A match-by-match look at Detroit Cougars’ ’67 season

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News

The Detroit Cougars played 12 matches in seven weeks but accumulated a lifetime of memories.

Cougars 1, Boston Rovers 1: At Manning Bowl, Lynn Mass. (May 28, 1967). It was mayhem from the get-go as the debut match before 7,300 spectators featuring North (East Belfast’s Glentoran) vs. South (Dublin’s Shamrock Rovers) boiled over into a frothing Irish stew that included three Detroit disallowed goals and an accusation player-manager John Colrain punched a linesman. “It was totally utter nonsense,” said Belfast Telegraph sports editor Malcolm Brodie, who had reported on the match, in Colrain’s defense 40 years later. Colrain, who supplied the equalizer in the 85th minute, was still suspended by the United Soccer Association before being reinstated after two games.

Members of the Detroit Cougars team in 1967.

Cougars 1, Vancouver Royal Canadians 1: At University of Detroit Stadium (June 4, 1967). Danny Trainor treated the 11,629 spectators to a well-executed header from 5 yards out off a floated cross from Eric Ross two minutes into the match. Vancouver, which was represented by English First Division’s Sunderland, equalized on a goal by George Herd in the 39th minute. “The American people should realize Sunderland is a first-class major league team,” John Colrain told The Detroit News’ Jerry Green afterward. The William Clay Fords and debutante daughter Muff and son Billy were among the supporters, as was team director Ralph C. Wilson Jr., News society editor Eleanor Breitmeyer reported.

Cougars 1, Boston Rovers 0: At U-D Stadium (June 7, 1967). In the pouring rain, John Colrain’s side got a measure of revenge for the Beantown blunders after Arthur Stewart converted a disputed penalty in the 35th minute. Boston’s John Keogh was judged to have handled the ball in the penalty area by referee Glen Neil-Dwyer, a Wayne State doctorate student at the time. Keogh’s player-coach Liam Tuohy didn’t buy the ref’s thesis, countering the handling was unintentional. “As John Colrain said in Boston, the referees are going to ruin this league,” Tuohy said. “I couldn’t agree more.”

For Glentoran, playing for Detroit a ‘great adventure’

Cougars 2, Washington Whips 2: At U-D Stadium (June 11, 1967). Glentoran talisman Trevor Thompson, who was delayed by work commitments, scored both Cougars goals in his debut. Jimmy Wilson and Pat Wilson scored for Washington, which was represented by Scottish First Division’s Aberdeen. The Cougars appeared to park the bus with the score 2-2, which rankled some of the 5,124 spectators who’d grown weary of the string of draws. “These boys are playing their guts out,” John Colrain said angrily, “and the people in the stands are yelling ‘What are you playing for, a tie?’ We play to win. That’s what the game’s about.”

Houston Stars 2, Cougars 0: At U-D Stadium (June 14, 1967). A foul wind blew off Livernois Avenue as the match with Rio de Janeiro club Bangu degenerated into all-out warfare. The melee’s low points included Houston players launching two-footed drop kicks into the backs of Cougars players and using the corner flags as weapons as 7,196 spectators watched in horror. Detroit police and private security came onto the pitch to restore order. Referee Ed Clements of Southgate halted the match with 17 minutes left as the Stars led 2-0 on goals by Fernando (37’) and Aladim (48’). “This is unfortunate and won’t help soccer here,” said William Clay Ford, who witnessed the chaos.

Los Angeles Wolves 4, Cougars 1: At Los Angeles Coliseum (June 18, 1967). The Irish League part-timers met their match in English First Division’s Wolverhampton, which unleashed three goals (Bobby Thompson, 8’; Derek Dougan, 9’; and Ernie Hunt, 14’) in six minutes. Peter Knowles added another first-half strike for eventual the USA champions. Thompson replied for the Cougars whose player-coach found himself in hot water with officials again. Mexican referee Enrique Rubal Cava cited John Colrain for ungentlemanly conduct when the Scot protested after Alan McNeill’s goal was waived off for offside. “These referees are killing the game here,” said Colrain, repeating what became a familiar refrain.

San Francisco Golden Gate Gales 6, Cougars 1: At Kezar Stadium, San Francisco (June 21, 1967). The match against Holland’s ADO Den Haag was largely forgettable aside from a Danny Trainor goal. The Cougars players took in the usual Bay Area sites, including the infamous prison. John Colrain addressed a postcard of the gated island community to the league’s commissioner with the singular note: ‘Greetings from Alcatraz. Wish you were here.”

Cougars 1, Dallas Tornado 0: At U-D Stadium (June 25, 1967). A Tommy Morrow a left-footed strike in the second half ended a three-match losing skid before 4,911 fans. For once, there was no drama. “We were concentrating on team play without the rough stuff,” John Colrain said.

■ Cougars 1, Chicago Mustangs 1: At Comiskey Park, Chicago (June 28, 1967). The sides traded penalty kicks as the Cougars’ anointed spot taker Arthur Stewart delivered for the visitors while Francesco Rizzo converted for the Mustangs, who were represented by Italy’s Cagliari. The testy but constrained affair was played before 2,013 souls where the only fireworks came afterward courtesy of baseball stadium scoreboard.

Cougars 1, New York Skyliners 0: At Yankee Stadium, New York (July 2, 1967). Winger Jim Weatherup dispossessed Skyliners defender Francisco Camera with a well-timed slide tackle before sending a shot on goal, which bounced off the keeper and into the net. The fortuitous goal in the 33rd minute stood against the Uruguayan side thanks to John Kennedy’s immaculate goalkeeping. Off the field, John Colrain and journalist Malcolm Brodie meet the real chairman of the board, Frank Sinatra, at New York night club.

Cougars 0, Cleveland Stokers 0: At U-D Stadium (July 5, 1967). The scoreless draw featured the goalkeeping heroics of John Kennedy, who had been offered a chance to play with the Cougars the following season. The 4,729 spectators were in for an additional treat when England international goalkeeper Gordon Banks came on to replace starter Paul Shardlow, who dislocated his shoulder. The Cougars received an ovation from the crowd as the final whistle blew in their last match in Detroit. “We’ve wanted to win … because this has been a great time for us. Everybody has been generous and kind, better than we could dream,” Billy Sinclair said.

Cougars 1, Toronto City 1: At Varsity Stadium, Toronto (July 9, 1967). Despite efforts by Cougars president John Wendell Anderson to have the match halted due to severe lightning, the teams carried on with Jim Weatherup staking the visitors to a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute. A seemingly harmless goal-bound effort by Toronto’s Jim Scott bounced off Billy McCullough and into the net during the last minute, closing the Glentoran’s chapter as the Cougars with a resounding thud.