With the (expected) imminent arrival of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and even the original Ronaldo, one might consider the United States to be the place to be at present. But it is events at home that occupy North Carolina-based Stephen Glass’s mind as he logs on each weekend to discover the Aberdeen score.
A man of many clubs, Glass is currently most desperate to find out how one former team in particular have been doing. “Because there is the most riding on it, I’d say theirs is the first result I look for,” he says. Later today, in the town of Cary where he now lives, Glass will check to see if they have secured a ninth win a row against Dundee, his hometown club.
Glass has long since flown the nest, joining Aberdeen as a teenager when he was considered one of Scottish football’s brightest prospects. Until last season’s victory over Inverness, he could boast of being the man of the match on the last occasion Aberdeen won a major trophy, when they overcame today’s opponents Dundee in the Coca Cola Cup final 20 years ago.
But, while this victory didn’t ignite a renaissance in Aberdeen’s fortunes, perhaps last season’s might – Derek McInnes’ side currently lead the Premiership. The holders also have a League Cup semi-final against Dundee United, another of Glass’s former clubs, to look forward to at the end of this month.
“It is great. I think Derek deserves a lot of credit,” says Glass. “Even before this run, he captured the imagination. He had them buying in to what they were trying to do. He has got fans back in bigger numbers watching them. It is testimony to what he has done and the players brought in. The punters will be desperate for it to continue.
“If the team are doing well then the interest is there. They have been crying out for a team like this for a number of years. Even before I was there, in the years Willie Miller was manager, they came second to Rangers. From there it went downhill and it hasn’t been the same again, really.
“One thing I would say is that I hope the fans recognise the job Derek has done there and, if they do tail off, he doesn’t get punished for the great start. You have seen that happen a few times. People may start thinking that if Aberdeen do not win the league or finish second, then they have not done well now. It is important to avoid that temptation.”
Glass has noted McInnes’ rise to prominence with interest since he has recently passed his own Pro-licence badge and is making his way in coaching. He has already experienced a spell in Ireland assisting former Dunfermline manager Stephen Kenny at Shamrock Rovers and is now coaching at Under-17 level in the States, at Triangle Futbol Club Alliance. He spent the days after Christmas at Disneyland. Not, as one might have assumed, for a festive break. Rather, he was there to work.
“I was coaching at a competition called the Disney Soccer Showcase, where the boys’ team lost on penalties in the final, the girls’ team fell at the semi-final stage,” he explains. “They are basically trying to get college coaches to draft them up. That’s why it is called a showcase. It was a successful trip, a lot of interest. Plus it was 80 degrees!”
Glass finished his playing career with NASL side Carolina Railhawks, where Nacho Novo has just signed on again ahead of the new season, which kicks-off in April. In a few months’ time, Gerrard and, it is hoped, Lampard will clock on for work, in Los Angeles and New York respectively. Glass has already watched one of Gerrard’s US mini-adventures from close quarters.
“Liverpool came to Charlotte, fairly near where I live, last summer to play AC Milan,” recalls Glass. “I got in touch with Steven Gerrard, who I played against in England, and was invited to their training. Liverpool put me up in a hotel so I didn’t have to drive back for the game the next day.
“I thought, at best, it would just be a case of getting five minutes’ chat with manager Brendan Rodgers, but he had me in the staff meetings, it was open access really. He’d been at Watford, I’d played at Watford, so that was a connection that broke the ice. But people like him seem to know everything about anybody. At training, he said he wanted me down on the pitch, not in the stand. I was right on the field with Steven Gerrard and the rest of the players.”
Gerrard liked the experience of playing in America so much that he has decided to move there full-time, signing a contract with LA Galaxy earlier this month. Glass, now 38, moved across the Atlantic in 2013 and has no regrets.
When he hears of players such as Gerrard joining him, it reaffirms to him that the States is becoming ever more “soccer-literate”. Is there a danger Ronaldo’s attempted playing comeback at Fort Lauderdale Strikers could harden the prejudice of those who view the game in America as having an exhibition-style feel.
“Players like Ronaldo, they invest in these clubs,” explains Glass. “It is not crazily expensive. They can be involved in running the club and creates interest in the environment over here. So his presence here can only be a good thing.”