Paul Gifford - Mississippi, USA
Updated: 2 days ago
Growing up in Liverpool 8 and now in Mississippi, USA, Paul has been a die-hard Red since the days of Shanks. He has two great kids, Jacob, 21 and Emma 18. He also has 3 brothers and a sister back in England & Spain - all, of course, massive reds. Here's his story:
Q. Hiya Paul, great to speak with you mate. Let's start from the very beginning. Can you tell us about your growing up in Liverpool and how you became a Red.
A. Hiya mate. Well, I was born in the Dingle, Liverpool 8. My dad was a massive Red and was watching Liverpool long before even the Shanks days when Liverpool were in the second division. He took me to my first ever game in the mid 1960s when I was around 6 years old - Liverpool reserves v Man City reserves.
By the time I was a teen I was going regularly by myself. I was at the 1976 Bruges UEFA Cup final, but a treasured memory is being at Bill Shankly's testimonial on April 29th 1975. I was one of those little scallies who ran on the pitch at the end and grabbed a handful of the Anfield grass as a keepsake... but me ma threw it out (laughs.)
I went to almost every game home & away in the late '70s. I was at the St Etienne game, both FA Cups semi-finals and final, THAT Spurs 7-0 game, the 1978 European Cup final and the Super Cup v Kevin Keegan's Hamburg in 1978. Those were amazing times.
Q. So, of all those special games back then, which one stands out?
A. Well, I know it's been said many times by those who were there, but the St Etienne game really was as legendary as it's made out to be. We were in danger of being locked out as it wasn't all ticket and they'd given the signal to close all the turnstiles - so I actually bunked in by jumping the turnstile, as you did back then. (laughs).
There must have been 30,000 in the Kop that night, no matter what the official attendance figures say. It was electric, magnificent.
When that David Fairclough goal went in, the place literally exploded. The most vivid memory I have is the entire Kop - 30,000 people - bouncing up & down singing 'We Shall Not Be Moved."
Q. I was also one of those 30,000 mate and it was truly special. So, you've seen so many iconic players, who's your hero?
A. Ah mate, I can't answer that with just one name (laughs). As a very young lad, it was Sir Roger as he was the goal scorer supreme. But soon after, it was the new superstar Kevin Keegan. He was an incredible player and genuinely loved by the fans.
It's a shame he isn't held in higher esteem these days because he was absolutely brilliant and so integral to our League, FA and European Cup wins back then. He didn't really embrace the club after he left and I think that's diminished his legend a bit.
Everyone was devastated when he left, but absolutely no-one could have predicted what would come next. The King - brought in for £440.000. As great as Hunt and Keegan were, Kenny Dalglish was at another level entirely.
Everything about him was awe inspiring. Remember, he not only had the pressure of being asked to replace Liverpool's bona fide superstar, he also had to excel in what was already an elite team. As superb as those Liverpool players were individually, Kenny was way ahead of them all. They each had to up their game just to keep up with him. We all talk now about how the signings of Van Dijk and Alisson were two of Liverpool's greatest ever signings, which is true, but the signing of Kenny Dalglish might well be the greatest signing Liverpool have ever made.
Three of Liverpool's Greatest Ever Strikers
Q. Can't argue with that mate. Ok, so with all these moments as a fan, can you pick one that stands out for you?
A. Yes mate, and I'm sure you'll understand when I explain why. It's the 1989 FA Cup Final. Of course, it was shortly after the tragedy of Hillsborough and fate had made it an all Merseyside Cup final. The outpouring of emotion, from both Reds & Blues, was amazing. I have to give the Everton fans huge credit that day. We'd had the 'scarves across the park' and the fans at Wembley that day were 'as one' - all supporting not just their team, but each other.
Gerry Marsden came out and sang You'll Never Walk Alone and it roared out across Wembley, with many Blues singing it too. In such an emotionally difficult time the Spirit of the Liverpool people shone through.
Q. It certainly did mate. So, living in Mississippi now, what's it like being a fan there?
A. Ah, mate. As you know, Liverpool support across the States is incredible. Where I am, there's no OLSC as we're quite remote, but in today's world it doesn't matter as much as it once did. With Skype, Zoom calls, Facebook groups and so many OLSCs across the country, it's brilliant.
I often jump on a plane and go and watch games in OLSC pubs with people who are now dear friends in different parts of the country. The original KopConnect event in Vegas too, brought so many Reds together who've maintained a close friendship since the event - y'know, like you (laughs).
Paul with some of the gang in Charlotte, North Carolina
Also, with Liverpool doing several pre-season tours in the US, there've been even more occasions for us all to get together before, during and after the game. I even got a phone call from England one day saying they'd seen me on the telly over there with my Shanks scarf (laughs).
Screenshot of Paul's 15 seconds of fame on US tv.
Not only that, but we get to meet the players at training events and the various special events at pubs and nightclubs featuring Reds legends. I never dreamed when I moved here, I'd get to meet so many Liverpool legends. Just by memory, I've met Steve Heighway, Robbie Fowler, Gary Mc, Louis Garcia and Peter Moore. I got to shake hands with Jurgen Klopp and had my Shankly scarf signed by Mo Salah.
Then at the Dortmund game, I also got to meet Rushy, John Arne Riise, Van Dijk and Sami Hyypia. Actually, I feel a bit spoiled after listing all them (laughs).
Q. That's some list Paul. Now, I hear you have quite the autograph and memorabilia collection. Can you tell me about it?
A. I've been collecting Liverpool stuff for years mate and get it signed whenever I can. I've got hundreds of items now from signed scarves, shirts, photos, programmes and loads of other stuff. They're my pride and joy and take pride of place all over the house.
One of my most treasured possessions is the 1965 FA Cup final programme, autographed by the entire team. My dad went to the game on the train. When he took the train home after we'd won it, he happened to be on the same train as the team! Well, me dad being me dad, he got every one of them to sign it. Of course, with it being my dad's as well as the first time we'd ever won the FA Cup makes it even more special.
Q. Great stuff Paul. Any final thoughts; anything else you'd like us to know.
A. Yes mate, just one last thing. I mentioned earlier the LFC legends I've met but I want to give a shout out to KopConnect. Because of you guys, me and many others were able to watch Liverpool lift number 6 in a pub in Las Vegas, in the presence of Roy Evans, David Johnson and Howie Gayle. Celebrating a Champions League win while having a pint with ex players and managers has to be every fan's dream come true.
Paul with Howard Gayle, David Johnson & KopConnect Ambassador Roy Evans at Kop Vegas 2019
I'd like to say a few words about Roy Evans. I got to spend so much time with him over that 'Kop Vegas' weekend and WHAT an absolute gentleman! He has to be one of the most genuine, humble, caring men I've ever met. This is a man who's such an icon and has done so much for our club and yet there he was laughing, joking, telling stories to everyone like he was their best mate. You honestly couldn't have picked a better ambassador for KopConnect.
I couldn't agree more mate. A true legend - although the only time he told us off was when we called him a legend (laughs). Well Paul, it's been a real pleasure mate. Stay safe and I'll see you soon.
FanConnect is a blog series featuring Reds fans' stories from around the world, and brought to you by the KopConnect team.
Alex Malone is a lifelong Red and co-founder of KopConnect, as well as a columnist for This Is Anfield.
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