That gesture feels bad among the Espanyol fans and among some of his teammates. Argilés does not make the corridor and goes straight to the changing rooms.
The following year, Kubala becomes a manager-player and among the departures that he causes, there is the one of Argilés, but by contrast, Di Stéfano arrives, also hurt by his bad exit from Madrid fighting against Bernabéu.
Di Stefano and Kubala are like brothers. Even though they haven't officially played together, they have a special chemistry. A friendship that is forged when the Argentinian is about to sign for Barcelona.
When Di Stéfano arrives in Barcelona to sign for Español, he stays first at the Avenida Palace Hotel, but after a month he is living in Kubala's house as one of the family. The children of both always maintained a relationship as if they were brothers.
One of the players under Kubala's command was Jose Maria Rodilla, one of the players who would soon form the famous 'Dolphins' forward line. At 80 years of age, Rodilla remembers Kubala.
"I have a wonderful memory of Kubala, I always had a special affection for him. Not in vain, he was the one who signed me for Espanyol", he remembers when answering the call of this newspaper to which he confesses that* "normally I do not make declarations, but to speak about Kubala I do whatever is needed"*.
Rodilla, former teammate at Espanyol, has clear that "he was the best player in the world in terms of technique. Di Stéfano was the best footballer, but he didn't have his technique. Alfredo was more intense and more player of the whole field, but he could not do things that Kubala did"
Those who had the privilege of playing with both of them remember that "for example, Di Stefano wouldn't leave you alone for a minute, he was all over you and the fights were intense, but he always set an example, he never asked you for anything that he didn't do. Kubala was more paternalistic and tolerant. For example, he would ask us to do as he did in training, and while sitting down he would be able to make 3,000 touches on the ball without dropping it. Only he could do that."
Rodilla adds a story that explains Kubala's quality as a player-coach at the age of 38: "We went to play a friendly at Amposta and they called a foul on the edge of the box. Kubala takes the ball and whacks it into the corner. The referee made him repeat it because someone had moved or I don't know what. Kubala takes the ball and wham, back to the square. And the referee tells him that he has to repeat. That day Kubala got angry and left the field."
Rodilla recalls that Kubala's move from Barça to Espanyol created controversy in the city, but that he was oblivious to it. "He was still a magnificent person, I never heard him say a bad word against anyone. He never got into an argument, he was goodness personified, he was unlucky in his time as a coach, but as a coach he is one of the best I've ever had, with a great love for young players and always trying to help you improve."

Boys well, optimal morale.

He extended his playing career for a couple more years by playing for Zurich and even trying out the American adventure at the Toronto Falcons, where he coincides with Branko and Daucik's son. At the age of 40 he played 19 games and scored 5 goals.
In 1968 he returned to Spain and trained the Córdoba team for a short period of time until he was called up to the national team. Kubala will manage the Spanish team until 1980, when he signs for Barcelona again as a coach.
Kubala's debut with Spain was, once again, a propaganda match for the regime. It was played in the Estadio de la Línea de la Concepción against Finland and Spain beat their rivals 6-0 in a match that was no longer useful. Spain had missed out on qualifying for the Mexico '70 World Cup, but the idea of that game was to showcase a great field that could be seen from Gibraltar as if to give jealousy to those in the Rock for the sports culture of Spain. Dictatorship things.
It's true that at that time Spain was struggling more than anything else on the international scene. It did not qualify for the 1974 World Cup because of Katalinski's goal in the play-off match in Frankfurt, and in both the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 European Championship the team fell in the first round, but there is still no one from that era who will make a judgement against Kubala.
"Kubala, one ahead of his time. No doubt he had a lot to do with his past as a footballer. And not just like any other player, like the best! I remember him always saying to me: 'Ruben, you have to get out of the way on the other side of the ball. Look for the space, not the ball. The goal I scored in Yugoslavia has to do with everything he taught me," he told Fermin de la Calle in an interview with AS Ruben Cano, the hero of the famous 'Battle of Belgrade' in the match that took Spain to the World Cup in Argentina. Yes, the one with the goal by Cardeñosa that could have changed Kubala's record with the national team.
He did a lot to improve Spanish football and his idea regarding the incorporation of foreigners to improve the level of Spanish football was key in the future development of the Spanish competitive level.
His players remember him as a didactic person, tactically bold and very close. At a time when fury was the hallmark of the game, Kubala never forgot that he was the heir to the Magyar tradition of the Honved and the Hungary who, by moving the ball, shocked the world the day they destroyed England at Wembley 3-6.
For the average football fan, Kubala may have been a half-hearted coach who embodied an era of the national team in which nothing was won, as has been the case most of the time, and he became popular for his expressions that would now be meme material on social networks. The national team was known as the 'Kubala boys' and the coach's catchphrase before the matches saying "boys well, optimal morale" was the fashionable phrase in the coffee shops of the 70s in Spain.
But among his colleagues, Kubala still deserved reverential respect. "The first goal was authentically Latin, cunningly scored and perfectly studied. I can only congratulate Kubala on his previous tactical work," said German boss Helmut Schön after facing and losing to Spain in a friendly in which the recent world semi-finalist and next world champion fell to the Kubala boys at the Sanchez Pizjuan with two strategic goals from Arieta. Yes, Arieta against Müller. Seeler, Beckembauer, Maier, Netzer and company.
He left the national team in 1980 to join Barça as the coach of Núñez's second project in an operation that was the prelude to what would happen in the World Cup in Russia with Lopetegui. Kubala committed to Barça while he was coach and tried to alternate functions, but Porta refused. Finally, on 8 June 1980, four days before the start of the European Championship, Kubala signed for the Blaugrana team, which he would join after the European Championship.
His second spell at the head of Barça did not go well either and he was dismissed mid-season. He continued his adventure on the bench as coach of Saudi Arabia (in that he was also a pioneer), training Malaga and the Paraguayan national team before retiring from football on the bench of Elche.
He spent his final years in Barcelona as active as ever. Playing with Barça veterans, helping his teammates, not having a no for anyone and playing tennis every day or going for a run or cycling routes exhibiting an enviable physical condition.
Until the light of genius and the glory faded away 18 years ago. A degenerative brain disease put an end to the adventure, but not to the legend of a world football myth. An icon that changed the lives of so many people that they wouldn't fit even in a stadium.
The coffin with the mortal remains of Kubala was carried on shoulders, amidst the applause of the fans who gathered at the doors of the church of Santa Tecla, by Alfredo Di Stéfano, Gustau Biosca, Eduardo Manchón, Estanislao Basora, Joan Segarra, Josep Bartomeu, Luis Suárez, Antoni Ramallets and Gonzalvo III.
He rests in the cemetery of Les Corts, next to the Camp Nou because that is what he left written in his will, while Serrat sang to him about how...
...Pelé was Pelé and Maradona was the one and that's it. Di Stéfano was a pit of mischief. Honour and glory to those who made the sun shine on our football. Everyone has his merits; to each his own, but for me none is like Kubala. Respectable silence is requested, for those who haven't enjoyed him, I'll say four things: he stops it with his head, he drops it on with his chest, he sleeps it off with his left, crosses the pitch with the ball attached to the boot, leaves the midfield and enters the box showing the ball, hides it with his body, pushes with his ass and gets in with his heels. He pisses on the centerback with a dedicated piece. and touches her gently to put her on the path to glory.

by Santi Gimenez for AS.com (2020)

submitted by HippoBigga to Barca [link] [comments]

Kubala, the path to glory of Barcelona's most loved legend: A story of overcoming, adventures, crazy nights, majestic matches and of a good man who made everybody around him happy.

Nothing in Kubala's life was normal. Now that TV series about sportsmen are fashionable, the one that could be made about the adventures of Ladislao Kubala Stecz (Budapest, 1927) would raze through many seasons. In one season we could go deeper into his facet of legendary footballer, capable of changing the way of playing this sport, how he saved his life at the very last moment by not getting on the Torino plane that crashed in Superga, or how he was ten minutes away from signing for Real Madrid or enrolling in the Pirate League of Colombia, all of this in order to end being Barcelona's biggest icon... who ended playing for Espanyol.
We could add a season of adventures due to his incredible escape from communist Hungary. His journey through Italy with a football team, the Hungaria, of stateless people in which in addition to Hungarians also played Croats, Albanians, Romanians and Serbs who were looking for a life as good as they could get. One could also add to this the facet of the social phenomenon that dazzled a country during the dark years of Franco's regime by becoming a pop star, and end up with another season about the legends, real, invented or simply exaggerated, of his adventures in Barcelona's nightclubs.
Everything about Kubala is like a movie.

The legend of the escape.

Born in Budapest to a Hungarian man and a Slovakian woman, he always considered himself as both Hungarian and Slovakian, even when this republic was part of the now extinct Czechoslovakia. By the age of 20, Kubala was a football star known for his performances with Slovan Bratislava and Vasas Budapest. In fact, he had already been capped by Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Later, he would go on to play for Spain, and is still the only player to have been capped by three countries. But fed up with the system that was preventing him from developing his professional football career, he embarked on an escape proper of a movie to the West. He contacted a human trafficking organisation, a mafia that, in exchange for a large amount of money, facilitated a partial escape. As is now the case with criminals who gamble with the lives of people who want to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe or pass to the United States through the southern border, the smugglers did not secure anything. The last part of the journey depended on the luck and expertise of the escapees and often ended tragically.
"I remember that when I escaped from Hungary I was just a kid. The traffickers left us in the middle of a mountain to do the last stretch on foot. We were a large group. The adults gathered the children and gave us palinka. A liquor similar to brandy to get us drunk and fall asleep. A child's cry could alert the border guards patrolling the mountain. And they had orders to shoot to kill. The group split in two. My group was lucky and we were able to win the Austrian border. Once we were safe, we learned that the other group that had travelled with us and took another road was discovered and killed." The chilling story is that of Zoltan Czibor, the son of the former Barça player who tells how he had to flee Hungary with his family to join his father in Italy. The odyssey of Kubala, six years earlier, was mirrored.
The traffickers disguised Kubala as a Russian soldier and put him in a truck that would leave the escapees at an undetermined point in the mountains so that they could cross the border into Austria on their own. Kubala remembered that this journey scared him to death because unlike his comrades, he was a national celebrity and any soldier who checked the military truck would recognize him. He was endangering his life and the lives of those who accompanied him.
When they were left in the mountain on January 27, 1949, Kubala walked, and crossing a river helped by a tire that carried him, managed to reach Innsbuck, Austria, without any documentation. He was a stateless man starting from scratch.
In Austria he managed to sign with Pro Patria, a team from Milan, but he could only play friendly matches. His escape provoked the anger of the Hungarian regime, which denounced him and blocked his registration. Kubala had married Anna Daucik two years earlier, sister of Fernando Daucik, a veteran player of the era who would later become a famous coach. When Kubala fled, he left behind his family, whom he was unable to reunite with until six months later, when Anna was able to cross the border and meet Ladislao in Udine. He arrived with one more member of the family. A baby, her firstborn, whom Kubala did not yet know.
While he is irregularly enrolled in the Pro Patria, he gets the chance to sign with Torino, Italy's dominant team at the time. He is offered a trial match. Nothing better than a friendly match that Il Grande Torino had in Lisbon as a tribute to Xico Ferreira. However, when the Turin team's plane is about to take off, the president of Torino prevents Kubala from boarding because he fears a federal sanction. On the return flight, on 4 May 1949, the Fiat G 212 of Avio Linee Italiana crashed into the retaining wall of the Basilica of Superga due to the wind, poor visibility and an error in the altimeter of the aircraft. At 180 kilometres per hour and with a visibility of 40 metres, the pilot saw the stone wall of the basilica too late when he thought the plane was at 2,000 metres and was actually at 690 metres above sea level. The 31 people who were travelling in that aircraft died. Kubala had saved his life again.

