Steve Nicol is an analyst on ESPN Press Pass, ESPN’s popular global soccer news, information and hard-hitting opinion program.
Fans all over the world know him from his television work and from his successful coaching stint in Major League Soccer when he managed the New England Revolution during the club’s most successful era.
However, it’s the bond to Liverpool FC that is stronger than anything for Nicol.
His loyalty to The Reds belies the relationship most contemporary professional athletes have with their teams.
Nicol arrived at Anfield in 1981 and 14 years later, after winning six league titles, two FA Cups and one European Cup, he departed as a man cherished by one of the world’s largest fan bases for a club.
In between, he played 468 matches for Liverpool and scored 46 goals, a surprisingly high tally for a defender.
On the eve of the 2011 ESPN Summer Soccer Series match between Liverpool FC and AS Roma at historic Fenway Park on Wednesday (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes and Watch ESPN), Front Row caught up with Nicol to discuss his experience with one of the world’s most-supported football clubs.
Can you describe the experience of playing for Liverpool FC?
I went there as a boy, a 19 year-old from Scotland. I left a man — a lot wiser and a lot happier. As much as it is about winning trophies, you also get a lot of good lay classes, because there are a lot of good people at the club who put you in a position where you learn that the best way and the right way is all about doing things properly, whether it is on the field or off the field. Forgetting all the trophies and championships, it’s a place that helped me grow into the person I am today.
What are your favorite Liverpool memories?
It is kind of hard to choose the best one. Obviously, first championship — winner’s medal — is something special. Going to Liverpool, you are always wondering and scared that you are not going to match up to, not only the players there, but all the great names that played before. So to contribute and win a championship was absolutely special. Hillsborough [disaster] clearly was a searing memory, for a whole lot of different reasons. Obviously, the circumstances were very sad, but to be able to go on and win it [FA Cup] for everybody connected with Liverpool was really special as well.”
What are the Liverpool fans like?
One thing I can honestly say is that with our fans, it’s not a case of you just turn up on a Saturday, watch the team, and then it is all over till the next weekend. It is 24 hours a day for them. . .That’s why the players and the fans, certainly when I was there, were so close. When we won, they felt the joy, and when we lost, they felt the pain just as much as we did . . . At Liverpool, when you won and when you lost, you were humble.
What are the similarities between Liverpool at Anfield Stadium and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park?
There are so many similarities, not only between fans but the stadiums. The history at Anfield and the history at Fenway are very much equal. They both have success, the championships, the big stars, everything lines up for both clubs in a similar way. I am looking forward to the game [Liverpool vs. AS Roma]. It’s a fantastic stadium and to have Liverpool there, if nothing else, would be enjoyable.
Talk about the owners of Liverpool and the Red Sox, the Fenway Sports Group.
One of the reasons I’m happy that the Fenway [Sports] Group are in charge is because of what they’ve done at the Red Sox. They came to a club that hasn’t had a championship in a long, long time, just like we haven’t. That’s been too long. Not only did they bring one [championship], but they’ve kept the traditions of the club going. They’ve kept the state of Fenway, they’ve made it viable. They respect tradition, and want to make their own tradition. They want to leave a mark. The fact they’ve done that with the Red Sox is good for Liverpool.
For an interesting look at soccer matches at baseball stadiums, read this feature on ESPN.com’s Playbook.