On the December 27 and January 3 podcasts Eoin and I offer up out biggest twenty soccer stories of 2011. Over the next few days the blog will bring you another eighty stories that just failed to make it into the top twenty.
But the last twelve months saw a number of players and managers retire while other members of the global soccer family passed away.
Former World Cup winners Fabio Cannavaro, Birgit Prinz and Ronaldo all decided to retire from playing.
Manchester United lost a trio of legends in Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Saar.
US fans saw long-serving goalkeeper and trailblazer Kasey Keller hang up the mitts after an incredible career at home and abroad.
Walter Smith traveled a different road. I remember him when he was “Wattie” not “Walter” and as a player he could be considered to be an honest journeyman at best. But his real calling was as a coach and as a manager. Smith retired as manager of Rangers – a club that he served twice as a manager after being brought to Ibrox as an assistant to Graeme Souness. There were also spells as an assistant to Jim McLean at Dundee United, under Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and Scotland and he was also in charge of both Everton and Scotland.
Hiring Gerard Houllier as manager of Aston Villa was a gamble given his medical history and it was to fail as he was forced to resign from the position due to ill health.
The end of the year brought sad news with the premature deaths of Brazilian icon Socrates and the suicide of Wales manager Gary Speed. Hungarian great Florian Albert also late in 2011 after unsuccessful surgery.
Bolton lost their greatest player of all-time when Nat Lofthouse the Lion of Vienna passed away.
Dean Richards was a popular figure during his time at both Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur and he left his young family far too early.
Jan Popluhar who was the Czechoslovakia centre half at 1962 World Cup Final against Brazil and who was regarded as one of the best in his position in his era died.
The influence of Dutch coach Wiel Coerver will last for many years to come through his skill based philosophy and program.
Tomislav Ivic who died in June aged 77 was a former coach of the Croatian national football team. During his career he won titles in Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal and France.
US and FC Dallas fans were stunned in September when former player turned broadcaster Bobby Rhine died unexpectedly.
Costa Rica lost the services of promising centre back Dennis Marshall in a traffic accident. Only days before his death Marshall had been representing his country at the 2011 Gold Cup.
John Kerr Snr. started his career with Partick Thistle in Scotland but it was in North America where he would make his mark as a player, a coach and as a leader. He played for the likes of the New York Cosmos and Washington Diplomats and was capped by Canada. He coached at all levels and was also the Executive Director of the MLS Players’ Association in the 1990s.
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