The legend of Hungaria.

With no possibility of playing in Italy because the back then very powerful Italian Communist Party was pressing to prevent people fleeing from countries in the orbit of the USSR from taking refuge in Italy, Kubala had no choice but to form a team of stateless people who hired their services throughout Europe to play friendly matches against whoever hired them.
The team was called Hungaria, was managed by his brother-in-law Fernando Daucik and was mainly made up of Hungarians, although there were also players of other nationalities. It was made up of: Kis, Marik, Torok, Mogoy, Lami, Rákosi, Hrotko, Majteny, Nagy, Kubala, Otto, Licker, Turbeky, Monsider (Croatian), De Lorenzi (Albanian), Szegedi (Romanian) and Arangelovic (Serbian).
They played their first match against Italy's B team, but again pressure from the PCI forced them to play outside Italy. And that is how they arrived in Spain, hired by Santiago Bernabéu. On June 5, 1950, they faced Real Madrid in Chamartin, losing 4-2, but with a stellar performance by Kubala, who scored both of his team's goals. Three days later, they beat the Spanish team that was preparing for the World Cup in Brazil, where they came in fourth, 1-2 again with a great performance by Kubala, who received an offer from Real Madrid to be signed.
Kubala requires that to join the team, Madrid must also hire Daucik as a coach, something that Bernabéu does not agree to. The Madrid coach at that time was the Briton Keeping, a great connoisseur of WM tactics. Daucik is offered to train the Plus Ultra, a Madrid branch that plays in the third division. That negative and the federative problems that drags Kubala cause that Madrid becomes disinterested in his transfer, that was already agreed lacking of some fringes that turned out to be determinant.
The Hungaria moves two days later to Barcelona, where on June 10 plays against Espanyol losing 6-4 in a match with Pepe Samitier, the technical secretary of Barça, in the stands. It is necessary to emphasize that Hungaria had been playing three matches in five days with a very short team and without being able to make substitutions. Even so, Kubala amazes and Samitier does not mess around. Six days after that match, on 16 June 1950, at half past six in the evening, Kubala signed his three-year contract with Barça at the Pasaje Méndez Vigo. Obviously, with Fernando Daucik as coach. President Montal, Sr., signed him as an "amateur player" in order to avoid any trouble for the federation.
Real Madrid rages and is shocked. Pablo Hernández, general secretary of the white entity and Santiago Bernabéu's right hand, assures that Barça had broken a non-aggression pact between both teams and had hired a player with whom they were in talks. Samitier, who was unbeatable in the media, declares that he had been following Kubala for months and that the pact had not been broken because it referred only to players who played in Spanish teams. And Hungaria was not Spanish. In fact, it wasn't from anywhere.
But Kubala's problems didn't end there. He still didn't have a registration card or an international certificate. Vasas in Budapest and the Hungarian Federation had reported him to FIFA. Barça used the weak argument that since professionalism had been abolished in Hungary, any amateur player could choose his destiny. But the fight was not going to be so easy.
Barça, it is fair to say, had the total support of the regime and the Federation to carry out the transfer. At the level of anti-communist propaganda, Kubala was perfect. A young and extraordinary sportsman who fled from the red hell to take refuge in Franco's Spain was a candy too sweet to let go. Muñoz Calero, president of the Federation, rowed in favor of Barça as did Ricardo Cabot, secretary of the organization, who, in addition to his affection for the regime, was a well-known Barcelona supporter.
But the procedures were very slow and Kubala could only play friendly matches. He made his debut against Osasuna on 12 October, scoring two goals on the day the Barça fans knew instantly that they had just signed a star. Then he played against Zaragoza, Frankfurt twice, Girona and the Badalona. In six friendlies he scored 11 goals. The fans and the player himself were eager to meet in an official match. For all this, the Federation to play the role with FIFA fined Barça every time he lined up Kubala with the symbolic figure of 50 pesetas.
It is at this time that Kubala is about to leave everything and go away from Barça. He needed the money and wanted to play at the highest level and in Colombia he was offered the chance to do so. The South American country had organised the so-called Pirate League outside FIFA and many of the world's biggest stars joined, including Alfredo Di Stefano who went to Millonarios in Bogota. Kubala had a tempting offer from Atletico Bucaramanga. With the option of Kubala leaving, events accelerated. To begin with, Barça fixed his financial situation by means of a peculiar amateur contract in which they paid him 1,200 pesetas for "compensation" and 3,800 for "encouragement and overfeeding".
On April 2, 1951, he was granted the status of political refugee as a stateless person, which was a step towards granting him Spanish nationality. But for this step, Kubala first had to be converted to Catholicism through the sacrament of baptism. Every Spaniard had to be a Catholic. Kubala was baptized in Aguilas, Murcia, the birthplace of Muñoz Calero, president of the Federation. It is then when Barça, to avoid problems, settles its differences economically with Vasas, which despite being against capitalism accepts a payment of 300,000 pesetas to provide the transfer, while the Pro Patria, which also complained, is satisfied with 12 million lire.
The Kubala era could now really commence.

The legend on the field.

Kubala made his official debut with Barcelona in Sevilla in a cup match. The Sevillistas at that time were one of the best teams. Sevilla and Barça had developed in that period a great rivalry in the high places of the table. In 1946 Sevilla had stolen the possibility of winning the championship from Barça by drawing in Les Corts on the last day, in 1948 Barça beat the Sevillians in the final of the Eva Perón Cup (which would be the current Supercup) and in that campaign a Barça without Kubala had lost all its options to win La Liga after losing 4-0 in Nervión three days before the end of the season.
The Cup, by that time was played once the regular season was over and in those circumstances the official debut of Kubala took place. On April 29th in Nervion, Barça arrived to play against Sevilla in the middle of a difficult atmosphere. The Andalusians had lost the league in a dramatic outcome when they drew at home in the last match against Atletico Madrid with a refereeing performance that the locals judged scandalous. For further concern, the Federation allowed Kubala to line up with Barça in the first round of the Cup, which in Sevilla was taken as a surprise.
With the stadium full to the flag, Barcelona defeated Sevilla in an exhibition of Kubala. He wasn't just the best of the match but he showed Spain a way of playing football unthinkable until that time: chest controls, shots with curve, millimetric changes of play of 40 meters, protection of the ball with his back, use of the body in the shot and touches with the heel.
Domenech, Sevilla's attacker who was the direct protagonist of that match, explained years later how he remembered that day.
"It was something never seen before. Ramallets kicked it and he would receive her with his chest, or with either of his legs. If you tackled him he would dribble you in a brick. He'd put the ball where he wanted her. Besides, from time to time he changed with César, he'd be a center forward and César would be a midfielder. They drove us crazy. The anger of the people became clamours. We were witnessing something extraordinary. It was like going from black and white cinema to colour," explained the former Sevilla player. The Sevilla crowd, who had welcomed Barça and its new superstar with anger, ended up giving Kubala a standing ovation for every action as if they were watching a glorious bullfighting performance.
Kubala's actions on the field change football forever. Since there was no television, his exploits are reported orally. There is no other way to see it than to go to the field of Les Corts, which is packed for every game Barça plays as a local. It is a very common argument to say that Kubala forced Barça to build the Camp Nou because the old Les Corts was not enough to accommodate all the people who wanted to admire him. Maybe he had an influence, but as the journalist Frederic Porta, author of an interesting biography of Kubala (Kubala, l'heroi que va canviar la història del Barça. Ed. Saldonar) explains, "the truth is that Barça had already bought the land to build the Camp Nou two years before and the idea of making a bigger field already existed, but Kubala advanced everything and justified the change".
Blessed with brutal technique, a sensational strike of the ball and an unusual physical strength, Kubala changed football. He would throw free-kicks over the wall with curve or by making the ball bounce in front of the goalkeeper, he would take penalties (he was practically infallible) with what was later called paradinha and was credited with the Brazilians although he was the first in Europe to do so. Physically he was a bull. In his youth he had practiced boxing and if he didn't become a recognized fighter with a great career it was because he had short arms. His lower body was sensational. He had a butt and legs that allowed him to protect the ball like no one else. Frederic Porta says that "in his time of splendour they measured his thighs and each one had a circumference of 69 centimetres, which would be the waist of one of his companions". He was also capable of running the 100 metres in less than 11 seconds. A total athlete with a very refined technique.
However, that physical strength and the confidence he had in her, for he never avoided a collision, were his downfall. Kubala became the target of a hunt by rival defenders. He never went into hiding and that's why in eleven years at Barcelona he suffered up to eleven injuries of some seriousness. With matches without television, the harshness that bordered on violence was the order of the day. He was being kicked to death.
But Barça was living its most golden period to date. Moreover, the club revolved around Kubala. Frederic Porta compares it with the present time: "Now they say that Messi commands the club and surely he commands, but nothing to do with the influence that Kubala had. Kubala was the boss and even the one who decided the transfers. And no one was surprised. That Barça adopted the socks with the horizontal stripes blaugrana is his imposition. He saw them on the rugby team, liked them and incorporated them into the football team by decree. In fact, it is he who insists on signing Luis Suarez when he impresses him in a match against Deportivo. Kubala was Suarez's first fan, but what happened in the stands, which was divided between Suaristas and Kubalistas, is another matter.
Suarez was eight years younger than Kubala. He arrived at Barcelona at the age of 19, Kubala was 27 and his physique was very punished by his injuries and the life he was living, as he did not deprive himself of anything. If he held out, it was because of privileged genetics.
Therefore, there never was a real competition between them, but there was a lot of influence here from the figure of Helenio Herrera, the Barça manager, who saw Kubala as older and slower and was looking forward to a quick change by the young Galician as the leader of the team. The debate reached the stands and the media. It was an absurd debate, because they didn't play in the same position, with whom Kubala really had a certain rivalry with Eulogio Martínez, who was the one with whom he alternated the position.
Kubala's physical problems were not only due to injuries. He had the whole of Spain in suspense when he suffered a tuberculosis that could have cost him his life. There are apocryphal versions that explain that this tuberculosis was actually a stab wound he suffered in a fight in a cheap pub in the fifth district (Barcelona's Chinatown) and he has to retire to Montseny to recover. Nobody is betting on his return to the pitch if he survives a "hole in the lung the size of a silver bullet" according to the chronicles of the time. But once again, Kubala's ability to survive prevails. He returns to the pitches, but already heavily punished and slowed down.
It is against this backdrop that the 1961 European Cup final arrives, with Kubala arriving at the age of 34 with a herniated disc that barely allows him to walk, but he wants to play. He knows that the club is going through a critical situation despite having reached the final of the maximum trophy for the first time: the club is bankrupt because of the construction of the Camp Nou, the fights in the board of directors are chaotic, Luis Suarez has signed for Inter (the one in Bern will be his last game with Barça), which was where Helenio Herrera had left the team in the hands of Enrique Orizaola.
Kubala tells Orizaola to line him up, that like all the Portuguese will go for him and he can barely move because of the back pain and will play with painkillers, it will give more opportunities to his teammates. But the match is a pile of misfortunes for Barcelona. Ramallets scores an own goal, Barça shoots three times to the damn square posts of the goals (from then on they would change their shape) even Kubala kicked a ball that hit a post, went through the goal line until it hit the other post and came out repelled. Barça lost and Kubala's time at Barcelona came to an end.

