Sunday, 5 August 2012

Liam Buckley

Bucko

1981 : Vancouver Whitecaps (Canada)
1984 - 1986 :  KSV Waregem (Belgium)
1986 - 1987 :  Racing Santander (Spain)

1987 - 1989 :  FC Montreux-Sports (Switzerland)

William Buckley was born in Dublin in 1960 and started his playing career with Shelbourne. A talented League of Ireland striker; he moved to Shamrock Rovers, then managed by Johnny Giles, in 1978 and scored over 20 goals in just 18 months with the Milltown club. Alongside Alan Campbell, his efficiency and ability in front of goal was undisputed in the League of Ireland and at only 21, he was one of the League's brightest prospects.


In 1981, his manager Johnny Giles was appointed Head Coach of Canadian outfit Vancouver Whitecaps in the North American Soccer League. There he played alongside emerging stars Peter Beardlsey and Bruce Grobbelaar, as well as Irish internationals Pierce O'Leary and Jimmy Holmes. Buckley's stint in British Columbia was uninspiring however, as he made only 8 appearances before returning to Dublin and Shamrock Rovers. Giles would last another 2 years at the Empire Stadium, earning the accolade of Manager of the Year in 1982.

During his second stint with Rovers, Buckley lifted the League title and earned two Republic of Ireland caps. Then, in July 1984 he would embark on a nomadic five year stint in Europe.

With the influence of his Belgian agent he signed for KSV Waregem. Based in West Flanders, the Flemish speaking city of 36,000 inhabitants has had a team since 1925, and reached the Belgian top flight for the first time in 1966. Through the years, because of mergers and varying political/cultural trends, the club's name has been changed on a few occasions. As of 2012, they are known as S.V. Zulte-Waregem and continue to play in the Belgian Top League. The club clinched the Belgian Cup in 1974 and the Super Cup in 1982 and play at the 8,500 capacity Regenboogstadion.

In the summer of 1984 the club had just lost their star striker Richard Niederbacher to French side Paris Saint-Germain, and Buckley was drafted in as a potential replacement.  He would pair up with Belgian's wicked striker Daniel Veyt (who helped his nation to the Semi-Finals of the World Cup in 1986). Other high-profile Belgian players in the squad were midfielder Philippe Desmet and goalkeeper Wim de Coninck, as well as future Chile manager Juvenal Olmos.

In his first season with the club, Buckley played 21 matches, netting 5 goals. Waregem finished in 4th place in the Belgian league, thus qualifying for the following season's UEFA Cup. This would transpire to be the club's finest season, as they defeated Danish side Aarhus 6-2 on aggregate in Round 1 and Spanish club Osasuna 3-2 in Round 2. In the Third Round, they famously beat Italian giants AC Milan, including a 2-1 away win in the San Siro. They eliminated Yugoslavia's Hajduk Split on penalties in the Quarter Finals, before losing to FC Koln in the Semis. The tournament was eventually won by Real Madrid.

Although part of the side in this remarkable European run, Buckley never registered a much needed goal during the campaign, to boost his profile in the squad. Domestically, the season didn't go as well for the Flemish side, as they fell to finish 8th place, and thus not qualify for any European competition the next year. Buckley would only make 4 starts that season, mainly in Europe. He did win a minor medal with Waregem, "an equivalent of the League Cup, but that's about all."

In the mid-1980s, Belgian football was on the rise. Stars such as Enzo Schifo, Franky Vercauteren and Luc Nilis were strongly sought after, Anderlecht were again a major European club, and Belgium would reach the Semi-Finals of the World Cup in Mexico. Buckley, however, would play no further part in this lowland renaissance.

(Two years later, another Irishman, Jacko McDonagh would sign for Waregem and spend two years with the club.)

Buckley was transferred to Racing Club de Santander of Spain's La Liga. Interestingly, Racing had just sold Buckley's former Shamrock Rovers strike partner, Alan Campbell, to CD Logrones. Rather than join up with his old friend, Buckley would replace him. 

Racing were founded in 1913 and reached league status for the first time in 1929. They would spend the next 55 years bounding between divisions, failing to win a single major trophy. They are based in Santander, Cantabria and play at the 22,000 El Sardinero. 

His debut came in front of 90,000 people at the Camp Nou against giants Barcelona, for whom Gary Linekar and Mark Hughes  were making their first appearances.  Linekar scored both goals in a 2-0 win for Terry Venables' side. Buckley was the only foreigner in the Racing squad. 


Buckley (back-row, centre) with the 1986-87 Racing squad
He scored his first goal for Racing in a 3-0 win against Sabadell in the fifth game of the season. The Dubliner scored four more goals against Real Betis and Sevilla among others in what was a disastrous season for the club. They finished last in the league and were relegated to the Liga Adelante.


Buckley was sold and somehow ended up with Swiss 4th Division side Montreux-Sports when he was still 27. The club are semi-professional and play at the 300 capacity Stade de Chailly. 

At 29, he returned to Ireland to ply his trade with Rovers again, as well as St. Patrick's Athletic, Sligo Rovers and Athlone Town. He entered management following his retirement, and has spent the past fourteen years coaching various teams in the League of Ireland.
Buckley today is manager of St. Patrick's Athletic

Buckley today manages League of Ireland side St. Patrick's Athletic.

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