Thursday, October 23, 2008

Buy this book: Part 2 of the Match Pricks interview with Neil Dunkin, author of "Anfield of Dreams"

In the first installment of this interview, we talked with author Neil Dunkin about his book, "Anfield of Dreams: A Kopite's Odyssey from the Second Division to Sublime Istanbul" about the nature of Liverpool fandom through the years and the Atlético match ban situation. Here, in Part 2, there's more about the lengths to which Liverpool fans the world over will go to support their team, some choice bits from Neil's youth about having sandwiches and seeing The Beatles during lunch at the Cavern Club, and also some reflections on the young brilliance of Michael Owen and his ability to drive different generations of fans absolutely mad.

Match Pricks: (Here in America), if you want to watch (the matches), you’ve gotta be up at 6 in the morning on a Saturday. It kind of brings people together, but I’ve made … my friend from Liverpool, I’m not exactly sure where in the city Norris Green is, where his family is from. But that’s as close and as strong a friendship with him and his wife as I’ve had with anyone else. And that never would have happened if it wasn’t for Liverpool.
Neil Dunkin: Well, you know, at the weekend, on Saturday, 60 Germans came over, German fans who support Liverpool. From the German branch of the Liverpool supporters club, and they went to the match. They had meetings with people from various organizations, and, of course, they had a fantastic time because the match itself was just a real roller coaster.
Liverpool, its reach is phenomenal. I know Real Madrid and Manchester United, they have tremendous (support). Boca Juniors, they have tremendous support.
But Liverpool, I don’t know, I just think it has an aura, something about it which you can’t really describe. I think it’s partly to do with the Beatles and Merseyside. The Beatles, obviously, were a very important aspect of the city and the culture. I just love football. If Liverpool had lost on Saturday, I would have been upset for the weekend but that’s just the way I am because of my passion.

MP: You mentioned the Beatles. From reading your interview with This Is Anfield, you mentioned you were at The Cavern Club having your dinner, and they were playing.
ND: What happened was, I was a schoolboy, 16 or 17, and the Mersey Beat, the Mersey Sound was started, and mates of mine at school told me about this club called the Cavern. So I went down and next thing all these bands are coming on. And during the summer … I got a job in a government office in central Liverpool. It was a summer job. It was a tax office, internal revenue. Don’t boo. I used to have sandwiches, which I would take down to eat at lunchtime. What was happening was the Cavern was open every lunchtime and bands would play, so I would go down. I don’t know how much it was to go in. It was something like 20 cents, and I would sit down and eat my sandwiches and the Beatles would be playing on the stage!
When you heard the Beatles for the first time, and when you heard them several times, you realized they were a band and a half. They were just incredible. So I used to go in my lunch hour, with my sandwiches, and sit down and listen to bands. I heard the Beatles many, many times playing away. After they’d finished their gigs, they wouldn’t rush off because they didn’t have a booking in the afternoon. So, they’d just hang around near the snack bar and talking to people. They were just like ordinary blokes.

MP: And these are stories in the book?
ND: Yes, yes.

MP: I’m curious how you wrote about that because that’s your life, but here, stories like that have such a mythology to them in America.
ND: As I say, to the people who went to the Cavern, the boys and the girls, they were just local blokes who were excellent musicians. … Girls were, obviously, hanging around them and would chat to them. And they’d have a soda or something and then they’d talk to the girls. Once I was just having my sandwiches and they’d finished their session and then went off. Then a new band came, and the next thing George Harrison sat next to me, and we just had a chat. They’d just been to Germany to play in the Star Club in Hamburg, and we just sat and chatted like two blokes on a bus. They were just smashing blokes. They weren’t big-headed, they were just very, very ordinary. They’re very proud of their city, actually.
… When I was 17 I moved to London to work in London. There was just no music scene like Liverpool, and, ohhh, I missed it. I missed it so much because the Mersey sound was just massive, and there were bands playing on every corner, virtually. I was so lucky to live through that era, and this is what I’ve described in my book.

MP: Have you ever managed to get over here to America.
ND: Oh, yes! We’ve been to New York, and we’ve driven from L.A. to San Francisco and then across to Yosemite, and then on to Death Valley, to Las Vegas.

MP: Have you ever seen a match here?
ND: No. I’ve seen on television, but I’ve never been to an actual match.

MP: Well, I don’t know what the world perception of USA ’94 was, but it really did make a huge impact here.
ND: Well, I tell you what did make an impact, the stadia, which were just phenomenal. The average crowd was the highest it had ever been during a World Cup. Everyone said how the facilities were just fantastic. I would be very, very happy to see it held again in America because you have these wonderful stadia.

MP: I’m hoping for that because (at USA ’94) I was kind of young, I was just in school at the time. I was 17. That’s sort of the link of how I get to Liverpool. USA ’94 started it, Michael Owen in ’98 was the only player I knew because they showed his goal against Argentina here over and over and over. Once I finally caught the bug, he was the reason I went to Liverpool (as a fan).
ND: I love Michael. The night he scored that goal against Argentina, I was working in London. I was working for the Daily Telegraph newspaper on their financial pages. We had a TV in a room nearby, and I kept sort of darting in there to watch. And it just so happened that I was in there when Michael scored that fantastic goal. I tell you, the whole of London heard me scream.
He’s a wonderful player. It’s a shame he’s had so many injuries, but that’s the way it happens. Some people are prone to injuries. But he is a wonderful player, I must say, and also a lovely man.

MP: It’s amazing to think what might have happened if he didn’t lose his pace due to injuries.
ND: Yeah, well I wonder. Rafa was thinking about signing him after he was leaving Real. You wonder if, perhaps, he had an inkling of this because, you know, on reflection I’m glad he didn’t sign him for Liverpool because he was injured so many times for Newcastle. We wouldn’t have gotten our money’s worth out of him, unfortunately.

MP: It would have been a little heartbreaking to see him come back like that and always be hurt.
ND: Yeah. I still admire him as a player and as a man. He was very good for our team.

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