The man of the year.

Kubala's significance goes beyond the playing field. According to a vote made for Radio Barcelona by journalist Joaquín Soler Serrano in the mid-50s, the Catalans most loved by their fellow citizens were Doctor Barraquer and Ladislao Kubala.
"He was literally the most famous person in the city, people really venerated him, and even Messi's influence cannot be compared to that of Kubala in those years," explains Porta.
His life off the field was notorious. An unrepentant night owl, it was common to see him in Barcelona's fashionable coffee shops and nightclubs. He was a man who stood out. Alfredo Relaño defines him in some of his articles as "a demigod. Tall, strong, blond with blue eyes and an overflowing personality. He aroused the admiration of men and women alike. An idol". Frederic Porta sums it up with the argument that "he would be the sum of Messi and Beckham and on top of that, he would go out every night".
Faced with Kubala's disorganised life, the Barcelona management decided to set up a private detective agency to follow him at night. The reports of the detectives are still in the Centre de Documentació del FC Barcelona and Frederic Porta published them in the history magazine 'Sàpiens'. In them, he gives a detailed account of the nocturnal wanderings of "Mr. K.", the code name of the Blaugrana star in an exercise in absurd discretion. There is also a letter from a Sabadell businessman in the club's archives, expressing concern that Kubala and Czibor had been "found in a Sabadell establishment after 2.30 in the morning accompanied by some of those ladies who were once gentlemen, I don't know if you understand". What the businessman doesn't explain in the letter is what he was doing in the same place.
Kubala's fondness for drinking was no secret. Helenio Herrera explains in a television interview that "one day at an airport in customs they asked Kubala if he had anything to declare and he said two bottles of whisky. The official asked him to show them to him and he, laughing, touched his belly and said: 'X-ray, I have them inside'. On another occasion, in the same situation, but carrying the bottle in the bag, he was told to leave it at the airport because no alcoholic drinks were allowed to be taken on board. Neither shy nor lazy, he drank it in front of the astonished official.
The legends about the occasions when the night was made longer and he did not arrive at training sessions or matches were recurrent. In that case, he called on the services of Angel Mur Sr., the team masseur who knew where to find him. He would start a pilgrimage through the usual places or floors until he found him, took him to the changing room, gave him a cold shower, a coffee with salt, a massage and played. The fans forgave him everything and were aware that their star was a man of joyful life. But he never failed on the field. Among the crowd at the time there were comments about the Kubala ritual in those games that followed a busy night. "He started off badly, and vaguely, but the signal was when, ten minutes into the game, he rolled up his sleeves as if to say 'I'm here, let's start, I've already cleared off', and the machine started to work.
You can't find anyone in the world who speaks ill of Kubala. Absolutely no one. Everyone highlights his huge heart and that despite being by far the highest paid player of the time (he earned six times more than his teammates) he didn't have a no for anyone. His detachment from money was legendary.
As proof, the anecdote explained by his biographer Porta: "one day he arrived at the dressing room and commented that his car had been stolen and that in the glove compartment he was carrying an envelope with 200,000 pesetas, which was a fortune for the time (a good apartment could cost 130,000 pesetas). When his colleagues tried to encourage him, he simply said: someone who needs it more than I do must have taken it".
It was also usual for him to take off his coat and give it to a poor man who begged in Barcelona's winter, or to take in any Hungarian who came to Barcelona asking for help in his house in Carrer Duquesa d'Orleans. Kubala, remembering his times as a stateless refugee without papers, asked nothing. He would take them home and pay them a boat ticket to America. The motto among the refugees fleeing the Iron Curtain was that "if you get to Barcelona, look for Kubala, he will help you". He never failed.
Later, now retired, he set up a bar next to Czibor in Capitan Arenas Street, the mythical Kep Duna (blue Danube in Hungarian) that became an unofficial refugee reception centre that was monitored by the secret services of the United States, the USSR and the Spanish police. Something like the Rick's Café in the film Casablanca, but in the upper area of Barcelona.
He was the great character of Barcelona loved by all, but there was a moment when this was almost broken, strange as it may seem. It coincided with the defeat in Bern, when a part of the press came to write that "Barça must be de-Kubalized as the Soviet Union must be de-Stalinized" and, especially, when he signed for Espanyol. The earthquake was a huge one.

From the bench to Sarrià.

After the defeat in Bern's final, Kubala announced his retirement from the fields. He had taken the coaching course and was ranked number one in his class. He made a pact with the president Llaudet, who was also an interesting character as we will see, that in principle he would take charge of the footballers' school of the club and that in a couple of years he would be in charge of the first team.
Meanwhile, Barcelona is directed by Lluís Miró who faces a team in disarray. Suarez has been transferred to Inter in the worst decision in the club's history and myths such as Ramallets, Tejada and Czibor were in the decline of their careers. The season starts badly and after losing at Mestalla to Valencia by a humiliating 6-2 that forces the resignation of Miro. It was time for Kubala, who was promoted to the first team in front of the joy of the fans. And the project results from the beginning. The Barça of the second part of season 61-62 recovers in La Liga and finishes second (the distance with the white ones when Kubala arrived was almost insurmountable) and avenges the 6-2 of Mestalla beating Valencia in the Camp Nou 4-0.
Facing the next season, the 62-63, Kubala can make his team by giving painful drops of some of his former teammates as it is the case of Eulogio Martinez or Evaristo. One of Llaudet's reluctances to give Kubala the job of coach was that he would have to manage some of his former teammates.
The positive expectations about Kubala's first full project were frustrated at first when the Blaugrana team had to play the final of the Copa de Ferias against Valencia, the team that caused the fall of Miró and the promotion of Kubala. And the history, by rare that it seems, repeats: Valencia returns to him to put 6-2 to the Barça. The fans explode against the team. In the return match, obviously, there is nothing to do, but Llaudet's ability to self-flagellation has no limits. As Alfredo Relaño writes, the Blaugrana president calls a dinner with the press the day before the game and makes this statement that if it happened today would open all the news.
Llaudet, in front of the press and accompanied by the coach Kubala and Gràcia as captain, asks the fans to forgive him and announces changes in the protocol of the start of the second leg. "Valencia will go out first to receive the applause, then Barcelona, to receive the whistles. Then Kubala will come out, so he can get the thunders. And finally me, so that all the whistles fall on my person, because I am the barcelonist who loves the club the most and who is destined to die on the pitch, if necessary...". He ends his speech crying. As we can see, Gaspart didn't invent anything.
The match ended in a draw and Kubala's project as Barça's coach was doomed. The manager is fired in the middle of the season and then a bomb explodes in Barcelona. Kubala accepts the offer to return to the pitch, but not as a coach, will be as a player and nothing more and nothing less than in Espanyol, Barça's eternal rival.
On 3 September 1963 Espanyol, then Español, announced that Kubala would be hired as a player. At 36 years of age, he was capable of being competitive.
His decision divides the public opinion. On the one hand, Federico Gallo and Juan José Castillo support his decision, on the other hand, Carlos Pardo or Ibáñez Escofet shoot at him. They call him a "Jew who sells himself for a plate of beans", a "traitor" and they see political interests in his decision.
Kubala explains that he wanted to continue playing and that he saw himself capable of doing so, although he accepted that he was not at Barcelona's level. He had received offers from important clubs, including River Plate and Juventus, but he doesn't want to leave Barcelona, where he feels like another Barcelonian. The Espanyol meets his expectations.
His start of the season is not bad, on the contrary, he scores in his first two games, but the team doesn't work out. The coexistence between the veteran newcomer Kubala and the team's symbol, Argilés, is not easy. Scopelli is dismissed as coach and de facto command of the team is given to the two team leaders despite their differences. The crisis erupts when the Spaniard visits the Camp Nou. The periquitos lose by 5-0 in a match in which the Barcelona crowd booed Kubala who they are eager to humiliate with his new team. Even so, at the end of the match, Kubala has a gesture to his former team that shows that he does not hold any grudge against what he has heard from the stands. At the end of the match, he organizes his teammates to make the corridor to Barça applauding the rival in recognition of the exhibition made. That gesture feels bad among the Espanyol fans and among some of his teammates. Argilés does not make the corridor and goes straight to the changing rooms.
The following year, Kubala becomes a manager-player and among the departures that he causes, there is the one of Argilés, but by contrast, Di Stéfano arrives, also hurt by his bad exit from Madrid fighting against Bernabéu.
Di Stefano and Kubala are like brothers. Even though they haven't officially played together, they have a special chemistry. A friendship that is forged when the Argentinian is about to sign for Barcelona.
When Di Stéfano arrives in Barcelona to sign for Español, he stays first at the Avenida Palace Hotel, but after a month he is living in Kubala's house as one of the family. The children of both always maintained a relationship as if they were brothers.
One of the players under Kubala's command was Jose Maria Rodilla, one of the players who would soon form the famous 'Dolphins' forward line. At 80 years of age, Rodilla remembers Kubala.
"I have a wonderful memory of Kubala, I always had a special affection for him. Not in vain, he was the one who signed me for Espanyol", he remembers when answering the call of this newspaper to which he confesses that* "normally I do not make declarations, but to speak about Kubala I do whatever is needed"*.
Rodilla, former teammate at Espanyol, has clear that "he was the best player in the world in terms of technique. Di Stéfano was the best footballer, but he didn't have his technique. Alfredo was more intense and more player of the whole field, but he could not do things that Kubala did"
Those who had the privilege of playing with both of them remember that "for example, Di Stefano wouldn't leave you alone for a minute, he was all over you and the fights were intense, but he always set an example, he never asked you for anything that he didn't do. Kubala was more paternalistic and tolerant. For example, he would ask us to do as he did in training, and while sitting down he would be able to make 3,000 touches on the ball without dropping it. Only he could do that."
Rodilla adds a story that explains Kubala's quality as a player-coach at the age of 38: "We went to play a friendly at Amposta and they called a foul on the edge of the box. Kubala takes the ball and whacks it into the corner. The referee made him repeat it because someone had moved or I don't know what. Kubala takes the ball and wham, back to the square. And the referee tells him that he has to repeat. That day Kubala got angry and left the field."
Rodilla recalls that Kubala's move from Barça to Espanyol created controversy in the city, but that he was oblivious to it. "He was still a magnificent person, I never heard him say a bad word against anyone. He never got into an argument, he was goodness personified, he was unlucky in his time as a coach, but as a coach he is one of the best I've ever had, with a great love for young players and always trying to help you improve."

