Keith Farrell began playing junior soccer in 1966 and moved to the senior St. Lawrence club in 1967. He was a member of the St. Lawrence Laurentians who won ten consecutive provincial championships and captured two Challenge Cup National Silver Medals, in 1975 and in 1977. Keith was “Captain” of the Laurentian club that was named the provincial “Team of the Decade” for the 1970’s.
Keith was a talented and dedicated sweeper with a great love of the game. Keith Farrell was a winner, and in 1970 he played an integral role in helping Memorial University of Newfoundland men’s soccer team win two Atlantic Titles and an All-Canadian Intercollegiate Championship. His leadership at all levels of competition was outstanding throughout his career. He won some great individual honours such as: Most Valuable Player, Most Sportsmanship and Top Defensive Player. Keith played the game with honour and, in my opinion, is one of the most respected players and greatest “Captain” that has ever played the game. Keith has been inducted into the St. Lawrence Soccer Hall of Fame, Burin Peninsula Soccer Hall of Fame and the NLSA Soccer Hall of Fame. Keith has shared some of his thoughts on soccer with regards to the past and to the future.
1. What is the biggest change in soccer you have seen in the last 50 years?
I have witnessed quite a few changes in soccer over the years primarily due to larger playing surfaces, artificial turf, minor soccer programs, indoor soccer facilities and an increase in the number of technically sound coaches. All the aforementioned have improved the skill level of players and have provided teams with more space and time on the field. Today’s game is played more down the middle than when I played and more emphasis is placed on defensive play. Our style of play emphasized pressure on the ball, more play down the sidelines and more offensive pressure on corner kicks. Also because of rule changes, the goal keeper had a greater role in initiating an offensive attack.
2. You must have some great old stories about soccer. Would you mind sharing a few of those stories with us?
Many of my soccer stories involving teammates are too personal to share so they are better kept private. Soccer stories, for one reason or another, often revolve around the coach. Jack Simms, our coach for many years, was known as a strict, contrary disciplinarian, but few people recognize him as being innovative. His practices and conditioning exercises are legendary. As a team, we ran miles, through water soaked bogs, played soccer on beach sand at Shoal Cove Beach, ran piggy back up hill through knee high grass, sprinted to the top of nearly every hill that offered a challenge, stretched and loosened up at just about every gas station and hotel parking lot we frequented.
A few days before playing Grand Bank in the most important game of the year, Jack Simms and I decided to spend a day trouting at Deer Park, primarily to get some reprieve from the pressures of soccer. At about 5 pm that day, a water plane landed in the 3rd pond at Deer Park, taxied up the pond and stopped within meters of where we were fishing.. The props stopped, out stepped the pilot and while standing on the pontoons, shouted, “Who do you think will win on Sunday?” The pilot was from Grand Bank.
3. Would you mind sharing some of your memories from the 70’s games when St. Lawrence played their arch rivals Grand Bank and Holy Cross?
During the 70’s, our games against the Grand Bank Gee Bees were always a battle. The fierce rivalry that existed was recreated by the players, the coaches and by passionate fans. Those days the fans of Lawn, St. Lawrence and Grand Bank were considered very passionate, however the “Gee Bee” fans added a little humour, with their use of nicknames. Some player nicknames that immediately flash to my mind are Mud Trout, Horsemeat, Twillick, & Carrot Top. Less pleasant, but memories none the less, are those of fights breaking out between fans.
When the Laurentians competed against Holy Cross, each and every game was physical, fast and very competitive. Both teams were similar in skill level, fitness, playing style, and both had the intangible determination to win. Games were often won, based on which team made the fewest mistakes and which team could best survive the physical punishment. Despite the intense rivalry, I feel both teams had a “hidden respect” for each other.
4. You have always been a great supporter of the St. Lawrence Laurentians. Realistically, how much longer can St. Lawrence continue to survive as a dominant force at both provincial and national soccer?
This may or may not be realistic, but being an optimist, I believe St. Lawrence can survive as a dominant force at both Provincial and National level. Our school and our minor soccer programs are still producing quality soccer players but not in the same quantity. The challenge is to find a way to maintain those players and have them committed, so they can progress as soccer players here in St. Lawrence.
As the outmigration of rural communities has peaked and we can sustain our youth, then we can continue to survive as a Soccer Power.
5. Name three of the greatest players that you ever played with?
While playing with Memorial University and with the Laurentians, I had the opportunity to play with the best soccer players of the 70’s. Having played most of my career with the Laurentians, I feel I can accurately select players from St.Lawrence as the best three / four players I played alongside. Honestly, there were a large number of excellent players, however I feel the best were Al Slaney, Junior Edwards, Joe Turpin & Wils Molloy.
6. Name three of the greatest players that you ever played against?
After years of playing teams from St. Pierre, St. John’s and the Burin Peninsula, one tends to appreciate those individual players rather than those individual players from Mainland teams. Playing a defensive role most of my career, I consider the three greatest offensive threats or players I had to play against are John Breen, Frank (Red) Fizzard and Paul Reddy.
7. In general, what’s do you feel the future holds for soccer in Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer?
Today, Newfoundland and Labrador has every tool available to make huge strides in soccer development. I feel we must maintain a strong fan base and get a true commitment from our players in order to maximize our potential.
More National and International games would be a strong form of motivation for all players and with an increased number of games, there is no limit to what we can attain.