Hillsborough – 19 years ago today, Saturday, Apr 15,1989
It hardly seems possible that this disaster happened the best part of two decades ago.
Living in Nottingham, I had quite a few friends at the game following the Forest that fateful day. They all told the same tale – that they knew little of what was going on down at what became the infamous Leppings Lane end.
As the tragic events unfolded, many Forest supporters began to boo as they had falsely imagined that the Liverpool fans were merely causing a crowd disturbance. A friend told me that the first he realised that a tragedy was unfolding in front of him was when a young man was brought around the pitch in front of where he was, apparently dead, laid out on an advertisement hoarding which was being used as a makeshift stretcher. Soon there was a frightened hush amongst the Forest support as the hapless struggle went on to release the poor souls trapped behind those high fences.
I think of those friends of mine – ordinary football fans like me and many people I count as friends – who were present that day, not one of them escaped the trauma of that fateful afternoon. Of course it wasn’t in the script that day that the Nottingham contingent would suffer like the Liverpool one did. Many were the anxious partners and families however, waiting for their loved ones to phone or return home and be safe that night in the East Midlands city.
Shortly afterwards, the print company I worked for at the time had a collection for flowers and a contribution to relief. I and three others drove up to Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium from Nottingham and queued outside the Shankly Gates four deep to show our respects to the dead and their families. The sight inside the ground was incredibly touching with the whole penalty area of ‘The Kop’ end entirely full of flowers. Additionally we spent a few moments on the Kop in silence and respect – the same area which on match days was standing room in those days ironically. There were so many further tributes placed by and tied on to the barriers on the terracing.
The atmosphere at Anfield that afternoon was one of deep sorrow and mourning. Strolling about the pitch though, it was easy to take in the feeling of all the great European nights in that stadium seeping from it’s very pores, and of the swinging sixties with a massed Kop choir giving a rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ or maybe the latest Beatles tunes.
My feelings today are for those people of Liverpool and for those elsewhere who lost loved ones doing something that some of us reading here do without a thought – simply going to watch ‘the lads’ on a Saturday afternoon. The best tribute to them might be if it is never, ever allowed to happen again.
Rest in Peace the ninety-six.