Boys well, optimal morale.

He extended his playing career for a couple more years by playing for Zurich and even trying out the American adventure at the Toronto Falcons, where he coincides with Branko and Daucik's son. At the age of 40 he played 19 games and scored 5 goals.
In 1968 he returned to Spain and trained the Córdoba team for a short period of time until he was called up to the national team. Kubala will manage the Spanish team until 1980, when he signs for Barcelona again as a coach.
Kubala's debut with Spain was, once again, a propaganda match for the regime. It was played in the Estadio de la Línea de la Concepción against Finland and Spain beat their rivals 6-0 in a match that was no longer useful. Spain had missed out on qualifying for the Mexico '70 World Cup, but the idea of that game was to showcase a great field that could be seen from Gibraltar as if to give jealousy to those in the Rock for the sports culture of Spain. Dictatorship things.
It's true that at that time Spain was struggling more than anything else on the international scene. It did not qualify for the 1974 World Cup because of Katalinski's goal in the play-off match in Frankfurt, and in both the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 European Championship the team fell in the first round, but there is still no one from that era who will make a judgement against Kubala.
"Kubala, one ahead of his time. No doubt he had a lot to do with his past as a footballer. And not just like any other player, like the best! I remember him always saying to me: 'Ruben, you have to get out of the way on the other side of the ball. Look for the space, not the ball. The goal I scored in Yugoslavia has to do with everything he taught me," he told Fermin de la Calle in an interview with AS Ruben Cano, the hero of the famous 'Battle of Belgrade' in the match that took Spain to the World Cup in Argentina. Yes, the one with the goal by Cardeñosa that could have changed Kubala's record with the national team.
He did a lot to improve Spanish football and his idea regarding the incorporation of foreigners to improve the level of Spanish football was key in the future development of the Spanish competitive level.
His players remember him as a didactic person, tactically bold and very close. At a time when fury was the hallmark of the game, Kubala never forgot that he was the heir to the Magyar tradition of the Honved and the Hungary who, by moving the ball, shocked the world the day they destroyed England at Wembley 3-6.
For the average football fan, Kubala may have been a half-hearted coach who embodied an era of the national team in which nothing was won, as has been the case most of the time, and he became popular for his expressions that would now be meme material on social networks. The national team was known as the 'Kubala boys' and the coach's catchphrase before the matches saying "boys well, optimal morale" was the fashionable phrase in the coffee shops of the 70s in Spain.
But among his colleagues, Kubala still deserved reverential respect. "The first goal was authentically Latin, cunningly scored and perfectly studied. I can only congratulate Kubala on his previous tactical work," said German boss Helmut Schön after facing and losing to Spain in a friendly in which the recent world semi-finalist and next world champion fell to the Kubala boys at the Sanchez Pizjuan with two strategic goals from Arieta. Yes, Arieta against Müller. Seeler, Beckembauer, Maier, Netzer and company.
He left the national team in 1980 to join Barça as the coach of Núñez's second project in an operation that was the prelude to what would happen in the World Cup in Russia with Lopetegui. Kubala committed to Barça while he was coach and tried to alternate functions, but Porta refused. Finally, on 8 June 1980, four days before the start of the European Championship, Kubala signed for the Blaugrana team, which he would join after the European Championship.
His second spell at the head of Barça did not go well either and he was dismissed mid-season. He continued his adventure on the bench as coach of Saudi Arabia (in that he was also a pioneer), training Malaga and the Paraguayan national team before retiring from football on the bench of Elche.
He spent his final years in Barcelona as active as ever. Playing with Barça veterans, helping his teammates, not having a no for anyone and playing tennis every day or going for a run or cycling routes exhibiting an enviable physical condition.
Until the light of genius and the glory faded away 18 years ago. A degenerative brain disease put an end to the adventure, but not to the legend of a world football myth. An icon that changed the lives of so many people that they wouldn't fit even in a stadium.
The coffin with the mortal remains of Kubala was carried on shoulders, amidst the applause of the fans who gathered at the doors of the church of Santa Tecla, by Alfredo Di Stéfano, Gustau Biosca, Eduardo Manchón, Estanislao Basora, Joan Segarra, Josep Bartomeu, Luis Suárez, Antoni Ramallets and Gonzalvo III.
He rests in the cemetery of Les Corts, next to the Camp Nou because that is what he left written in his will, while Serrat sang to him about how...
...Pelé was Pelé and Maradona was the one and that's it. Di Stéfano was a pit of mischief. Honour and glory to those who made the sun shine on our football. Everyone has his merits; to each his own, but for me none is like Kubala. Respectable silence is requested, for those who haven't enjoyed him, I'll say four things: he stops it with his head, he drops it on with his chest, he sleeps it off with his left, crosses the pitch with the ball attached to the boot, leaves the midfield and enters the box showing the ball, hides it with his body, pushes with his ass and gets in with his heels. He pisses on the centerback with a dedicated piece. and touches her gently to put her on the path to glory.

by Santi Gimenez for AS.com (2020)

submitted by LordVelaryon to soccer [link] [comments]

I don't kick a footy, mate, and I don't sit in a coaches box. That’s the brave people who do that are doing that job. But I know that Redditors would want me back at this time. So I'll happily come back and do that. – The /r/AFL 2020 Collingwood Magpies season preview

History
Est: 1892
Premierships (VFL/AFL): 15
Last premiership: 2010
Grounds: Melbourne Cricket Ground, Marvel Stadium, Olympic Park Oval (training)
Key Administration:
2019 season overview
H&A Ladder position: 4 (15 wins, 7 losses)
EW Copeland Trophy (BnF): Brodie Grundy
Leading goalkicker: Brody Mihocek (36 goals)
All-Australian representation: Brodie Grundy, Scott Pendlebury (Adam Treloar named in initial squad)
AFL debutants:
VFL affiliate: Collingwood VFL (finished 11th in 2019; 7 wins, 11 losses)
2019 season review
Collingwood supporters such as myself had good reason to believe that the club could go one better from 2018. After losing the 2018 Grand Final in heartbreaking fashion, the club theoretically improved its list by re-acquiring a genuine A-grader in Dayne Beams at a premium, shoring up its key position stocks at bargain basement price with Jordan Roughead and exploiting drafting rules to acquire two top-30 talents in Isaac Quaynor and Will Kelly despite not having a live pick until pick 41.
Unfortunately, the home and away season could probably be described as lacklustre. Too often Collingwood relied on playing one really strong quarter of football before taking the foot off the accelerator for the rest of the game. This was evident in the game against Port Adelaide, ANZAC Day, the game against Sydney and the game against St Kilda. Eventually, the club went through a major form slump in the middle of the season, playing unattractive, stop-start football that was more characteristic of the non-finals years under Buckley then the exciting 2018. In the middle of this slump, however, the club delivered a memorable win on the road against West Coast, keeping them goalless for a full half to win by one point and down two players.
The club snuck into the top four by the end of the season, however this was more to do with a Hawthorn masterclass against the Eagles in Round 23 than genuinely being deserving of fourth spot. The two finals Collingwood played were representative of much of the season for the club – the Qualifying Final against Geelong proved the club could still put it together and match it against the best (Geelong having been minor premiers over the course of the entire season), however the Preliminary Final against GWS showed again that the players thought they could pull off a miracle win by playing one good quarter – this was not to be.
Nathan Buckley lamented following the Prelim loss that 2019 was “a wasted year.” Initially I thought this was being a tad harsh, but on reflection I think I agree with him. Collingwood had the elements to put everything together and win the premiership but squandered it for various reasons. The club again faced a huge injury list, with usual suspects De Goey, Elliott and Moore missing chunks of the season. First-choice fullback Dunn re-tore his ACL on his return in a VFL practice match. Langdon injured his knee (the details of which the club has refused to reveal) during halftime against St Kilda and missed the rest of the season. Beams missed much of the season with hip/shouldemental health issues and there continues to be speculation that he may never return to football. Wells sustained a PCL game in his one game of the season which ultimately caused his retirement before the season had officially ended.
As per usual, off-field issues distracted the club, including Stephenson copping a ten-match suspension for betting on Collingwood matches and Sier playing social basketball under a pseudonym despite being in rehab for a calf injury at the time.
Personally, I think much of the problem lies with very few players taking a step-up in their development like what had occurred in 2018. Phillips, Sidebottom, Thomas and Hoskin-Elliott were among the players that had exceptionally strong seasons in 2018 but struggled at times through 2019 (the latter, however, perhaps forgiven for having virtually nil pre-season). The midfield group also failed to connect and take advantage of Grundy’s dominance.
Having said that, there were some positives to take from the season. Grundy continued his trajectory upwards and ultimately had a career-best season. Roughead proved to be the bargain recruit of the year at fullback. Noble being uncovered in the mid-season rookie draft and being plucked from the SANFL proved an inspired choice. Wills saved his career by taking advantage of the spot that opened up for him in Beams’ and Sier’s absence.
Just don’t mention Crisp missing out on AA selection to me though.
2020 Playing List

