When former Socceroo great, Adrian Alston, took a leap of faith and departed Preston in the north of England and ventured to Wollongong in January 1968, he could never have imagined how his life would change forever.
However, Jim Kelly, the former Blackpool and England B international, who had played with the late and great Sir Stanley Matthews, knew his man and was instrumental in the new life Alston forged for him and his family.
Kelly had become part of football folklore on the South Coast after South Coast United defeated favourites Apia Leichhardt 4-0 in the 1963 NSW Federation Grand Final in front of an Australian record club crowd of 30,500.
Consequently, when Kelly brought his prodigy to the South Coast of NSW, he unknowingly created a football pathway for Alston which he still reflects on with immense pride and gratitude.
There is a constant message in the book, written by Philip Micallef, that Alston never forgot the people who assisted him in rising to the highest level of football, fulfilled by playing all over the globe and representing his chosen country in 37 full internationals, including the World Cup Finals of 1974 in Germany.
When Alston was selected in his first international against Greece in 1969, he stated he was no longer a Pommie – but green and gold through and through.
Critically, he knew that Australia was now the place he would always call home and after travelling the world with the Socceroos, playing in the 1974 World Cup Finals in Germany and in the English 1st Division with Luton Town, rubbing shoulders with the greats of world football including Pele, Beckenbauer, Chinaglia, Rodney Marsh, George Best and Johan Cruyff in the North American Soccer League before a serious injury forced him to retire from playing at the tender age of thirty, this fact became more evident.
Ironically, when he returned to England after his playing career finished, Alston really couldn’t settle down and when his young son, Adrian junior, asked when the family was returning to Australia, it was enough to influence Alston and his family to jet back to Wollongong.
Life after football can be very challenging for some but Alston took to coaching like a duck to water and the book documents in detail his coaching stints in the Illawarra during the 1980’s and 1990’s where he achieved considerable success.
However, his greatest loyalty was to the 1974 Socceroo squad and the last chapter of the book is devoted to his coach, the late Rale Rasic.
This book is just not about the footballer, Noddy Alston, but the man who took a chance in life to explore new surroundings when he came to Australia to begin the voyage of a lifetime.
There are a number of subplots in the book which make fascinating reading like Noddy’s procurement of Franz Beckenbauer’s shirt before the Socceroo’s World Cup match against West Germany in 1974.
The book will not only appeal to people who followed Noddy’s career closely but to supporters of the game who admire determination and God given ability in professional footballers.
For those who don’t know Noddy’s story, particularly the younger generation and those who are the standard bearers of our game, it’s a must read.