Thursday, 23 May 2013

Gerry Peyton

1994 - 95 : Júbilo Iwata (Japan)
1996 - 97 : Vissel Kobe (Japan)
1998 - 99 : AIK (Sweden)

Gerry Peyton was an Irish international goalkeeper, born in Manchester in 1956. Over the course of 19 years in senior football he played for 10 clubs, in particular for Fulham and Bournemouth. 

In 1977 he made his Republic of Ireland debut, and went on to make 33 appearances for the Boys in Green, and was included in the squads for Euro 1988 and World Cup 1990.

He retired in 1994 and earned his coaching badges.
Later that year he became the first Irishman in footballing history to play or coach in Japan when he signed on as Goalkeeping Instructor for J-League side Júbilo Iwata.

Júbilo are a professional franchise, founded in 1970 as a team for the employees of the Shizuoka based Yamaha Motor Corporation. Júbilo means joy  in Portuguese and Iwata is a city in Shizuoka prefecture where the club are based. Their home ground is the beautiful Yamaha Stadium, which holds 17000 fans.

Yamaha Stadium
The club played its way through the lower leagues of northern Japanese football before entering the old Japan Soccer League. In 1993, they were founder members of the new J-League Division 1 (J1). J1 is the top flight league of the country and has been fully professional since its inception. 1994 would be the first full season of J1.

He was hired by former Japan manager, the Dutch Hans OoftAs goalkeeping coach, Peyton was responsible for training the club's Dutch keeper Dido Havenaar, father to current Japan international Mike. Outfield members of the squad included Dutch international Gerald Vanenburg and Ireland's nemesis at Italia '90 Salvatore Schillaci

In Peyton's two seasons at the club, Júbilo managed to come 8th in 1994 and 6th in 1995. That year they also reached the final of the J-League Cup (the League Cup of Japan). 

Kobe old crest
Two years previously, Scottish coach Stuart Baxter took control at Vissel Kobe, and in 1997 Peyton switched south to the Kansai side. Vissel Kobe were founded as far back as 1966, but used to be a company club based in Okayama. In 1994, the club was bought by the city of Kobe and moved there with the intention of participating one day in the J-League. Turning professional in 1995, they hired Baxter soon after. However, the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake stalled development, and by the time of Peyton's arrival in 1996, they were still in the Japan Football League (then Japan's second tier). 

Kobe's name is a combination of the words victory and vessel, in recognition of Kobe's history as an industrial port city. Today they play in dark red, but in 1995 were playing in black and white stripes. While now they are based at the 30000 capacity Home's Stadium, built for the 2002 World Cup, before that the 13000 Kobe Central Stadium was their home.

Kobe Central Stadium
Kobe's goalkeepers under Peyton's command were two Japanese players Ryoji Ishizue and Ippei Watanabe as well as Baxter's own son Lee. Another squad member was Danish legend Michael Laudrup. In Peyton's first year as goalkeeping coach with Vissel, the club ended the JFL season in 2nd, but were promoted due to a red-tape issue involving champions Honda FC. Thus in 1997, Vissel would be playing in the J1.

Peyton (second-row, far-right) with Vissel Kobe in 1997

The first season in Japan's top flight was a difficult one for Kobe. By the half-way stage they were doing okay and were in 14th place, but by season's end they had finished in last place (17th) picking up just 24 points all season. Baxter was sacked by the board, and soon after Peyton went with him.

The Scotsman and the Irishman next teamed up at Swedish club AIK. 

Taking his son Lee, who had just had an unsuccessful stint with Glasgow Rangers, Baxter set about preparing the club for the new season. AIK's full name is Allmänna Idrottsklubben, literally meaning The General Sports Club. They are based in Solna, Stockholm and have been playing football since 1896 (although the parent club was founded 5 years earlier).

They are currently the third most successful team in Sweden with 11 Championships and 8 Cups to their credit, as well as being one of the country's most recognisable names to football fans across Europe. From 2013 they play at Stockholm's new 55000 seater Friends Arena, but were playing at the 30000 Råsunda Stadium until then. 

Baxter and Peyton arrived in January of 1998. Some players of note in the squad that year were Swedish internationals Anders LimparNils Eric JohanssonOlof Mellberg and Johan Mjällby.

The Scot was intent on playing his son in goal, but after 7 games AIK were languishing in the relegation zone. Making a hard call, the father dropped the son and replaced him with another one of Peyton's goalies Mattias Asper. This would herald a run of form for AIK. With Asper guarding the net, AIK didn't lose a single game all season and he was named MVP.

AIK won the Championship that year. Peyton can add this to his CV. Although not the Head Coach or Manager, football squads are made up of all types of staff and his input will have been as important as anyone's in the shaping of that success. 

During his time in Sweden, Peyton returned to Ireland on a number of occasions. On April 17th 1998 he played in goal at Lansdowne Road for the Paul McGrath testimonial game. Then in January 1999 he arrived in Dublin with AIK to take on UCD in a friendly match.

A double was also set, as they won the Cup aswell. Unlike the League Championship (which is based in one year alone i.e. 1998), the Swedish Cup is run on a regular footballing calendar (i.e. 1998-99), and so in 1999 AIK celebrated their double, although it was technically in a different year to the League win.

Peyton (far-left) celebrates AIK's Cup win in 1999
As League Champions for Sweden, AIK had the honour of participating in the 1999-2000 UEFA Champions League. They beat Dnepr-Transmash of Belarus and AEK Athens of Greece to book a place in the Group Stage. There they were met by a formidable trio of Barcelona, Fiorentina and Arsenal. They ran a few games close, and claimed a great draw with the Italian side, but ultimately failed to win a game and were knocked out.

They came 2nd in that year's League Championship, and in December 1999, Baxter left AIK. He would continue to wander around the world of football and today manages in South Africa. As for Peyton, he returned to England to work with Fulham FC, before taking on his current job as Arsenal's goalkeeping coach in 2003.

He never played 'abroad', and although he was never Manager of any of his teams, Peyton's hard work and footballing knowledge bore success in some obscure parts and that makes him a quality Wild Goose.

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