By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – Before the Safer at Home orders issued by Gov. Tony Evers, Gordon Hill, a former Manchester United soccer legend, visited Green Bay.
Hill, who currently lives in Marinette, was in town to present Bellin Health orthopedic surgeon, Dr. David Conrad, a signed Manchester United jersey from player Harry Maguire.
Conrad performed a successful total knee replacement on Hill.
“I feel like I’ve gotten my life back,” said Hill, who spent his career playing professionally in Europe and the United States. “It happened many years ago when I was a young pro. I went in for a tackle during a game, and the knee collapsed. Forty years later, I needed a new knee. The technology wasn’t what I’ve wanted over the years, so I put it off until now.”
Hill – who is currently a technical advisor to several clubs in the U.S. and also owns United Sports LLC, a company that helps develop players to the professional level – said he searched for a surgeon and settled on Conrad.
“I played professionally for 21 years, so it was time to surrender and get a new knee,” he said. “I’ve been a pro all my life, so why not work with a pro in Dr. Conrad? Two weeks after the surgery, it already felt 100 percent better.”
Hill began his playing career as a 17-year old in 1971 before moving to Millwall F.C. in 1973.
Known to fans as “Merlin,” Hill played in 91 games for Millwall, scoring 22 goals.
“I was given the nickname Merlin by the Millwall fans because I could do anything with the ball,” He said. “I couldn’t sit here and explain why I was so good with the ball, but it came naturally.”
The Millwall faithful are known in the soccer world as some of the most rabid fans out there.
“Being called rabid is an understatement,” said Hill. “I played in one game where the supporters from the other end jumped on the field and tried to go down to the other end where the Millwall fans were – that’s a no-no. I’m standing on the sidelines, and these fans come running past. All of a sudden, I see the police horses come out and see the Millwall supporters running at them. It was like a war zone. One of the Millwall fans said to me, ‘Don’t worry, Gordon, we’ll get ‘em.’ I stood there and said to myself, ‘Welcome to Millwall.’ Having said that, they are lovely people.”
After spending the summer of 1975 playing with the North American Soccer League’s Chicago Sting, Hill signed with Manchester United in November 1975.
According to some estimates, Manchester United (based in Manchester, England) has 75 million fans worldwide.
The club has the third highest social media following in the world among sports teams (after Barcelona and Real Madrid), with over 73 million Facebook fans and almost 22 million Twitter followers.
“Manchester United is known for developing players,” said Hill. “It was incredible. I was a 19-year-old kid used to playing in front of 10,000 people, and now there were 60,000 fans in the stadium. I scored 51 goals and was the leading scorer for two or three years with the club. I felt at home. We won the FA Cup and beat the famous Liverpool.”
Hill left Green Bay with a powerful message for young kids today.
“You can be at the top of the tree, but once you go down, you have to fight to get back up,” he said. “That drive has been with me my whole life, and that’s what I try to instill in the young players I work with today. Don’t give up trying. You can’t be classified as a failure if you try. The technical, tactical and physical aspects of the game can be taught to you, but the hardest one – and can’t be taught – is the psychological one. If you haven’t got the heart to work hard, I can’t give it to you. That has to come from within.”