Former defender Randy Samuel enters Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame
By NEIL DAVIDSON
TORONTO (CP) - Randy Samuel watched Canada's back 82 times on the soccer field. As a reward for that stellar service, the big defender enters the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame on Saturday.
No Canadian men's player has won more caps than Samuel, whose international career stretched from 1983 to 1997.
A quiet individual off the field, Samuel was a hard-nosed defender on it.
He was an unsung warrior for Canada. And almost a decade after his last international game, many wish they had a player like him.
"We would certainly use Randy at this point in our team," said Canadian national team coach Frank Yallop, who used to play alongside Samuel. "A great player. . .. And it was great playing with him.
"He was very strong, quick, brave. All the things that good centre backs have, he had."
"One of a dying breed," said former Canadian teammate and coach Bob Lenarduzzi, who now runs the Vancouver Whitecaps. "If I could have another two or three of him right now, we'd be laughing."
The former Canadian captain is joined in this year's Hall of Fame induction class by friend and forward Alex Bunbury.
Bunbury played 65 times for Canada from 1986 to 1997, scoring 16 times. Only John Catliff and Dale Mitchell, both already in the Hall of Fame, scored more (19 goals apiece).
Samuel played overseas, in the Netherlands, England and Norway. Bunbury also enjoyed success abroad, playing for Maritimo in Portugal before moving to the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer.
Other players in the class of 2006 are Brian Robinson (21 caps, 1972-76) and Dave Stothard (four caps, 1957). Coaches inducted are the late Bob Bearpark, former Canadian men's coach, former Canadian women's coach Sylvie Beliveau and John Buchanan, former Simon Fraser and Canadian youth team coach.
The late Fred Stambrook, president of the Canadian Soccer Association from 1986 to 1992, is being inducted as a builder.
Rounding out the list of builders is George Gross, corporate sports editor of the Toronto Sun and a longtime supporter of the sport.
The nine inductees bring the number in the Hall to 86.
The 2006 "team of distinction" is the Toronto Scottish squad of 1933, which defeated the U.S. club champion in Chicago.
Samuel, now 42, will miss Saturday's festivities as he will be out of the country. He is still in soccer, helping coach and develop young players in the Vancouver area.
He says he wants to be remembered for being a complete player and for his attitude.
"I gave it my all," he said in an interview. "I had tremendous feeling for playing and passion to play for my country. I always gave my utmost. And when I left the field, I left everything on it."
Samuel was just 22 in 1986 when he appeared in all three games for Canada at the World Cup finals in Mexico, playing alongside Ian Bridge in central defence.
"A great defender," recalled Bridge, now coach of the Canadian women's under-20 team. "His qualities were his pace and his strength in the air."
Bridge and Samuel were the quiet men of the Canadian backline.
"We had (fullbacks) Bob Lenarduzzi and Bruce Wilson to do all the yelling back there," Bridge said dryly.
Samuel admits it was only years after the World Cup that the enormity of the moment sank in.
"At the time, it was a dream. It wasn't reality to be playing against (Michel) Platini, (Jean) Tigana."
Lenarduzzi wasn't surprised that Samuel won work in Europe after the World Cup. He had already turned heads in the Canadian squad, winning a starting job en route to Mexico.
Samuel also helped Canada qualify, clearing a ball of the goalline in the decisive game against Honduras in St. John's.
Mexico paved the road to PSV Eindhoven, a storied side packed with stars. PSV coach Hans Kraay Sr. took note after seeing Samuel play in the opening 1-0 loss to France. His son had played in Edmonton with Samuel, so could fill his father in on the Canadian.
The PSV coach then called Eindhoven captain Ruud Gullit, who went on to be named European and World Player of the Year in 1987, and asked him to watch Samuel in the next two games.
Gullit did and reported back favourably, leading the Dutch team to sign Samuel.
"It really took me to the next level of understanding the game, the real intricacies of the game," Samuel said of his time at PSV.
Bridge, who played 33 times for Canada between 1981 and 1991, marvels at Samuel's longevity.
"When you talk about numbers like that, that's extraordinary for a Canadian," he said, referring to the 82 caps. "In those days, we didn't play that many internationals a year."
Samuel later played for Dutch clubs Volendam and Fortuna Sittard before moving to England's Port Vale and Harstad in Norway. He ended his career in the A-League, now known as the United Soccer League First Division.
Samuel survived a scare in 2001 when, playing for the Montreal Impact, he collapsed from severe dehydration during an A-League game in Pittsburgh. He returned to action a month later.
In 2001, he received the Aubrey Sanford Meritorious Award from the Canadian Soccer Association.
The honour is given annually to "one who exemplifies outstanding commitment and achievement to the cause of Canadian soccer."
Sanford was president of the Canadian Soccer Association from 1968 to 1972.