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Exeter to the Cosmos – Clive's journey was out of this world

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: July 06, 2011

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FROM Echo Sport reporter to one of world football's most influential figures, Clive Toye's journey is hardly a well-trodden path.

Along the way on his trek from Devon journalist to senior consultant for CONCACAF – Central and North America's football governing body – Toye signed up Pele, helped create one of America's biggest football clubs, wrote books and even fought in the Korean War.

The 78-year-old was a key figure in establishing Major League Soccer in the States, working for clubs in Baltimore, Chicago and Toronto. But his most significant work was in creating New York Cosmos from the ground upwards.

After becoming disillusioned with life on the Daily Express sportsdesk, Toye and his wife Christine decided to uproot.

"I was covering a league game just after England won the 1966 World Cup and I just thought to myself 'I can't do this for the rest of my life'," Toye told Echo Sport.

"So my wife and I decided to try America for a couple of years. I let it be known I was looking for a job over there and got five offers, one of which was as general manager of a club called the Baltimore Bays. And I went for it.

"I enjoyed my time at Baltimore, but I was then offered two new jobs a few years later – one as a general manager at Leicester City and the other as general manager of a club that was being formed in New York.

"The only problem was the one in New York didn't have any money, so I was about to take the Leicester job when the New York club found some major backers, so I joined them in 1971.

"They didn't have a name, a coach or any players, my office was just a hotel room and our first match was in four months, so it wasn't the best of starts."

The team he joined soon became known as New York Cosmos and he quickly set about raising its profile, along with 'soccer' throughout the USA, including signing arguably the greatest player the world has ever seen.

"I met Pele at a football match in Jamaica and mentioned the possibility of playing for us and he said he would consider it. A few years later, it just happened," Toye recalled.

"Unfortunately not everyone in America appreciated soccer coming over. Most people didn't even know America had a team and couldn't believe the World Cup involved playing teams from other countries, unlike their World Series in baseball.

"I remember one journalist from San Francisco saying Americans shouldn't trust people who played or watched soccer because it was a communist plot against America!"

Toye – who has been inducted into the USA's National Soccer Hall of Fame – was born in Plymouth in 1932, but moved with his family to Exeter during the Second World War.

After a year of not attending school, Toye was enrolled at Whipton Elementary School, whose unique football pitch put Wembley's troubles to shame.

"I have fond memories of playing football at Whipton because the pitch had a great big tree right in the middle of it, which made things interesting!

"Somehow I then managed to get a scholarship to Exeter School. I clearly remember one of my teacher's comments to this day – 'Toye would do better if he paid attention for more than a few seconds at a time'. He was right."

Toye soon realised his passion lay in journalism and, in particular, football. Reflecting on his time on the Express & Echo sportsdesk, he said: "Covering football for a paper like the E&E was all I wanted to do at 17.

"Unfortunately, as everyone had to back then, I did my national service and that was when I went off to Korea."

He spent the next 27 months in the army, including a spell fighting in the brutal Korean War. But he returned unscathed and resumed his role at the Echo.

After five more years in Exeter, Toye had year-long stints at the Birmingham Mail and the Daily Express before his move across the Atlantic.

He is now a senior consultant for CONCACAF and lives in the town of Ossining, about an hour's drive north of New York City.

But even though he now lives more than 3,000 miles away, Toye is still a keen Grecians follower.

"I'm delighted about the supporters' trust owning Exeter," he said. "Just look at Plymouth – their owners have as much in common with the club as I do with the Iranian government. It's a complete contrast to Exeter.

"Exeter are still my favourite team in the world. They're the first score I look out for and that will never change, no matter where I am."

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