By Ian Cheyne.
Recently, after 37 years in ‘The States’, I engaged in a little reflection on just how much things have changed here over those years, especially when it comes to access to my beloved Reds and live “soccer”.
By way of setting the stage …
I first came to the US in May of 1979. Thankfully it was the end of May and the end of another very successful season where we again won the league. Looking back I marvel now at just how easy it was to be a Reds fan in the 70s. How those of us who grew up in the 60s and later could not remember the pre-Shanks struggles; how spoiled we were and how we almost took for granted our right to a trophy or two every year.
I was never a regular at Anfield, my parents would not allow me to go until I was sixteen and my own games and then University and work largely intervened. But when I did manage to get to a game it was always on the Kop, then in its 25,000 plus, all-standing glory. It was not only cheap, it was just amazing. I must confess I never did see much more than glimpses of the games themselves, the consequence of being a short person in a heaving Kop, but that never bothered me, it was all about being there and it was a rare but treasured treat.
For the 78-79 season I only managed one trip to Anfield. I had spent most of it working either in East Kilbride or Derby and I didn’t get home much, and when I did I was mostly preoccupied with a girlfriend. But, for the final six weeks before I headed to the US I was living at home on the Wirral while completing some training outside of Manchester. I targeted the Southampton game in early May, made a point of getting there early and managed to get onto the Kop and squeeze in front of a barrier. I know we won the game, 2-0 I think, but I have no idea who scored the goals and really only knew we had scored due to the reaction around me. After that win we only needed one more to clinch the title, which happened the following week against Villa. I was still euphoric about the title, if generally a little sad and apprehensive when, two weeks later, I was off to the US. Not realising then that it would be nearly 40 years until I would see another game at Anfield and the Kop would be completely different.
The US was my new home, and following a three month side trip to the farmlands and beaches of Southern New Jersey I re-packed my bags and travelled onward to my designated ‘permanent’ home in Dallas Texas, Big D.
If you can remember the Liverpool of 1979 it was, like many UK cities in those days, still emerging from the post WW2 dark days. Although the real darkness of the fifties and sixties (despite the best efforts of John, George Paul and Ringo) was in the past, buildings were still generally old, tired and dirty, with the possible exception of the new St. John’s Precinct and the Catholic Cathedral. At least the rubble from the war had finally been cleaned up, but the transformation and vibrancy of Liverpool 1 and the waterfront were decades and a ‘City of Culture’ away.
By stark contrast, for a 25 year old and still somewhat naïve Wirral boy, Dallas was in those days a sometimes strange, occasionally disconcerting, but always exciting place. Downtown was full of enormous skyscrapers and the rule of thumb seemed to be if it’s more than twenty years old knock it down and start again. Cowboy hats, cowboy boots and huge cowboy belt buckles adorning business suits were normal. Unnervingly, it was also commonplace in parking lots to see pickup trucks with occupied gun racks and handguns left in full view on the top of car fascias.
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