by Samuel Forthofer
"It’s still not really away. Here comes Seargeant. GOAL!! Steve Seargeant, the left back, has put Everton ahead!”
A crowd of 40,000 cheering fans at Goodison Park go absolutely ballistic after the then 23-year-old Steve Seargeant kicks a blistering 30+ yard shot that just beats the outstretched keeper at the far post. This large crowd had just witnessed Seargeant’s first goal in what would be a thrilling 3-2 victory in favor of Everton Football Club.
September 28, 1974, was the day that Seargeant scored the first and only goal of his professional soccer career. Now an assistant coach for the Rochester University men’s soccer team, Seargeant remembers this day — and the spectacular goal — fondly and vividly.
Seargeant, or as the team calls him “Sarge,” was once a fearsome left back for Everton, an English professional football club based in Liverpool that competes in the Premier League, the top tier of English football.
Seargeant, 68, was added to the RU men’s soccer team coaching staff this fall. He assists Head Coach Joey Tinnion, who formerly played for a Seargeant-coached team. “He actually coached me when I played for the u17 Jags,” Tinnion said. “I really liked playing for Sarge, the team morale and atmosphere was just something special. We weren’t the most talented group, but we were able to compete in every game we played in, even against way more talented teams and I think Sarge was a big part of that.”
Tinnion attributes much of his success as a collegiate player to Seargeant. “He really improved my game from a mental standpoint when I was going into college. He’s a no-nonsense, black- and-white, this-is-what-you-need-to-do kind of guy, and that’s what I really needed at that point in my life. He really helped prepare me to play in college.”
Now that the two are coaching together at Rochester University, Tinnion said he has gained a new perspective. “Seeing where he comes from with all his ideas and strategies and seeing why he wanted to do things the way he did is something that’s been very enjoyable and beneficial to both me and the team,” he said.
Born on Jan. 2, 1951, in Liverpool, England. Seargeant started playing soccer for a number of youth programs and spent most of his free time playing soccer in the park.
“At 14, I was playing football with grown men in the park,” he said. “I could tell I had some talent, I could tell I’d be a good player.”
He signed his first professional contract at age 15 for the Everton Youth Academy. “I was born an Evertonian. I had followed them ever since I was 6. I wanted to play for them more than anyone else at the time. It was a dream of mine,” Seargeant remembers.
After impressing through the years, Seargeant made his senior debut for the club at age 21, six years after signing his first contract. “At the time, Everton was very good. They had been a top four club for a number of years and were very defensive minded. They must have seen my potential at an early age to sign me and develop me for that long instead of giving me the boot,” he said.
Seargeant’s senior debut came in a 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion in 1971. He remembers his first goal: “The ball came down the middle in the penalty box, and the goalkeeper came in behind me. I went up with the center forward and it hit the top of my head and flew over the goalkeeper and into the net.”
The Everton fans delighted in Seargeant’s strong first performance. “I actually received a standing ovation from the fans. I got hurt right at the death [end] so it was just me and the trainer left out on the field. Knowing they were cheering for me was the best feeling in the world.”
Seargeant said playing in front of thousands of fans is something he will never forget. “Coming out of the tunnel and you hear the fans chanting and singing... it’s a real buzz it’s unbelievable. You can’t explain it really. You have to be there and do it. The atmosphere is electric,” he remembers.
Coming to Detroit
After spending seven years at the senior level for Everton and suffering some injuries, Seargeant decided to trade-in the English countryside for the hustle and bustle of Detroit.
Seargeant was part of the growing number of foreign players, including Pele, George Best, Johan Cruff and Carlos Alberto, to play for the now-folded North American Soccer League when he signed with the Detroit Express in 1978.
“Everton had just signed a new English international defender after I had been injured for a little while, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back in the team like I had wanted,” he said.
After playing in the NASL for three years, Seargeant decided to call it a career and head back to England. “I realized I can’t be running around playing when I’m 60, so I thought I’ll go back to England and start up a pub.”
When he was running his pub, Seargeant met his future wife, Chris. “I had just started running the bar and she was one of my barmaids. She was absolutely stunning,” Seargeant said. “We dated for four to five years before we got married.”
The couple have three children: Steven, Christian and Daniel, all soccer players at some point in their lives. Christian is a British professional soccer player for Bala Town in the Welsh Premier League, and Daniel played soccer for the Rochester College men’s soccer team.
Seargeant may no longer have the ability to hunt down forwards and go in for bone-crushing tackles like he used to, but he still brings his can-do, positive and winning attitude to coaching the RU soccer team as it builds a competitive program in years to come.
Tinnion is thankful for Seargeant’s experience, attitude and influence on the team. “Sarge is a friend, a coach, a mentor. He’s a great guy to have around and a huge asset to Rochester University,” he said.