Guernsey Player Typical position Games played Age at start of R1, 2020 Contracted until
1 Jaidyn Stephenson Forward 40 21 2021
2 Jordan De Goey Forward 88 24 2020
3 Isaac Quaynor Defender 4 20 2022
4 Brodie Grundy Ruck 132 25 2027 (UFA)
5 Jamie Elliott Forward 105 27 2021 (UFA)
6 Tyler Brown Midfielder 0 20 2020
7 Adam Treloar Midfielder 163 27 2025 (RFA)
8 Tom Langdon Defender 89 25 2021 (RFA)
9 John Noble (a) Defender 5 22 2021
10 Scott Pendlebury* (c) Midfielder 301 32 2021 (UFA)
11 Dayne Beams* Midfielder 177 30 2022
12 Matthew Scharenberg Defender 38 24 2020
13 Taylor Adams (l) Midfielder 132 26 2024 (RFA)
14 Darcy Cameron Ruck 1 24 2021
15 Lynden Dunn (a, l) Defender 196 32 2020 (UFA)
16 Chris Mayne Midfielder 217 31 2020
17 Callum Brown Midfielder 35 21 2020
18 Travis Varcoe Forward 221 31 2020
19 Levi Greenwood Defender 152 31 2020
20 Ben Reid* Forward 150 30 2020 (UFA)
21 Tom Phillips Midfielder 74 23 2021
22 Steele Sidebottom* (vc) Midfielder 234 29 2021 (UFA)
23 Jordan Roughead Defender 162 29 2020
24 Josh Thomas Forward 89 28 2021 (UFA)
25 Jack Crisp Defender 134 26 2023 (UFA)
26 Josh Daicos Forward 17 21 2020
27 Will Kelly Defender 0 19 2022
28 Nathan Murphy Defender 2 20 2020
29 Tim Broomhead (a) Forward 36 25 2020 (UFA)
30 Darcy Moore Defender 71 24 2020
31 Flynn Appleby (a) Defender 10 21 2020
32 Will Hoskin-Elliott Forward 119 26 2022
33 Rupert Wills Midfielder 15 26 2020
34 Trent Bianco Defender 0 19 2021
35 Jay Rantall Midfielder 0 18 2021
36 Brayden Sier Midfielder 18 22 2021
37 Brayden Maynard Defender 97 23 2022 (RFA)
38 Jeremy Howe (l) Defender 183 29 2021
39 Trey Ruscoe Defender 0 18 2021
40 Atu Bosenavulagi Forward 0 19 2020
41 Brody Mihocek (a) Forward 40 27 2020
43 Anton Tohill (a) Forward 0 20 2020
44 Jack Madgen (b) Defender 8 26 2020
45 Max Lynch Ruck 0 21 2020
46 Mason Cox Forward 58 29 2020
47 Mark Keane (b) Defender 0 20 2020
48 Tom Wilson (b) Forward 0 22 2021
\ - 2010 Premiership player*
a - Category A Rookie
b – Category B rookie
c – Captain
vc – Vice Captain
l – Leadership group
Outs for 2020
James Aish Traded to Fremantle
Ben Crocker Delisted (rookie drafted by the Adelaide Crows)
Lynden Dunn Delisted (rookie listed under SSP rules)
Tyson Goldsack Retired (now playing as captain-coach for Port Magpies in the SANFL)
Sam Murray Delisted (now playing for Williamstown in the VFL)
Daniel Wells Retired (now involved in indigenous recruitment and development at Collingwood)
Ins for 2020
Trent Bianco National Draft
Darcy Cameron Traded from the Sydney Swans
Lynden Dunn Rookie listed under SSP rules
Jay Rantall National Draft
Trey Ruscoe National Draft
Tom Wilson Category B rookie selection
Pragmatic_Shill**’s personal best 22 (+ 4 emergencies) for Collingwood in 2020**
B: Langdon* Roughead Howe
HB: Crisp Moore Maynard
C: Phillips Pendelbury Sidebottom
HF: Hoskin-Elliott Mihocek De Goey
F: Stephenson Cox Elliott
FOLL: Grundy Adams Beams*
INT: C Brown Treloar Noble Mayne
EMER: Thomas Varcoe* Sier Greenwood*
\ Confirmed unavailable for Round 1 2020*
Notes on this selection
Players to watch for 2020
Taken at pick 13 in the 2018 draft after matching a bid from GWS, Quaynor looms as one of Collingwood’s most exciting young prospects. He had to wait for a debut in 2019 and only played a handful of games before a foot stress injury sidelined him for the rest of the season, however the senior appearances he made showed that he fits in nicely to the backline. Quaynor unfortunately has already had an interrupted pre-season due to hip surgery, but is expected to be fit to play come Round 1. While he is an impressive young talent I personally have a concern about whether he and John Noble can play in the same side. Both are undersized defenders used to provide run off halfback, and I haven’t seen either of them deployed in the lockdown small defensive role that has opened up with Levi Greenwood being out injured and James Aish moving to Fremantle. Noble at this stage has more senior experience (plus finals experience) so it will be interesting to see how selection goes when both are fit and available.
Wills holds the record for most tackles laid on debut and in 2018 broke the record for fewest senior games played to reach 100 career tackles. At the start of the year, Wills’ card appeared marked for delisting given his inability to break into the senior side. He came in for a short stint in early 2019 to play a similar role to De Goey when De Goey was injured, however Wills isn’t as explosive and he struggled playing in the forward line. After being dropped, I thought that would be it for him, however an injury crisis with the midfield later in the year (including Beams, Adams and a lacklustre season from Sier) opened up a spot for him, and he played right through to the end of the season. Wills provided much needed grunt for a midfield that failed to live up to expectations for much of the season, and truly earned another extension. His 2020 campaign will be one to watch, as he only managed a one-year extension despite his impressive showing, and given he will be directly competing for a spot with the younger Sier, he is under pressure to continue his senior career. Nevertheless, when he does play he doesn’t look out of place and was an impressive player in weeks when so many others were substandard.
This selection is a bit out of left field, however I didn’t want to repeat last year’s selections of Tyler Brown or Nathan Murphy (even though I am excited to see what their 2020 seasons look like). A lot of regular VFL watchers over on the Collingwood BigFooty have been impressed with Keane, our Irish Category B key defender. Keane apparently is not afraid to be quite physical on the field and showed marked improvement as a lockdown defender through 2019 despite our VFL side being disappointing. Some have said he may even earn a debut in 2020, which would require a temporary senior promotion over the more experienced Category B in Jack Madgen. Watch this space.
Players on notice for 2020
Sier came into the 2019 season with a lot of expectation and excitement from Collingwood fans after his long-awaited senior debut in 2018 showed why Derek Hine rated him highly enough to be our first pick in 2015 despite being relatively unknown. Mystery soon set in during the 2019 pre-season however, as Sier found himself excluded from selection in both JLT matches, despite being fit enough to play in a VFL practice match the day before one of them. The club said he had little niggles such as rib and toe issues, however comments from Pendlebury about Sier needing to demonstrate his commitment to the team on-field raised some eyebrows about whether he was out of favour. When he finally earned his senior return on the Queen’s Birthday, he took the opportunity with both hands, however had disappointing showings for the few games he had after. Then came the infamous “Phil Inn” incident, where he played social basketball while meant to be rehabbing a calf injury. The club claimed he wasn’t banned from senior selection but didn’t even appear in the emergency list for the rest of the season. Despite this, he signed for a further two years. Given the amount of time he’s had on the list and the various challenges he’s faced in that time, you would hope the penny has dropped and he begins to show on a more consistent basis the type of player he can be. That’s up to him now, however he also faces the added challenge of beating an in-favour Rupert Wills for selection as the big-bodied inside midfielder.
I think Cox was unfairly maligned in 2019 – he missed many games, first through an ankle injury and then through a scratched retina, however ended up with the same goal output at the end of the season as he had for 2018 (a season in which he only missed two games). However, it’s clear that there are expectations being placed on him by the media and by Collingwood fans to more consistently show the type of game he had in the 2018 preliminary final. During the 2019 trade period, Collingwood brought in Darcy Cameron from the Sydney Swans, and while Cameron has only played one senior game of football, he is a more natural footballer than Cox and will be competing directly for his spot. Off the field, I feel that Cox has to prove his worth after the details of his contract came out during the same trade period after Essendon came knocking for him to fill their ruck spot. At the end of 2017, Cox signed a new three-year contract which elevated him to the senior list, worth $500,000 a year. At this time, Cox was a Category B rookie who had played a grand total of twenty games. His contract also stipulates that he only needs to play one more senior game for a fourth year trigger, and he’ll need to show a bit more if he’s to convince Collingwood supporters that he’s worth such a hefty price tag given the continuing narrative of our salary cap issues.
This is perhaps a cop-out answer but given the impending salary cap squeeze the onus is on the rest of the players out of contract in 2020 (particularly the ones that aren’t best 22) to step up and cement their spot in the side or prove their value to the squad. Some, such as Brody Mihocek and Callum Brown can probably consider themselves safe. Mihocek himself may prove to be challenging as he will require promotion to the senior list to stay and given he was a latecomer to AFL he may choose to take a significantly priced contract elsewhere if it was offered to him.
A number of players have been on the list for a number of years now, including Tim Broomhead and Josh Daicos, that would find themselves very much under the pump in 2020. Other fringe players like Appleby, Madgen, (both requiring senior promotion if they stay), Murphy, Bosenavulagi, Tohill and Keane face uncertain futures. There are also many players out of contract (Reid, Greenwood, Varcoe, Mayne, Dunn) that are in the twilight of their careers, and these players could be the first shown the door if the cap gets too tight. The problem with showing all five of these senior players the door at once, however, is that being gifted picks at the arse end of one solitary draft to fill the list spots might not provide the same quality of depth (even over a long period of time) that keeping some of the experienced veterans on would.
2020 fixture preview
Marsh Community Series matches
Date Opponent Home or Away Where Time
Sunday 1 March Richmond Away Norm Minns Oval 4:10pm (AEDT)
Sunday 8 March St Kilda Home Morwell Recreation Reserve 3:50pm (AEDT)
Notable matches during the 2020 Premiership Season
Date Occasion Opponent Home or Away Where Time
Friday 20 March Round 1 Western Bulldogs Away Marvel 7:50pm (AEDT)
Thursday 9 April Easter Thursday Brisbane Lions Away Gabba 7:35pm (AEDT)
Saturday 25 April ANZAC Day Essendon Home MCG 4:20PM (AEDT)
Monday 8 June Queen's Birthday Melbourne Away MCG 3:20pm (AEDT)
Bye: Round 13
Double-ups:
2020 season preview (expectations and concerns)
2020 shapes as a fascinating year for the club both on- and off-field. On-field there would be genuine expectations both internally and externally that the club makes finals and pushes for a flag for a third season in a row. Personally, I don’t feel that we have improved our list through trading or drafting and instead will need to rely on improvement from the existing players to take the next step. With the oldest list in the competition, it is time for the youth at the club to stake their claims more seriously through strong performances at training and in the twos, rather than wait for positions to become available by default through injuries at senior level. This requires genuine steps up from the likes of Brayden Sier, Tyler Brown and Josh Daicos, as well as a willingness of the coaches to begin managing the constant selection of older players.
Our opening month to the season is as tough as it gets, and may define how the rest of the season plays out. If we start 0-4, I wonder how much of a hit to the self-confidence it will be and our ability to recover.
Off-field, as mentioned, list manager Ned Guy will have his work cut out for him in trying to balance a large out of contract list with players wanting and genuinely deserving substantial pay days, and there is a reasonable chance we could see significant changes to our list at the end of the year which will ultimately have a flow-on effect on our ability to contend in the following years.
The club continues to be distracted with undesirable media stories and the ongoing issue of Beams returning to the club continues to drag on. I get the feeling personally that there is a power of work being done behind the scenes to end the contract that still has three seasons left to run, both for the good of the club and for Beams’ wellbeing. While that is ongoing, however, it remains an unnecessary distraction and a sore reminder that the President continues to be too involved in the administration of the football department.
All in all, I think Collingwood will stay in the 8 but would not be surprised if they fall short of top 4. I don’t see the potential for improvement that I do from other clubs around the same mark. The year will be a positive one, however, if we begin seeing signs that the club can develop a strong side to transition into the ever-close “post-Pendlebury era.”
Thank you to the guys doing the St Kilda season preview for adjusting their schedule to allow me to recover from surgery and complete this.
Thanks for reading the 2020 season preview for the Collingwood Magpies.
submitted by Pragmatic_Shill to AFL [link] [comments]

