- Feb. 7, 2012
“Graham Day was crazy. But he performed on the field, and that’s what mattered.” – Tony Betts
Graham Day is among the most beloved Portland Timbers players of all-time. His no. 5 appeared in six of the eight North American Soccer League seasons and more often than not was the center of attention. From off-field antics to stellar defensive play on it, Day is a massive figure in the history of the club.
A 6’1” defender, Day played at Bristol Rovers in the Second Division, a club managed at the time by Don Megson. Day later played under Megson when he became Timbers manager in 1980.
Joining the Timbers in the inaugural season of 1975, Day landed in Portland the day before the season opener. He started from the outset, winning headers, marking opponents’ center forwards and even scoring the odd goal. He liked to drift forward from central defense and was always a threat on set pieces. Day scored his first goal against Vancouver Whitecaps before adding a second against Hartford Bicentennials. Over six seasons at Civic Stadium, he scored nine goals, tied with Scot Thompson for the most in club history from a defender.
Though he was an important part of all three Timbers’ playoff seasons in the NASL era, Day was perhaps best known for his practical jokes and sense of humor. Fans often did not see him stealing a quick cigarette just before running out for games, nor did they get to see his shenanigans in training – but they did see his most famous act. Teammate Chris Dangerfield’s words best tell the story:
“City Councilwoman Mildred Schwab was standing there as we went out of the tunnel. Suddenly, as they called out his name, Graham turned, grabbed Mildred, put her down on the ambulance stretcher, gave her a kiss, picked her up again and ran onto the field! We had no idea why he did it.”
Years later, at a Timbers reunion game, Day and Schwab reenacted the famous kiss as those gathered at Civic Stadium roared with approval.
Back on the field, Day was forced to miss out on the Timbers’ 1976 season as Megson, not yet accustomed to the loan predicament from the NASL side, was angered by Day’s late arrival for the 1975/76 Bristol Rovers season. He was allowed to return in 1977 and did not miss another season until he retired at age 28 in 1981. He also took part in the Timbers’ inaugural indoor season of 1980/81, featuring thirteen times and scoring twice.
When the NASL era ended, only four players had appeared more times in green and gold, none of them defenders. His 119 games now ranks eighth all-time, only behind Thompson and Gavin Wilkinson among defenders. Though it will always be the wide grins and bearded face that will be remembered when recalling his no. 5 shirt.