In the midst of an historic playing and coaching career, current Manchester City assistant manager Brian Kidd played for the Atlanta Chiefs. He scored 22 goals in his lone season with the Chiefs in 1981, following up an impressive run in English soccer, playing for the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, and Manchester City. This week, Kidd took time out of his busy Barclays English Premier League schedule to speak with atlantasilverbacks.com about his time in Atlanta.
When were you involved with the Atlanta Chiefs?
“It was in 1981, and a scout in England gave me the opportunity to go out on loan and to go out and have a look. We did well that year and won the divisional championship. I wasn't aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the league at that time, speaking to one or two of the English lads when I was out there, they were surprised that I’d gone to the Chiefs.”
What position did you play and what jersey number did you wear?
“22. I played center forward. It was funny, I wore 22 and scored 22 goals in my 27 games, which was an odd coincidence. But it wasn’t just me - the players I played with were terrific. The service we got up front was second to none. Guys like Paul Childs played up front and Paul was a great buffer for me, and took a lot of the weight off of me. David Byrne was the winger, and so was Brian Alderson, who has sadly passed away. I remember Bruce Savage was really good. We had excellent defenders as well, like Webster Lichaba from South Africa. The team itself was fantastic. I was very lucky with the service I had from the lads. A real team effort, without a doubt.”
Where are you originally from?
“I’m from Manchester, England, in the city center.”
What was the highlight of your Chiefs career on the field?
“I didn’t realize that the Chiefs weren’t one of the strongest teams, but we surprised everybody and won the title! We had a really good team. A good spirit, fantastic fans and great coaching form David Chadwick.”
What was the highlight of your Chiefs career off the field?
“I would say the experience of actually playing in America in the NASL which had a great name, even in England. To have the opportunity to go out, it’s one of the fond memories I have. In football, I’ve always said your legacy is not about how much money you earn in the game, but about the games they’ve played in, the experiences they’ve been involved in, the adventures, and the people they meet. It was wonderful - Ted Turner ran the franchise. I remember meeting Ted and hearing so much about him. Ted was just starting out then. Nobody thought he would do well, and Ted was losing millions. For the time I was out in Atlanta, everybody was trying to buy him out. That was an experience, seeing the way that CNN is now. One of the highlights was in colony square, at a hotel, Mohammed Ali was there, which was a real highlight.”
What made the Chiefs organization special?
“It was wonderful - Atlanta is a great city, and I really enjoyed it. The people were so nice to me and my family and the way they looked after us. My family came out for the summer. Every one of them were so kind. I’d just had my youngest daughter, and when I left for the Chiefs, she was three weeks old so everybody looked after my wife when she came over. It was just unbelievable. The people of Atlanta were great - I don’t have a bad thing to say about the place.”
As a league, what was the original NASL like?
“Obviously, the Cosmos were the flagship team, but you had the glamour teams like Fort Lauderdale and Tampa in Florida, a great German connection in Chicago and on the west coast and Canada, you had a really big British base. There were some great players - some ex-Manchester United players, who I’d played with as a young boy. In California, you had the great George Best, who has sadly passed away - it was terrific. It gave me an opportunity to travel all around America and see places and meet people who I have stayed friends with over the years.”
How much support did the team receive from the city of Atlanta and its soccer fans?
“It was very good. I remember we played on Memorial Drive at a stadium there. We were playing against Fort Lauderdale and if we’d beaten them, then we’d have won the divisional title and it was sold out. There were 18,000 people there that day and we beat Fort Lauderdale to win the title.”
What makes Atlanta a special place to play/coach professional sports?
“It’s sports-oriented with the Braves and the Falcons. I still follow the Braves today. It was a lovely, warm experience and a lovely time in my life and my football-playing career. I love Atlanta - I was fortunate enough to go back a few years ago with Manchester City. We stopped at the St. Regis in Buckhead and I’ve been back to see friends. It holds so many fond memories in my heart for me and my family. We were the underdogs, but going on to win the divisional title and my family being treated so well, it really holds a place in my heart.”
How far has the game of soccer come in America since your Chiefs days?
“One of the problems soccer in America has is geographically, how big the country is. However, due to the participation and the American people, I’ve said they will win the World Cup at some point. Along with the talent and tremendous ability, I’ve always found the American players to be hard-working and respectful. There’s some great American talent coming through now, as there was when I was there in 1981. I think it’s so important to encourage it in America.“
What are you up to now?
“I’ve been very lucky and blessed as a coach. I’m currently the Assistant Manager at Manchester City. I was offered the assistant’s job at Fort Lauderdale, but it was at a time when my son’s education was important, so I made the hard choice to return to get my family settled. I’ve worked with some great coaches, great managers and I’m so lucky to have been associated with great players in English and world football. I’m a Manchester lad and I’m lucky enough to have played for both Manchester United and Manchester City. I’ve also helped on the coaching side for both teams and we’ve managed to win the Premier League and FA Cup with both teams.“
Tell us about your family.
“I’m married to my wife, Margaret, and we have three kids: Mark, Claire, and Gemma. We’ve also got three lovely grandchildren.”
What does it mean to you that the Silverbacks are hosting Chiefs Legacy Night to honor the history of the organization and its players/coaches?
“It’s great that the Silverbacks are doing this for the Chiefs. There has always been soccer in Atlanta, going back to the days of Phil Woosnam, who went on to become the NASL Commissioner. I just think it’s great and wish I could be there. It’s a real honor. Please give my love and best wishes to all of the people in Atlanta, particularly the fans and the organization. I hope it’s a fantastic night and it’ll be in mine and my family’s thoughts. My love and best wishes to everyone.”