'Our support really reflects the city we live in'

Thursday 24 August 2023 10:34

Few United fans have a better understanding of our enduring worldwide appeal than honorary New Yorker, Dermott Allan.

The Davyhulme-born, Sale-reared Red is the lead contact for his adopted city’s official supporters’ club, and is also the latest fan to adorn the iconic handshake illustration on the cover of our official matchday programme, United Review.
When UR gets in touch with Dermott, he’s in high spirits after watching United beat Arsenal at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, in front of a mammoth 82,262 crowd. 
The event illustrated not only the continued strength of United’s Stateside support, but also the burgeoning fan culture that is developing alongside it. Before the match in East Rutherford, fans held a traditional US-style ‘tailgate’ party, but you could have been forgiven for thinking that the videos and photos that emerged had been taken at The Tollgate, up the road from Old Trafford.
Dermott (right) with fellow stateside Manc Jason Gleeson at last month's Tour 2023 match against Arsenal at MetLife Stadium.
“Football is a thing here now,” agrees Dermott. “It’s not primetime like the NFL or baseball, but out on the streets, when you’re looking for a pub to watch football, everywhere’s showing it. 
“There’s been a group of fans watching United in New York since maybe the mid-’90s. It was very hard to find back then – it was pay-per-view and there was one, maybe two pubs showing it. But through the 2000s it got better as it was on TV more. 
“I remember being in Nevada Smiths, which was the main pub back then, in 2005. It was absolutely packed, standing room only, absolutely brilliant. And from there it’s continued to grow.”
Dermott moved to the States in March 1999 – not ideal timing for someone with a matchgoing United habit. 
“Right before the Treble,” he laughs! “It was a bit difficult, because the time difference meant that Champions League matches were during the day – half two in the afternoon. I watched them all in the ESPN Zone, a big sports bar-type thing in Baltimore, which is where I first lived.
“I remember just going absolutely mental at the end [when United won the Nou Camp final], but once the match was done and we’d all calmed down and had a couple of drinks and all that, we walked outside and it was like a totally different world. No-one knew what was happening in Barcelona! It was just very weird. I was running around hugging these other strangers I’d been watching the match with, and people were probably thinking: ‘What is going on?’”
Dermott says the New York Reds group reflects New York's amazing diversity.
Thankfully, the US’s continuing embrace of football – and the looming North American World Cup in 2026 – mean that scenario is unlikely nowadays. There’s been a huge growth in official United supporters’ clubs in the States during the last decade, and the New York branch registered with the club in 2018/19.
“It’s an absolute mix of everyone,” Dermott says. “It really reflects the city we’re based in, which is such a diverse place. On the board there’s myself, Paul – a native New Yorker, born and bred – and Arnab, who was born in India, grew up in Australia and then moved here when he was 14. 
“You meet people from different walks of life, from different places, and the common thing that brings us all together is United. For the bigger matches we’ll get easily 300 or 400 in the pub. We’re in one pub called Smithfield Hall in Chelsea in Manhattan. The owners are also United fans; a couple of Irish lads.
“For a Saturday 3pm kick-off, it’s 10am here. So I’m getting up at about eight. I’ll get ready, leave about nine-ish, get the subway in, get to the pub about half-nine, quarter to 10. Most people have already been there for a while. It’s definitely pints [we’ll be drinking], not coffees and toast! We do have a load of English, a load of Irish. Even the Americans have bought into that culture. Sometimes we’re out all day, going home at night. It’s a full shift!”
Allan’s own life has undergone a big shift in the last year, with the arrival of daughter Delaney nine months ago. But United remain as central to Dermott as when his matchdays started with a four-stop Met ride to Old Trafford in the nineties.
“I’ve been over here a long time now,” he explains. “I’ve lived on the east coast for the 7.30am kick-offs and the west coast for the 4.30am kick-off. But the relationship between me and football hasn’t really changed. It’s a way of life. My wife was well aware of it when we met, and it will continue to be the case. 
“I’ve got a little girl now – she’s got a framed Ella Toone shirt on her wall! It’s just a part of my life and hopefully it’s going to be a part of her life. That’s just the way it is.”