Temporary Commander: Chapter 3

Hi again, I'm back with the continuation of the story. This one is longer than usual because of the "Choices" part, but give it a try and tell me what you think. Links to the earlier chapters are below.
First Previous

Fanfiction link
Temporary Commander: Crowe’s choices and a fateful meeting
In the Sakura Empire, enjoying a cup of warm green tea is one of their many customs that promote a serene state of mind, which is crucial for naval officers and high ranking KANSENs alike when they are on duty. The ample amount of caffeine in the tea would also keep their minds sharp, allowing them to see the bigger picture and react to unforeseen circumstances in an efficient manner. In the case when they are off-duty, the amino acids within the tea leaves would help the drinker relax as they soothe their strained mind while they rest in the beautifully decorated personal quarters like the one Crowe finds himself in right now.
It has been a few hours since the combat drill between Shouhou and Zuikaku ended in a catastrophic defeat for the latter due to the triple decoy and a little bit of psychological warfare. With most of the participants accounted for after a little hectic debrief on Shouhou’s deck and sent to their dorms, it would normally be considered as a commission complete for Crowe and he would already be on the Hellcat, heading back to his workshop.
Unfortunately for him, the client of this commission seems to take several issues on his conducts and has invited him up to her office for a discussion on his job performance. At least she was kind enough to offer him a bunch of rice crackers along with a cup of warm green tea, which is actually working its relaxing magic on him. Sadly, even a gallon of concentrated Theanine (the relaxing amino acids) would not help in soothing Crowe’s conversation partner who is pouring her 6th cup whilst keeping a deceptively calm outlook.
“Now, before we discuss your performance.” The Battleship-type KANSEN and senior instructor of the Sakura Empire Naval Academy, IJN Mikasa, said as she takes a sip from the ornate ceramic mug in her hands. “I would really appreciate it if you stop seducing our cadets.”
“Seduce?” Crowe chuckles as he takes a sip of his own. “You wound me, Mikasa-san. I was only going to give the girl some pointers, that’s all!”
“By inviting her to a dinner date and promising to buy her a new dress? I may be old but I’m not senile!” Mikasa retorted sharply, her amber eyes glaring at the man sitting comfortably on the guest sofa.
“Hey, that is just common courtesy for a Royal Navy gentleman Mikasa-san.” Crowe smirks as he answered. “Honestly though, Cadet Arisaka has really good basics.”
“You are speaking of her capabilities as a shikikan, am I right?” Mikasa’s eyebrow twitches as she pours the 7th cup, her calm outlook started to waver just a little as her irritation continues to build up inside.
“She has good assets too if you ask me.” Crowe smirks as he finishes his green tea and slumps onto the sofa. Prompting Mikasa to clear her throat audibly as a warning.
“Would you please continue with her evaluation?” Mikasa demands as she take another sip from her mug.
“Well, considering this was her first combat drill she did better than I expected. Better than those idiots from mainland that’s for sure.” Crowe snorted as he recalls the sad excuses that passes as “shikikans” at the Sakura Navy HQ.
Greedy, prideful, selfish buffoons mostly, with no real combat experience to back up their shiny badges. There are even rumors of high-ranking shikikans who strips their KANSENs of their parts to sell too, and the worst part of it is that they can’t be tried unless the KANSENs themselves lodge a complaint, which is neigh impossible since the command modules, the leashes, are held by the main perpetrator who would never let their victims run their mouth.
Should’ve left them to the sharks, like the worthless meatbags that they are.
-----
“Crowe?” Mikasa’s voice brought the brooding Hellcat pilot back to the present, he quickly clears his nasty thoughts and turn his attention back to his client.
“Sorry. As I was saying, Arisaka is solid. She just needs more experience in the field with someone who can handle themselves. Give her two years and she will undoubtedly become one of the best, I guarantee you.” Crowe said as he takes another sip to relax his mind.
“Then why did you intervene in today’s combat drill?” Mikasa poses her next question, her amber eyes still fixed on to Crowe.
“Intervene? Mikasa-san, I only did what you asked me to do.” Crowe replied casually as he counts his fingers. “Temporary commander for Shouhou during her combat drill, making sure that both parties come back in one piece, providing evaluation on cadet Arisaka, that should be it, no?”
“The part where your command vessel was used as a decoy to lure Zuikaku out into the clouds before flanking Arisaka’s command vessel with squadrons of dive bombers disguised as paper planes suggests otherwise.” Mikasa said as she pulls up several freeze frames pictures onto her desk, showing them to Crowe.
“If that wasn’t enough, you used your Hellcat to throw Zuikaku off-guard and tricked her into following you into the storm, drawing her further away from the command vessel she was supposed to protect.”
“To top it off, you personally saw to it that she was beaten by the same trick Grey Ghost always used on her.” Mikasa finished as she shows Crowe a picture of his Hellcat dropping the white smoke pellet onto Zuikaku’s head.
“Guilty as charged with the Hellcat part. Sorry, just wanted tease the lucky crane a little for old time’s sake.” Crowe throws his hands up as he answered, smiling wryly as Mikasa continued to glare daggers at him. “But the rest were all Shouhou’s ideas, Mikasa-san. I just helped make it a reality as any competent shikikans would.”
“Crowe, I have been training that girl for years and never once did she voice her opinion or suggest these kinds of tactics.” Mikasa frowned as she collects the pictures and put it away.
“You do remember that Amagi-san was her teacher too, right? Before she retired at least.” Crowe retorted as he eyes the rice crackers on the table. “Also, her usual shikikan is probably another one of those idiots who never listens to their KANSENs and denied her every opportunity to prove herself just to stroke their ego.”
-----
“Well….I can’t deny that.” Mikasa let out a small sigh as she recalls who Shouhou’s usual shikikan is. The man was loud, obnoxious, and egoistic like most of the IJN shikikan nowadays. His only saving grace was the number of medals on his uniform and most of those came from scrapping stationery Siren ships.
His treatment of KANSENs, except for high-ranking ones like her and Nagato seems to be abysmal according to the ones that served under him. There had been several complaints of him sending the KANSENs into battle without approving their combat gear, only to show up and “save” them later on too, but those complaints never got “officially” to the Sakura Navy HQ because he has friends in high places.
That was why Mikasa asked Takao to take Ayanami with her and get him off base while Shouhou proceeds with her combat drill. That was why she asked Crowe to fill in since she knew that he would treat Shouhou right and allow the little carrier to prove her strength.
But Mikasa did not expect Shouhou to win against Zuikaku or cadet Arisaka, the latter of whom was supposed to be given a sufficient challenge and grasp victory in the end for her graduation. Shouhou was supposed to get a chance to blow off some steam with the freedom Crowe would have given her, and it would have helped in building up her confidence so that she could ask to be reassigned, which Mikasa would be more than happy to help with.
Crowe’s independent actions have derailed her intended outcomes and she could only curse herself for not taking his usual antics into account, but that was not the only reason she’s feeling irritated at the man before her.
No, it is something much more basic than that.
Something that has been irking her ever since he came into her office.
-----
“See? Shouhou’s got potential, she just needed an opportunity.” Crowe said as he starts to munch on the rice cracker. “She could make a good combo with Arisaka too, come to think of it. They seem to be roommates in the dorm, that could help in building teamwork and trust. If you task Zuikaku with their training as her disciplinary punishment, I’m sure she would be more than happy to help the duo.”
“This way, you get two combat-ready KANSENs and a competent shikikan who has deep emotional ties with their subordinates. Not a bad deal, right?” Crowe finishes his evaluation as he gulps the rice cracker down with a satisfied smile on his face.
“Hah….If this was your plan all along, I would have appreciated it if you informed me beforehand, Crowe.” Mikasa sighed heavily as she downs the rest of her green tea in one go, coughing a little as the warm tea singes her throat.
“Want some honey-lemon candy? It’ll help with the cough.”
“Argh!! At least sit up straight will you?!” Mikasa roared as she catches the candies Crowe sloppily threw at her while feeling the irritation that has been building up inside reaching its peak. “When you suddenly showed your face a year ago, I didn’t expect you to turn out like this!!”
“Like the embodiment of awesomeness that I am? You flatter me, Mikasa-san.”
“Completely opposite of who you were!! Sloppily-dressed, ill-mannered, not to mention flirtatious like a Sardegna gigolo!!” Mikasa was on the verge of giving Crowe the what for with her fist until she saw the wrappings on the candies he threw at her. “Where did you get these?” She asked.
Crowe chuckles as he perks up and re-posture himself to meet the veteran KANSEN’s standard, earning him another frown from her. “Got those from Mutsuki. Poor thing lost track of her group when they went out at sea last night, I let her ride the Hellcat back here. She gave me those as thanks. You should keep better eyes on the destroyers, Mikasa-san.”
Mikasa’s irritated expression turned cloudy as Crowe finishes his explanation, she unwraps one of the lemon candies and gulp it down before handing the rest back. “I guess there are things that stayed the same too, huh? You Showa-born brat.”
“Heh...didn’t think I’d get to hear you say that again, Mikasa.” Crowe scratches the back of his head as he takes the remaining candies back. “Ah…. sorry, can I speak without honorifics? It’s really hard to keep this up, you know?”
The veteran KANSEN pondered for a few seconds before she smiles. “Well that depends on whether you choose accept my offer.” Mikasa said in a rather playful voice, making Crowe shudder a little. Her irritated and lecturing demeanor vanished as if they were never there as she circles around the wooden table and approaches Crowe with a worn-out IJN commander’s cap.
“You kept it? I thought the Sakura big shots wanted all trace of my existence wiped.” Crowe asks as he touches the old cap softly with a nostalgic smile on his face.
“They were too busy hogging the glory kills and keeping other factions from getting ahead, probably didn’t think some of us would keep your memoirs.” Mikasa chuckles as she makes her way towards the window of her office and cast her eyes on the lively docks below.
“As you must have seen during your stay here, the Sakura Navy right now is filled with spineless swines and corrupt leaders. Even with promising cadets like Arisaka in our academy, the amount of those sad excuses far outnumbers them, both at sea and in the mainland.” The veteran battleship said as she closes her eyes and pull the window shades down. She then walks over to the table and pull out a piece of paper from her drawer before coming over to Crowe.
“That is why we need men like you.” Mikasa declares firmly as she stares into Crowe’s eyes. “Would you be interested in making this temporary contract between us a permanent one?” She asked, handing Crowe the paper she just took from her table.
“Men like me? A lecher to the bone with ill manners and sloppy dress code is what the Sakura Empire needs? I’m sure there are better candidates.” Crowe chuckles as he takes the paper from Mikasa and reads what’s on it.
“Letter of recommendation for a naval officer candidate at the Sakura Empire Academy. Signed, IJN Mikasa”
“Those new habits of yours could be corrected once Takao gets her hands on you, I’m sure she would be more than happy to…...after she wipe the floor with you, of course.” Mikasa said as she hands Crowe an ink pen. “Would you come back to us already, Shikikan-dono?”
-----
Faced with the sudden offer Mikasa throws his way, Crowe chooses to;
[A: Consider the offer]
[B: Reject the offer]
-----
[Choice A: Consider Mikasa’s offer]
“You think Takao will let me off after a few strikes?” Crowe asks nervously as he signs the letter and hand it back to Mikasa who is smiling in satisfaction.
“Well, that depends on you, Shikikan-dono. You did hide the fact that you're still alive from her, after all.” Mikasa said as she grabs Crowe by his hand. “But I’m sure she will be happy to see you like I was.”
“Remember, Mikasa. I’m no longer the commander you used to know.” Crowe chuckles as he stands up from the sofa with a determined look on his face. “I’ve learned a few things from my otherworldly trips, and I intend to use them to their full effects.”
Mikasa shoots him an intrigued look. “Then I will place my expectation a little higher, Shikikan-dono.”
-----
Two years later
True to his word, Crowe used every knowledge and tricks he learned during his time in the Siren portal to its full effects. He quickly caught up with Arisaka in her class and graduated from the Sakura Academy in record time, rising up the ranks in their navy until he found himself a comfortable position as a fleet commander of Mikasa’s port. After that, he continued to build his fleet back to its former strength by recruiting abandoned KANSENs from all over the world and giving them a place to stay in his newly built home base on the old Azur Lane’s HQ.
There were obstacles, of course. Mostly from the jealous snobs that didn’t even think of working hard to get their high positions in the first place and the human leaders who saw him as a threat, but the worst they could do was slander Crowe with unfounded allegations or send incompetent assassins after him. Both of which are dealt with promptly, in a way that would leave the prepetators think twice before attempting it again.
The real threat to him actually came in the form of his KANSENs, most of the time by Takao and Zuikaku who reacted rather harshly to his identity reveal. And while the former one eventually mellowed out after several life-threatening therapeutic sessions together, the latter is still hounding him for aerial duels to this day. Still, Crowe considered the choice he made two years ago a great success, he has a solid home base, reliable friends, and now he is in the position to help improve the KANSEN’s situation as he sees fit.
-----
“Admiral Arisaka, I’m happy to see you in good health.” Crowe does a sharp salute at the newly appointed admiral as she disembarks from her vessel in full regalia with two bodyguards on her side.
“At ease, Crowe-san.” The admiral, Arisaka Michiru returns his salute with one of her own as she looks around the port, bustling with both KANSENs and human staffs alike. “I see you have been working hard to restore this base too, how have you been?”
“Things are moving along just fine, admiral.” Crowe bows his head respectfully and gesture Michiru towards his office building, which is decorated in the four faction’s flags, Eagle Union, Sakura Empire, Ironblood, and the Royal Navy. “Please, follow me.”
Michiru could only stare in awe at the sight of countless chicken-like creatures that roams the hall performing maintenance duties, she could only wonder what kind of strings Crowe had to pull in order to get each of the major factions to agree on giving him back the position of Azur Lane’s sole commander. But most of all, she could only shudder at the enormous fleet of KANSENs Crowe has under his command, most of whom are fanatically loyal to him even with their control modules removed.
“C-Crowe san….can we speak in private?” Michiru asks nervously as she feels the gazes of every KANSENs nearby burning into her back, most with curiosity, some with stronger feelings behind them.
“That is inadvisable, admiral Arisaka” One of the bodyguards interjected. “This man has been blacklisted on every nation’s entry for a reason.”
“We are only here for a negotiation per the Grand Admiral’s command.” The second bodyguard adds as he places his hand on his sidearm. “There will be no…”
*Thud* *Crash\*
There was no time for the two bodyguards to react as they were sent flying into the wall by the two Sakura KANSENs standing in their place, both sporting their signature katana and wearing a nasty look on their face as they sneer at the unconscious humans sliding down from the dented wall.
“Takao…..Zuikaku…..” Crowe could only sigh at his two KANSENs while he comforts the trembling Michiru in his arms.
“They were threatening you, Shikikan-dono.” Takao retorted as she signals the Manjuus to bring the bodyguards back to their vessel. “No one threatens you under my watch.”
“They asked for it, too. What kind of negotiators would bring weapons with them!” Zuikaku added as she sends out her origamis. “Sakura fleet approaching from the west, Shikikan. They are preparing for an all-out assault on our base. Some of the leftover KANSENs are leading the charge too, with explosive collars…..damned cowards….”
Crowe sighed again as he grabs Michiru by her shoulder. “Michiru, please stay inside my room until the alarm’s off. We can talk after I get rid of those meatbags. Takao, keep her safe with your life.”
“Understood, but do remember that your life holds more meaning to me than hers, Shikikan-dono. I will prioritize your safety above all else.” Takao declared flatly as she turns on her heel, beckoning Michiru to follow her with an indifferent look on her face.
“O…Okay, Crowe-san. I’ll wait for you.” Michiru said nervously as she followed Takao to Crowe’s office.
“Now, Zuikaku.” Crowe cracked his fists as he turns toward the Carrier beside him and grins devilishly. “Let’s see how those idiots fare against a real challenge.”
“No quarters?” Zuikaku asks as she sharpens her katana, wearing the same look Crowe has on his face.
“This is just a combat drill, Zuikaku.” Crowe chuckles. “Give them some handicaps and call it a day. Oh, be sure to bring those girls to our side too while you’re at it.”
“Hehe…Your wish is my will, Shikikan-sama.”
[Holy Moly…. She actually beat them all half to death]
[I’m more interested in this Crowe guy…. world domination in just two years? How the hell did he even get code T to work for him?]
[Indeed, after that fiasco with Ayanami I thought she was going to kill every human on sight.]
[This cycle is going to be interesting, a shame she couldn’t be part of it]
Alternate End: Tyrant Crowe (Sakura version)
-----

