An Angus youngster is dreaming of following in the footsteps of legendary goalkeeper Gordon Banks as he heads Stateside in the latest leg of his soccer career.
Arran Lyall from Arbroath has won a scholarship to the US which he hopes will lead to a starring role in America’s top-flight league.
Footage of his appearances in goal at local matches was circulated among colleges in America and seven institutions competed to recruit him for a four-year scholarship, which will also earn him a degree in health and human resources.
Arran eventually plumped for Cloud County Community College, Kansas, and will be taking up a place there in August.
Tayside’s links to America’s top flight go all the way back to 1967 when Dundee United played in the summer league.
Big names including Dundee’s Charlie Cooke, Jocky Scott and Gordon Wallace followed the yellow brick road to star alongside Pele, George Best and Johan Cruyff in the 1970s.
Arran’s hero Gordon Banks – the 1966 World Cup winning England stopper –played two last seasons in the United States for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in 1977 and 1978, despite only having vision in one eye.
He was named NASL Goalkeeper of the Year in 1977 after posting the best defensive record in the league.
Arran said: “This is a massive opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’ll be able to play football most days, and as well as a degree, there is the possibility of turning professional in America or become a coach.”
The move to the US is the latest step in a 12-year career for the 17-year-old keeper.
Lyall began playing for Arbroath Lads Club at the age of five, and for the past two years he has been taking to the field for Arbroath Vics.
However, it was an unexpected call up just over a year ago that put him on the road to Kansas.
John Clifford of Five Star Football events said: “The Old Firm Legends, were due to play at Forfar, but the Rangers keeper was injured the day before, and after making inquiries, Arran’s name was put forward.
“He was outstanding in that game and we invited him to stay on, and he’s been outstanding in every game since.
“He’s been on a strict fitness regime, and if he maintains his progress, he really could go all the way in America.”
In the past year, Arran has travelled more than 21,000 miles to play for Rangers, Celtic, Hibs, Hearts, Dundee and Dundee United and Scotland.
He has appeared with Old Firm legends including Marvin Andrews, Ian Ferguson and Frank McAvennie, raising money for charity at the same time.
The links between Scotland and soccer in America go back to 1967 when the first league was set up.
The live transmission of the 1966 World Cup Final had accelerated the imaginations of several wealthy fans who had been considering the formation of a nationwide soccer league in America.
The main problem was a lack of players and they got round that by importing entire teams from Europe and South America.
The teams were reborn with new exotic American names including the Washington Whips which were represented by Aberdeen while Dundee United played the season as the Dallas Tornado.
But 1967 provided a kick-start and soccer gained momentum in the 1970s with the NASL which brought players like Pele, George Best, Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer to America.
Players from Scotland including Charlie Cooke, Jocky Scott, Gordon Wallace, David Harvey, Peter Lorimer and Graeme Souness all played in the NASL.
Former Dundee striker Jocky Scott almost stole the show as Pele took his final bow in 1977 at the Soccerbowl, the then big-spending NASL’s version of the Superbowl.
On the day the Brazilian great bowed out, Jocky was part of the Seattle Sounders team that, despite being underdogs, came close to upsetting the party.
Pele’s swansong could have ended on a very different note.
With the scores level, Jocky hit the bar and Tommy Ord scored from the rebound which was chalked off for offside.
Eventually, the problem for the NASL was that for all the money they threw at it, not enough clubs got good crowds.
The league eventually disbanded in the mid-1980s.
In 1988, in exchange for FIFA awarding the right to host the 1994 World Cup, US Soccer promised to re-establish a professional soccer league.
The MLS was born which sparked a tartan invasion a few years ago when Kris Boyd, Stevie Smith, John Spencer, Barry Robson and Kenny Miller performed in America’s top league.
Forfar fans also have good reasons to cheer on Major League Soccer’s newest team — Minnesota United who play in the Station Park outfit’s familiar sky blue and are nicknamed the Loons.