If the Philadelphia F. C., the Bethlehem aggregation of soccer players, expect to do business a t the old stand or as a matter of fact play in Bethlehem next season, they will have to sign a raft of new players. No less than five of the local celebrities have deserted the Bethlehem clan and next season will seek laurels with the J & P Coats of Pawtucket, R. I. Since this is the open season for scouting, it is possible that several more will be added to the ranks of those leaving while several prodigals who jumped the traces last season and seasons before are said to be heading for Bethlehem.
Soccer contracts expire at the end of each season and therefore a player is a free agent until he again attaches his signature to a document. However, it was believed that the Philadelphia clan was well satisfied with present conditions, satisfied that the club had banded together the strongest aggregation of soccer players in the country and the announcement that five of the players had already signed elsewhere comes as a complete surprise. It is understood that these players left some time ago and are located in their new jobs.
Included among those to desert are Tommy Fleming, believed a permanent fixture in Bethlehem; Jock Ferguson, left fullback; Bethune, right fullback; William Neilson, center halfback; and Fred Morley, inside right.
The leaving of Fleming and Ferguson is particularly a surprise. Whitey as he was familiarly known to soccer fans came to Bethlehem some ten or eleven years ago and played a wing position for the Bethlehem F. C. for ten seasons. Ferguson likewise had been here a long time, having played with the Bethlehem F. C., for eight seasons. Both of these players were conceded peers in their respective positions and were material aids in the Bethlehem lineup when the club was in its prime and for several seasons gathered in all the honors available.
Bethune, Morley and Neilson were later acquisitions, the former having played with the Bethlehem crowd for two seasons; Neilson hopped into prominence as a center halfback about the middle of last season and Morley was with the club for one season. The leaving of the latter three, therefore, was not as unexpected. Neilson, it will be remembered captured Philadelphia fans by force with his brilliant playing. Porter, a player brought here from Scotland to assume the position of center halfback, played with the Philadelphia F. C. in a number of earlier games and was replaced by Neilson. At the time it was said that Porter quit the club to return to Scotland but Philadelphia scribes intimated that real reason for his returning was due to the fact that Neilson showed more class and had he remained would have been beaten out for the job.
Apparently the Pawtucket concern expects to create a surprise in soccer circles next season and has made attractive overtures to lure these players away. Anyone of the five would be a welcome acquisition to a club and the five intact should form an excellent nucleus around which to build the Pawtucket team. Fleming and Ferguson are veterans in the sport and many fans believed that the former was beginning to slip last year. However, he came through at the close with the same dash and pep he displayed in former years and the probability that he does not have many more seasons to play before Father Time retires him to the sidelines, it was believed that he had permanently located in Bethlehem.
While the leaving of Fleming and Ferguson is regretted, the loss of Bethune Neilson and Morley is probably for more so. The latter three are comparative youngsters in point of service and are practically just started on their career in this country.
Just what effect the leaving of these five players will have on placing a club in Bethlehem next season could not be learned. However, it is believed that their going will not seriously affect the plans of local enthusiasts should they decide placing a club here and let Philadelphia paddle her own canoe. It is known that there was some talk relative to reviving soccer of big league caliber in the Steel City and that final decision was pending entirely on what amendment was made if any to the rule of the newly formed American League relative to the division of the gate receipts. The entire receipts going to the home club, a rule in vogue last season, it is said was the reason that Bethlehem was crowded out of the league and it was decided to place the club intact in Philadelphia and take a chance on the support.
Should Bethlehem decide to again enter into soccer activities, there are quite a few celebrities that will remain, including among those Harold Brittan, the sensational young center forward, who despite injuries which kept him out of a good many games last season, he completed the schedule with the honor of being high scorer. It would be no surprise if Brittan was made captain of the local clan and delegated to scout up a few players whom he might favor as being capable of filing the positions vacated.
Then too it is said that Jimmy Campbell, who was selected on the mythical All-Star team, as the peer of all center halfbacks, is again back in the fold. Gossip has it that Jimmy, the prodigal, did not fit in exactly with the crowd of the Robins Dry Docks or that he did care for Brooklyn and for that reason preferred to return to Bethlehem rather than any other club in the East. Another veteran of many grueling battles said to be back after a lapse of a number of seasons is Fred Pepper, who displayed his wares with the Harrison F. C. Both of these players maintained their old time form and no doubt have as much soccer left in them as either Ferguson or Fleming.
With summer rapidly flitting by, it is expected that some formal announcement will be made of the plans anticipated, if any, for next season. It will not be many more weeks before the players get out on the field and start to condition for the kicking season.