Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Buy this book: Part 3 of the Match Pricks interview with Neil Dunkin, author of "Anfield of Dreams"

This is long overdue, but with the "double-derby" approaching next week at Anfield, it's appropriate to post the final installment of last fall's wide ranging interview with Neil Dunkin, author of "Anfield of Dreams: A Kopite's Odyssey from the Second Division to Sublime Istanbul" and, I should add, also a helluva guy. In this final installment, Neil talks at length about Hillsborough and Heysel, and then leaves us with some of his favorite personal experiences being a part of the Kop and its legend.

You can read Part 1 here and then catch up with Part 2 here. Neil's book encompasses a lifetime following Liverpool Football Club from the 1950s up through the creation of the colossus under Shankly, to the European heights with Paisley and on through the years until that night in Istanbul. I only wish I could share the full audio with anyone interested. Neil was a blast to talk with for the better part of an hour.

You can buy Neil Dunkin's "Anfield of Dreams: A Kopite's Odyssey from the Second Division to Sublime Istanbul" through this link if you're in the U.S. or try this Amazon UK link for an even more definite purchasing process. The exchange rate hasn't been this good in a long time, folks.

To learn more about Hillsborough, please check out The Hillsborough Justice Campaign and this section on the official team site.

MATCH PRICKS: Coming from my background, and coming late to falling in love with the game and being a Liverpool fan, I feel like I should understand what happened at Hillsborough and Heysel. But I feel it is insensitive to ask people about it.

NEIL DUNKIN: Oh, no. No. Some people cannot talk about it, but a lot went wrong in both places. I wasn’t at Hillsborough, but I was at Heysel. It was just a dreadful experience. I came into the ground, and I was watching people dying.

MP: Are those things you relate in your book, how you work through it?
ND: Yes, I describe that. It’s unfortunate. The seeds of Heysel were sewn the year before when Liverpool played Roma in Rome in the European Cup Final. Liverpool won. After the match, Liverpool fans were attacked. I wasn’t there, but a friend was, and unfortunately people were stabbed. So that caused a lot of ill feeling.
The following year we played Juventus, and some people wanted to have revenge. But they should not have charged. Fans who are so-called – I’m not going to say they were all Liverpool fans because it might have been fans from another part of the country – but English fans charged and because they charged, 39 innocent people died. For me it was a dreadful thing to see and a black, black day.
I’m not going to defend the English fans because there had been a history of hooliganism by English fans, as well as hooliganism by other fans, such as the Italians. Liverpool had to be banned from Europe after that because 39 people had died.
But with regards to Hillsborough, I’ve read a lot about it. If people who’ve ready my chapter about Hillsborough, one of my neighbors – he supports West Ham United since the late ‘60s – and he read the book and he said to me, “The Hillsborough chapter, it had me in tears.” And I hope people read that.
What happened at Hillsborough was an absolute disgrace, and there was a lot of covering up of the real facts afterwards. The police changed their notebooks and … evidence.

MP: That’s the thing, it feels important to me to understand the history of Liverpool and to understand the club. And I just think those issues – I don’t want to disrespect. I’m curious, but sometimes I wonder, ‘Do people really want to talk about it?’
ND: Well, they do and they’re still campaigning. There’s a mother called Ann Williams whose son, Kevin, died at Hillsborough. He was 15. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but when they had an inquest, an inquiry into how these people died, well, the coroner was in charge of the inquest. He decreed on the day of the match, he said he would only accept evidence before 3:15, what happened before 3:15 in the afternoon because they all were dead. By that time, that was just absolute nonsense because Ann Williams’ son Kevin … he sort of opened his eyes at 3:35, I think, and said, “Mum.” So he called for his Mom. So he was alive.
So Ann is fighting for a review of the evidence. She’s going to the European court with this and people in Liverpool are supporting her. And I understand this because there was a massive cover-up that went on that day. It’s an open wound for Liverpool and the fans. They still feel it very strongly. Anyone who’s interested in what happened and they want information, you know, they don’t feel – so many people were actually there.
I’ve got a mate who was in the crush in Leppings Lane, and he finds it difficult just to talk about it because he’s blanked it out of his mind, it was so horrible.