[Choice B: Reject the offer]
“Sorry Mikasa-san, I’m afraid I’ll have to decline.” Crowe replied, bowing his head slightly at the veteran battleship and returned the letter to her.
“May I ask why?” Mikasa asks as she takes the letter back with a disappointed look on her face.
“I’m doing just fine with all these commissions, see no need to anchor myself anywhere for the time being.” Crowe said as he flashes his full purse of gold coin. “Besides, I’m not really cut out for commanding KANSENs around anymore.”
“Crowe, I’ve served under you.” Mikasa narrows her eyes at Crowe and crosses her arms. “That excuse won’t work. Hero of the Siren war.”
“Exaggerations to the highest degree that one. I’m just lucky whatever I touched in that portal managed to shut the rest down.” Crowe replied nervously, thinking back to his bizarre experience in the siren portal.
“The amount of commissions you have completed this year alone, plus the result of this morning’s combat drill would suggest otherwise.” Mikasa said. “Despite your current demeanor, you are as good a commander that you were, on this I insist.”
“Oh, I’m not the commander you or the girls looked up to anymore, Mikasa-san. See? I don’t even look the same.” Crowe retorts as he points to his hair and eyes. “Aside from you, no one has even noticed yet and I plan on keeping a low profile since the chaps over at the Royal Navy would likely throw me into one of their political games if they know that I’m back from the dead."
"Seriously, it would only give me more headache than I care to deal with.” Crowe smiles as he spins one of the gold coins around his fingers.
“So that is why you refused to contact the Royal Navy?” Mikasa widen her eyes at Crowe’s confessions. “I’m sure that If her majesty hears of this, she would send the whole fleet after you.”
“That’s what I’m trying to prevent here, Mikasa-san.” Crowe said as he continue to play with the coin. “Aside from the Royal Navy, the human leaders would not take kindly to me disturbing their pecking order by hogging up their KANSEN’s attention.” Crowe sighed as he imagines what kind of trouble his “resurrection” would bring to this already shaky world. Not just for the Royal Navy, but for every factions that he had helped out during the war.
He knew that the ones who had served directly under him like Mikasa would somehow realize who he is and would come running, making the ones that follow them come after out of respect and curiosity. If he didn’t know better, he would think that he could just take over the world and solve the problem of KANSEN slavery that way, but alas, the world is not so simple.
“But know this, Mikasa-san." Crowe said in a deep, commanding voice, making Mikasa's shoulders jolt in response. "While I don’t plan on becoming a fleet commander again, I will do something about those blasted control modules. Of this, I promise.” Crowe said as he clenches the gold coin in his hand and stares intently into Mikasa's eyes.
“I....see." Mikasa replied as she feels her wisdom cube resonates with Crowe's voices. The nostalgic sensation of hearing her old shikikan's commanding voice sent waves of positive emotions throughout her body. Positive emotions...like butterflies in her tummies....
"With that said, can I get the gems now? Gotta go back home before dinner." Crowe winks at the veteran KANSEN who has a slight blush on her cheeks.
"Ha..!!" Mikasa yelped as she realized she has a sloppy look on her face. "Ghh...can't believe I let you sway me like that...." Mikasa grimaced as she realizes that she had been played by him again. “Here’s your payment you brat.....stay safe this time, will you?”
“Thank you for the patronage, Mikasa-san.” Crowe chuckles as he takes the box of red gems Mikasa prepared as payment for his commission. “And don't worry about me, I plan on having a peaceful retirement after I deal with the wankers who enslaved you all”. He gives Mikasa one final bow before leaving her office with a wide smile on his face.
-----
The Hellcat’s engines make a satisfying roar as Crowe turns the power on. It’s full-flap metallic wings let out small creaking sounds as the wind blows against them. “System’s all green. Ready for takeoff.” Crowe said to the radio in front of him, which is linked to the flight control tower on Shouhou’s deck.
“Have a safe flight, mister!!”
“Crowe-san!! I’ll be waiting for our date!!”
“You won’t get the drop on me next time we fight!!”
Crowe could only laugh at the combat drill trio waving their hands at him from the bridge, seeing them together like this reminded him of how relationship between humans and KANSENs used to be, an equal partner…..not master and slave as they seem to be right now.
“Crowe!!” The fourth voice came from Mikasa, who sounds more worried than usual. Crowe quickly switches over to his personal channel to answer her.
“Mikasa-san? What happened?”
“When you fly over the border, would you please look for a small patrol of two KANSENs? Their communication’s been cut for some reason.”
“They run into one of those Siren clouds?” Crowe asks worriedly.
“Possibly, their last transmission mentioned something about unusual thunderstorms too.” Mikasa replied.
“Got it, I’ll look around and tell you once I’ve got something. Keep the channel open and have medical teams ready for treatment. If I don’t contact you back then assume the worst and send out the search parties with two heavy cruisers and a carrier support. Get Zuikaku on the job, she will be more than happy to help.”
“See, shikikan-dono? You’ve still got it.” Mikasa chuckles at Crowe’s spitfire orders.
“Or the patrol could already be on their way back, who knows?” Crowe laughs heartily as he takes off from the flight deck towards the direction of the Sakura border. “And it’s just Crowe now, catch you later, Mikasa-san.”
-----
“Well that is a Siren cloud alright.” Crowe curses his luck as he observes the raging thunderstorm before him. It has been a few hours since he left Mikasa’s port in order to return to his workshop, but he took a detour to look for Mikasa’s missing patrol group.
Now where is that patrol…..hm!?” Crowe’s squinted eyes widen in surprise as he realized that a lone KANSEN destroyer is fighting for her dear life among the crashing waves just ahead of him, pursued by five Siren ships. A single destroyer? Where is her support group!!? Crowe curses as he flies his Hellcat downwards.
“Hey! Can you hear me!?” Crowe yelled through his IJN comms frequency at the girl beneath him, only to get statics as answers. Insufficient combat gears, damaged riggings, alone with no support ships…commander must be a real ass or he must have wanted this girl dead. Crowe grits his teeth as he lay out the possibilities.
“Damn it…. Repeat! Sakura destroyer down there!! Can you hear me!!?” Crowe yelled out again and this time he finally got something in return. What he heard from the comms however, turned his guts inside out.
[Shikikan, authorization to use combat gears please!!]
[Huh? I thought I told you to scout, what the hell did you do?]
[The Sirens woke up, desu!! Authorization to use….]
[Denied!! You have your sword and that should be enough to disable those ships. Now stop bothering me!!]

