As discussed previously, one of my favorite parts of traveling is experiencing that YNWA spirit that is so pervasive throughout the global community of Liverpool supporters. During my brief stay in the Lone Star State, I met up with club president Scott and club social media guru Preston for some good food, and even better conversation about our favorite club. Then TLO member ITStheGP (not his real name) crashed the party, and a good time was had by all.
Besides their love for Liverpool and excellent beards, the two don't seem to have that much in common. Scott is middle-aged, a husband and a father, surprisingly soft-spoken (for a Texan), and has fond memories of The Glory Days with Daglish and Co:
"I have this Scouser uncle, and he took us to a pub to watch the 1986 FA Cup Final against Everton. Before that they occasionally showed Liverpool on ESPN in the early 80's. I played as a kid, and they were always my team, but I didn't really get into it until ‘86. After that I kept up as best as I could, but you couldn't really see many matches. In 97-98 season when Fox Soccer Channel started showing all the matches, that's when I really began to keep up with week-to-week results."
Preston and I after a few good burgers. Sorry, Scott, forgot to take your picture!
Preston, on the other hand, was still too young to enjoy a beer at the pub, but outgoing and well-spoken, and enthusiastically took up the opportunity to handle the club's Twitter and Facebook responsibilities. He was more or less born into the Liverpool extended family, as his father, an American professional soccer player in the pre-MLS days, is also a supporter.
"I didn't really get to live the glory days of Daglish and all of them, so my time is the Rafa Benitez era. Growing up in the U.S., you didn't really have a lot of exposure to European soccer unless it's the occasional game here or there. So my occasional game was the 2005 Final."
Well, if you're not a fan for life after that, you're really beyond help.
The Texas supporters' club was founded following the treble season of 2000-01, and Scott took over official duties a few seasons later. The club originally handled the needs of all of Texas, but now there are separate supporters clubs in Austin and San Antonio. There has been recent talk about Fort Worth starting their own, but for now folks in Cowtown will have to make the hour or so drive to Dallas.
As can be expected, paid membership tends to rise and fall with the fate of the club. At one point there were over 100 paid memberships, but they are currently entering the season with around 50 members.
The group meets at the Londoner Pub in Addison (one of many suburbs that dot the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex). Although I didn't get to watch a match with the supporters, Preston gave a good description of the atmosphere, one that is apparently shared between many rival groups of fans:
"We have Liverpool. We have Everton. We have Manchester United. We have Arsenal. We have Chelsea. And Aston Villa as well. We share a lot. On big game days it's pretty segregated."
Despite the fact that the pub still allows smoking (which, wow, apparently that's a thing in Texas), the Liverpool group is afforded a separate smoke-free room. Got to keep those pipes clean for singing "You'll Never Walk Alone."
On the game day experience, Scott added, "It's fun. A lot of people know each other so it's kind of like a family group."
So what does the global community of LFC supporters mean to them? Scott had some particularly great stories from traveling:
"The first time I went to a match at Anfield was just...magical. As far as international experience, everywhere I go around the world, around the country, I'm wearing a Liverpool shirt or a Liverpool hat. I was in Mexico a few years ago and I was wearing a shirt, the first person I met at the resort was a Scouser and his wife. My wife was literally like, 'Here we go again.'
"For our honeymoon in 2005 we were in San Franscisco...I had a Liverpool keychain and our waiter--he was Italian, a Lazio fan--and he was all about it, 'Hey Liverpool! You beat Roma!' And he just went on and on about it. Later that night, he apparently worked a night job too...and he runs out, grabs me, and pulls me over to his friend. They were taking a smoke break, his friend was a Roma supporter and he starts taunting his Roma supporting friend with me."
When I pointed out that the Roma final was in 1984, Scott replied, "It was like it was yesterday for them."
Indeed, there are long memories in football.
Although Preston has yet to experience Liverpool away from home, he still felt like he was part of an incredible, unique community:
"I think this is the greatest club in the world. I think we're so different to any other club in the league. I feel like I'm part of a family, not just a supporter. I don't know if it's our specific supporters club, that we just get along so well and we share the same love, not just for Dallas, but globally as well. It doesn't matter if we're nearly winning the league or losing to Stoke 6-1."
When I asked if Preston had anything else he had to add, he just had to chip in with, "...sign a striker."
Well, I know Benteke isn't what you had in mind, Preston, but I know you and the rest of the Dallas Reds will be rooting for the big Belgian until their last breath.
A big thank you to both Scott and Preston for taking the time to talk about Liverpool and their local supporters' group. YNWA.