By Jay Mwamba
Between 1995 and 2001, Dubliner Ronan Downs led NYAC to six CSL titles, including a couple of trips to the USASA Final Four – establishing the club then as one of the top amateur sides in the nation.
NYAC fell on hard times after that while Downs left the game to become a successful and respected restaurateur in the financial district.
The club has been knocking on the door of late, but it took the arrival of Scottish-born rookie coach Andrew Cullen before NYAC finally came good again.
NYAC finished ten points behind Atlas in the regular season but after blanking a dangerous looking Lansdowne Bhoys side 2-0 in the playoffs, were able to stun the Greeks 2-1 in the title game.
Said NYAC chair Cindy Spera: “The guys worked hard this spring and it feels great to realize our potential. The club and the membership give the soccer program overwhelming support and its nice to bring some hardware home.”
From Motherwell, whose eponymous home team is one of the grand old clubs of the SPL, Cullen is steeped in Scottish football through and through. He’s been trying to instill some of the old virtues from there in NYAC and successfully, too.
“I have complete respect for the tradition and heritage of Scottish football. Players like Archie Gemmill, Asa Hartford and Lou Macari were only 5-foot nothing but dominated the midfield,” Cullen said recalling some of the Scottish greats of the 70s and 80s.
“It was ‘total football’ played hard as nails. Could you imagine Joe Jordan or Gordon McQueen on the pitch today? They’d scare all the pretty boys out of their minds.
“I’m trying to bring a bit of this to NYAC. The lads have responded well,” added Cullen who played schoolboy football with a son of famed Celtic Rangers winger Jimmy Johnson and also kicked a ball around with neighbor John Robertson, the Scotland and Nottingham Forest hero.
The son of a coach, Cullen moved to the U.S. as a lad and played for his father’s team, the Allegheny Arrows as well as the Western, PA Olympic Development Team; Wheeling Jesuit University and, after college, a Pittsburgh amateur side called The Internationals.
“This is my first experience coaching, so it’s not a bad start. But again, winning the CSL title came down to the lads playing a system that suited the talent of the squad, and then putting in the physical and mental effort,” Cullen summed up.