That girl’s gonna die at this rate… Crowe frowns at the gruesome sight below him as he hovers above her. There is no possible avenue of exit for this girl, she is alone without support from her group, her shittykan wouldn’t even let her fight at full strength and the other KANSEN is nowhere to be seen.
Even if he wants to guide her out of the storm, he can’t communicate with her properly due to her damaged riggings. Even if he wants to help her fight, his Hellcat machine guns won’t do any good against the Siren ship’s armored hulls and his single payload is barely enough to disable one of them. The pained scream from the destroyer that flows into his comms also doesn’t help, but he couldn’t just shut her off and leave her to die alone.
“Think…Crowe. You’ve survived five apocalypses already…. think, you idiot…” Crowe racks his head as he continued to curse his powerlessness.
It has always been like this for him, whenever he gets into a pinch, he would somehow find a way to get out of it alive, but when it comes to saving others…. he couldn’t do anything more than his “best”.
It was the same for his conscript friends when they faced off against their first Siren ship, his “best” couldn’t save them from drowning even though he got himself out. It was the same when he was caught in the Siren’s trap, his “best” couldn’t help the rest of his crew when they were fried to death. Even in the different worlds he finds himself in when he was inside that portal, it was the same…. even with all the allies and powerful weapons on his side, he couldn’t save anyone but himself in the end. His “best” amounted to fuck-all every single time it counted, and now he is witnessing another one of that moment right in front of him. The moment when his “best” is basically useless in the grand scheme of things.
“Give me something…come on!!” Crowe curses as he focuses deeper into his thoughts, shutting off almost everything except for the destroyer’s cry for help below him. “Hero of the Siren war, my ass….”
Then, as if to answer his call, a shrill voice rings inside his head.
-----
[Siren hulls…..laser penetration……movement-based targeting….]
[Payload….Decoy……Opening……]
-----
Crowe shudders at the sudden cryptic voice, he had no idea where it came from but there was no more time to think anymore. The voice gave him some ideas, and now he knows what to do.
*Whoosh\*
Crowe flies his sturdy Hellcat right into the thunderstorm where the destroyer girl is. She is still fighting for her life, narrowly dodging the Siren laser cannons and shielding the impact with her worn-out sword. But it was only a matter of time before she slips, so Crowe quickly put his hastily-formed plan into motion.
As one of the Siren ships on the backline takes its aim on the destroyer, Crowe flies his Hellcat daringly right in front of its primed barrels, tilting his fighter ever so lightly so that it barely dodged the laser blast and gaining its attention. That single siren ship quickly changed its target and kept on firing relentlessly, each shot grazing Crowe’s Hellcat by a hair’s breadth and making him feel the heat shooting right over his head, and that was what he intended. He kept on flying dangerously close it its primed barrels and fired his machineguns back from time to time, toying around with the significantly larger vessel until it started to change its original course and pursue him instead.
Once he was sure that the Siren ship has its eyes on him, Crowe pulls up and disappeared into the thunderous clouds above the ship, prompting it to shoot its lasers upwards repeatedly and lighting the dark clouds up in a spectacular red hue. With both the Siren laser and the thunderclaps coming after him, Crowe had to keep himself on edge every single passing seconds, one hit from either of those would put him out of commission. If that happens, he would die, the Sakura destroyer he wanted to save would also die, and his friends will remain as slaves to the worthless meatbags forever with no one to help them.
Screw that…. I’m going to save them all…. starting with this one!” Crowe yelled out loudly as he continued to dodge the lasers and thunderclaps, feeling a mix of rage, excitement, and fear for his life mixing up in one messed-up whirlpool of emotion that a pilot shouldn’t have when he’s flying in hostile environment. He kept on narrowly dodging everything this world throws at him until he noticed that the lasers started to come at him in a significantly lower interval and a loud warning sound could be heard from below him.
“Let’s go then….” Crowe grins as he pops one of Mutsuki’s lemon candies inside his mouth and dives down from the cloud, his eyes fixed on the Siren ship that is still firing at him, significantly slower than before with its burning barrels. As he continued his descent, Crowe eyes another Siren ship that has the Sakura destroyer surrounded, he shifts his fighter slowly towards its direction as he continued to dodge the slowed laser blast from the one that’s still firing. When he finally got to the altitude thar he wanted, Crowe quickly pulls his Hellcat up and let the payload go.
“Boom\*
The sound of high-explosive payload crashing on metallic hull would turn every head to its direction if not for the thunderstorms and raging waves drowning it out, and that was what Crowe was betting on. Out of the five Siren ships that had the Sakura destroyer cornered, two is now focused on Crowe and his Hellcat, firing their lasers at him sloppily as one had a burning barrel from overheating and the other one had its targeting systems disabled from Crowe’s payload. Normally, he would already be satisfied and let his KANSENs finish the job, but this time it is different, he had to finish them off by himself and give the struggling Sakura destroyer the opening to escape.
“Come get me, clankers…” Crowe chuckles as he circles around both Siren ships, painting him as their targets and dodging their laser blasts without a hitch, he then circles around and lowers his altitude so that he could position himself right between their barrels.
“Whoom* * Pshhh\*
The two Siren ships that had him sandwiched fired their laser simultaneously at their target, their algorithms calculated its certain destruction. Crowe could feel the heat of the lasers approaching him from both sides, then he grins.
“Friendly fire…incoming.”
Crowe pulls his Hellcat up with everything that he has got, feeling the lasers grazing barely past his cockpit’s window and burning some of the glasses off. The sudden impact of the wind coming through the glass hole shook him up a little, but Crowe quickly recovered and turns his Hellcat around to observe the labor of his works.
*Bzzt* *Crash\*
The two Siren ships that had fired at him now has a large gaping hole on both of their hulls, letting out a nasty electric buzzing along with loud warning sounds that would have penetrated Crowe’s ears if not for the wind blowing through his cockpit. Crowe smiles at the sight of his work and turns towards where the Sakura destroyer was, she seemed to have noticed the opening he had created for her and has started to dash towards the exit. With the immediate threat to her life gone, Crowe quickly gained altitude and followed the Sakura destroyer behind, keeping his eyes on her just in case.
-----
[Sakura KANSEN……partially damaged…maintenance advised]
[Pilot vitals…elevated….8 hours rest advised]
-----
Crowe was startled as the voices in his head suddenly came back again, but he was too tired to think about it after the stunts he pulled inside just minutes ago. His sole focus is on the Sakura destroyer below him, speeding through the storm like her life depends on it. Crowe tried listening in on the IJN comms channel again, this time he hears something that sounds like music to his ears
[IJN Ayanami, where the hell are you going?]
[Escaping. Too many Sirens, weird thunderstorm, Ayanami can’t fight properly because shikikan won’t let her. Shikikan is the worst, desu.]
Crowe chuckles at the words the destroyer just said and closed his comms, letting out a relieved sigh as the girl finally pushed through the storm and kept on moving full speed ahead.
“Atta girl, you’ll be fine now.” Crowe murmurs to himself as the strain of his aerial maneuvers coupled with the headwind blowing into his face makes him dizzy and blurring his sight. But he was content, he managed to save that destroyer, Ayanami, from certain death.
“Now I gotta find somewhere to land….” Crowe groans tiredly as he forces his eyes open, only to be met with one of the most bizarre things he has ever seen in his entire life.
That destroyer he just saved…..
she is flying up…..
…right into his Hellcat!!
“UWAHHHHH”
“Wha…”
*Crash**splash\*
-----
[Crowe, huh? Who exactly is he…]
[Who cares, he’s just a dumb human.]
[One that tricked our drones into shooting themselves, Purifier.]
[He did? You sure that wasn’t just his dumb luck?]
[That is what I intend to find out. Send another fleet at them, run the scans this time]
To be continued.
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The Grand Betting National odds vary from a betting site to the other, which is why we have rated all the odds for the best Betting sites for the Grand National in the first table. Generally, bet365, Ladbrokes, and William Hill offer the best odds, especially on ante-post wagers. The Grand National is the biggest betting race in the world, and one of the best ways to maximise your enjoyment of it is to use the best Grand National betting sites. This will enable you to take the best odds for your selections as well as take advantage of some great promotions, offers, and concessions. Bookmakers who offer promotional deals become thin on the ground during the week of the Grand National. Those new customer offers you see advertised on TV will suddenly disappear at the beginning of April, only to resurface fifteen minutes after the Grand National is over!. However, there are a few betting firms out there who don’t leave punters high and dry on Grand National day. The Randox Grand National is the biggest and most famous steeplechase in the world, watched by millions around the globe and attended by over 70,000 at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool. It is the undoubted highlight of the three day festival and is by far the biggest day for the major bookmakers. Understandably the bookies pull […] Aintree Grand National Betting Offers 2021. The world’s biggest, longest and most famous steeplechase attracts crowds of 75,000 people at Aintree in Liverpool and global TV audiences exceeding 750 million (that’s 10% of the world’s population).

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Grand Quiz Sta301 Solved Today Sta 301 100% Correct Solution MusaddiqTech

Peter Webb explains the maths behind placing a bet on the Grand National and where you can get the best odds. If you are betting on the Grand National at Aintree and are looking for the most ... Their welcome bonus as well as game variety & on going promotions make this one of the best online casinos in australia. New online pokies super 6 australian online pokies aussie online ... Betting strategy - How to always win at betting in the long run - Duration: 9:46. betangeltv 335,330 views. ... 2018 Randox Health Grand National - Tiger Roll - Racing TV - Duration: 10:04. Horse racing predictions including Keeneland, Del Mar, Belmont, Gulfstream Park and Woodbine races plus all the top North American tracks LIVE with host Jimmy the Bag. View Racing Post betting offers on our website. 18+ Gamble Responsibly---YouTube: https: ... 1973 Aintree Grand National Red Rum extended full race coverage - Duration: 20:42.