Chapter 4 of Rock n Roll Soccer examines at length the largely successful NASL careers of Marsh and George Best, looking to resurrect their reputations after having fallen out with Manchesters City and United respectively. While both had their issues with team bosses and coaches in the USA just as they had done in Britain, the two players were also uniquely suited to bringing the NASL the kind of panache and publicity that it was craving during its heady expansion years in the mid 1970s. Here are the opening paragraphs to ‘Marsh and Best: Entertaining the USA’:
|Marsh and Best: hair and flair|
It was the 1976 season, and the first visit by the Cosmos to the upstart Tampa Bay Rowdies since Pelé’s signing the previous year. The New York team, fresh off the plane from an exhibition game in the Dominican Republic, looked distinctly out of sorts, playing in front of a national TV audience and a regular-season League record crowd of over 42,000. They finished exhausted, outplayed, and soundly beaten by five goals to one. The talking point of the game was not, however, the exemplary hat-trick that Derek Smethurst put past New York’s hapless second-choice goalkeeper Kurt Kuykendall. It was Marsh, down on his knees, taunting a team that featured the greatest player of all time.
The Englishman, playing his first NASL season, opened up and flaunted a full bag of tricks that day. There were cheeky back-heel passes, nonchalant dummies, and a flawless back-heeled lob over his own head down the left wing that saw him breeze past a floundering opponent. On another occasion he effortlessly robbed an oncoming Cosmos player of the ball, then passed it forward down the line to a teammate, all the while holding his left boot, lost in action moments before. Marsh fully exploited the vast space in midfield that the Cosmos and the 35-yard offside line (see chapter 7 for more on this NASL innovation) permitted him, prompting CBS’s co-commentator Paul Gardner to say at the end of the afternoon, ‘Marsh has overshadowed Pelé, no doubt about it.’ When he left the field shortly before the end of the game, he received a standing ovation…