Stories From the Vault

The Coach Ian Story – Part 2

By Posted in - History on April 27th, 2015 0 Comments

Hong Kong to Vancouver

In 1989 I moved to Hong Kong to work for a small boutique ad agency called Pounds & Shanks. Dave Shanks – the Creative Director –  introduced me to the Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC) and I joined immediately. The club had a number of social and pro teams, with the first team playing in the Hong Kong pro league. It was to prove to be a great decision as our offices were 2 minutes walk away, so it made for great lunches. And of course, footie training, games and the HKFC Bar took over in my initial years in Hong Kong.

I started playing for the HKFC 4th team and met some great guys. We used to play the Chinese teams – full of skill but could not finish – and we won the Yau Yee League in my first year. Hard fields. Humid weather. And playing in a good big seater stadium every week.

One of my best work “football” experiences during my Hong Kong early years was working for our client Hong Kong Telephone, and we won the campaign to promote their IDD (long distance calling) service for the 1992 World Cup Campaign. We produced a TV commercial showing some great “direct” footage of old World Cup goals! We also arranged and organized a competition for the younger kids of Hong Kong and the winners were able to be trained by Tim Bredbury – who played for the Hong Kong National team at the time. This was my first experience of getting involved with Youth soccer and how you can inspire the younger generation..….

At this time, coverage of football changed and I was able to listen to BBC radio every Saturday night at 11pm to hear live coverage of the games in England, and then check out the South China Morning Post Newspaper for all scores and reports the following day. Football was starting to change and I smelled it!

My Uncle Stewart in the 1990’s was getting heavily involved with Chelsea football club, became a Director of the club, and eventually bought a Penthouse in the new Stamford Bridge development under the Ken Bates Chelsea revival era.

Glenn Hoddle came in and Ruud Gullit joined and it was time for a different Chelsea. No more games against Rotherham, Cambridge United and Oxford United….

I travelled back to Wembley for Chelsea’s first game at Wembley in over 20 years and we got hammered 4-0. Mark Hughes and Cantona destroyed us and it rained the whole game…. sobering. But it did not take Chelsea long to get back under Ruud Gullit when Glen Hoddle left to manage England, and finally Roberto diMatteo scored the fastest goal in Wembley history and Chelsea had won the cup again!!! I had actually dreamed, a week before, that Chelsea won a cup against a team playing in red 2-0!!

It was at this time that I met Ken Bates. After dinner with him in London after the Cup Final, he challenged me to set up the first official Chelsea Supporters Club. Nothing had been set up officially before and I flew back to Hong King with an idea, but it was not to be in Hong Kong as soon after I met my wife Jini and moved to Vancouver, BC, Canada. We got married in style (Las Vegas!) and the first thing I did after landing in Vancouver was to put an ad in the Chelsea Onside magazine to set up the first official Chelsea Supporters Club. I met with 2 other Chelsea fans – Gerry Toms and Andrew Whittaker, and Gerry and I went on to set up the club: The club is now 700 strong and we have had some wonderful experiences including meeting Depeche Mode and getting back seat passes to their gig in Vancouver, dining with Ken Bates and his wife Susannah at the Stanley Park Tea house when he came through for an Alaskan cruise, and playing annual inter “Champions League” games against the Liverpool Supporters club (which we consistently won!)

One very special moment occurred in 1997 when Gianfranco Zola scored against Stuttgart and Chelsea lifted their first European trophy since beating Real Madrid. Hunky Bill’s bar on Denman Street Vancouver went nuts!!

ianover40sAs soon as I arrived in Vancouver, I started playing over-40’s soccer for the West Side Strollers with a great bunch of guys in a friendly league (no such thing as a friendly league as I quickly found out!) playing teams made up of guys from Chile, Taiwan, China, Scotland, Eastern Europe and Canadian players… truly multi-cultural!

During this time I was introduced to Spring soccer and started playing with GP – my partner in Legendary Football Grounds. GP was a true centre forward. Goal scorer, would read the game well. His brain was also nuts, he could recall every play, every goal, every assist and every good and bad play….no one could understand how he did it. A true football mind!

Our spring team peaked when Ash became our main forward. I would have 20 assists a season. We were lethal and dominated the Engineering league. And it was with this Engineering league I stayed for over 15 years. As the team got younger, I got older but managed to hold my left wing/midfield position, albeit subbed more as the young guns started to take over… Although I have not yet “officially” hung up my boots yet, my focus has now switched to youth coaching – driven by the passion of both my sons, Oscar and Hugo.

Nearly caught up now, click to read Part 3 – Coaching Kids.

Or go back to Part 1 – London Days.

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