Soccer: When Auckland could thrash pride of Austria

By Bob Pearce

As the England soccer side prepare to play Austria this weekend in their bid to make the World Cup finals, Aucklanders with long memories will recall the time their team beat the pride of Austria.

It was almost 50 years ago when FK Austria, many times club champions of Austria, embarked on a triumphant tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Bringing a first taste of Continental-style soccer to this part of the world, they beat New Zealand 7-1 in both games with the national side.

On the eve of their departure on August 10, 1957, the Austrians played an Auckland provincial selection at Blandford Park, the home of Auckland soccer, which has long disappeared under the port motorway opposite the ASB tennis centre.

The provincial side drew on a number of recent immigrants who were not eligible to play for New Zealand. Most notable were former England player Ken Armstrong and Billy Walsh, who had played for Manchester City. They formed a strong midfield alongside Harry Selwood.

Behind them were Fritz Poelman, later a stalwart of the Ellerslie Club, Dennis Smith from Thistle and in goal big Ken Hough, the Australian who later played cricket for New Zealand.

This defence was never beaten and up front Ron Moore scored twice and the Eastern Suburbs striker Johnny Wrathall once for a convincing 3-0 victory.

A crowd of around 7000 packed the small ground in sunny weather.

Armstrong went on to become one of the most influential figures in New Zealand soccer for many years, while Leo Baumgartner, who played for FK Austria, returned to Australia, where he had great coaching success.

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