After playing a major role in Tommy Docherty's United side of the 1970s, flying winger Gordon Hill - dubbed Merlin for his trickery - moved to America to play for several clubs. Now settled in McKinney, Texas, Gordon tells Inside United about his coaching school (called United FC, of course)...
What was your initial experience of the USA when you were loaned to Chicago Sting shortly before you joined United in 1975?
I knew nothing about the States the first time. I went for three months to get a bit of experience instead of pre-season. Bill Foulkes [former Busby Babe and manager of Chicago Sting at the time] asked if I’d be willing to come out. I looked at it and thought it would be a nice three-month vacation. And I don’t mean that in a bad sense because I would play, but I’d also see what America was like.
What were the fans like over there at that time?
Well, there weren’t too many back then but the grounds at certain venues were still full up – in places like Seattle and Portland. The supporters have always been here, but whereas in England we’d think of six million football fans as a lot, over here it is not because of the vastness of the country. The fans are here but they’re not concentrated.
When you returned to America in 1981 to play, did fans recognise you as an ex-Red?
Oh definitely. The football world out here knew exactly who I was. I came out in 1976 with England for the Bicentennial Cup [celebrating the 200th anniversary since adopting the Declaration of Independence] and I always remember it because of the players who turned out for Team America [the USA side made up of players in the American league]. They had Pele and Bobby Moore and we beat them 3-1. Before that we played Italy at the Yankee Stadium and beat them 3-2 in front of 40,000 screaming New Yorkers. Ray Wilkins and I made our debuts and it was fun. The Bicentennial showed a lot of Americans what the game was really about and I think people knew me from that.