MP: It just seems from what little I’ve read that it’s shocking lies, really.
ND: Well, exactly. That’s what it boils down to.

MP: I mean, the police …
ND: Oh, they covered up so much. In my book, I got in touch with a doctor who was in the crowd. He’s from Liverpool, but he now works up in Scotland. He got onto the pitch, trying to revive people. He was on the radio, sort of immediately afterwards, in a matter of minutes talking about what he’d seen and what had happened. And I’d listened to his testimony. It was on the BBC. And he was so angry at the fact they didn’t have any defibrillators there and the way Liverpool fans were left to die on the pitch, basically.
He was walking off the pitch after trying to save people’s lives, and Kenny Dalglish was standing in the tunnel, looking at the mayhem – obviously, Kenny was deeply shocked by it all – and (he) said to Kenny as he walked down the tunnel, ‘Kenny, don’t let them blame this on the fans.’ Of course, what happened was the police tried to blame it on the fans and The Sun published ‘the truth,’ they urinated on the dead bodies and it was lies.

MP: From my distance, it seems impossible that the record hasn’t been corrected.

ND: Well, it has been corrected, but the editor at the time of The Sun, still on occasion will refuse to accept it. His account of the truth is all lies, and that again, it’s a cause of great, great anger in Liverpool. I feel angry about it, too.

MP: My friend, his Dad took him as a boy to the Kop before they took it down in ’94 when they had to change it. He has some fun stories. When his Dad has visited (the U.S.), I’ve asked him for a couple fun stories. I know there’s probably many, many ones, but if you’d just be willing to share one. I like any good Kop story.
ND: Well, on your blog, I noticed the BBC of the Kop in ’64 when they were singing. The BBC was doing this documentary about the Kop. I was at that match. The reporter, John Morgan, he was with the BBC. You might not know this, but you have to buy a license in England to watch TV. Well, the money goes to the BBC.
So when John Morgan started doing his piece to the camera in front of the Kop, the Kop started singing, ‘Ee-I-addy-oh, we haven’t got a license!’ So they had to cut that out.
The other sort of big broadcaster at the time, the commercial broadcaster, was called ITV. They were the big rival to the BBC. So the Kop started shouting, ‘ITV! ITV!’ Of course, they had to cut that out, too. It was all good-natured.
The Kop, it’s unique. In the book I give a lot of examples of the sense of humor. If you look you’ll see there was a Leeds United goalkeeper called Gary Sprake who in the early ‘70s, he’s about to throw the ball out at the Kop end. The ball slipped out of his hands and went into his own goal, and the Liverpool fans – there was a hit record at the time called ‘Careless Hands’ – and of course the fans started singing it at Gary Sprake because he just scored, threw the ball into his own goal.

MP: That’s very quick for a crowd to react that fast.
ND: Another one which I cover (in the book), we played Grimsby in the FA Cup, a small club in the Second Division. And Grimsby is a center for fishing, for trawlermen and that. They brought something like 7,000 fans. They filled the Anfield Road end. They were very good supporters, singing away, so of course, the Kop starts off with, ‘You only sing when you’re fishing!’ And they started chanting, ‘In the net! In the net!’
Then they started going through Liverpool players on the pitch like Jimmy Case. They started chanting ‘Jimmy Place! Jimmy Place!’ Like a place to fish. And they went on through various players on the team. Phil Neal was there so they started chanting ‘Phil Eel!’

MP: Everybody got a marine reference?

ND: Well, they couldn’t do the whole team but a lot of the team. It was just very, very inventive. A mate of mine was a Grimsby fan, and he was in the Grimsby crowd and he said the Kop was really fantastic.
It’s unique. There’s no other stand like it or terrace like it in the whole world. And it’s been an honor really to have been and seen what they do.

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