15th April 1989 - a view from afar

Posted by Barney_Rubble on April 15, 2004, 12:01:10 AM

Work took me down to London in the early 80's, meaning that the then irregular trips (maybe 10 or 15 games a season, money was always well tight in them days) to watch Liverpool would become even more irregular. Although in the next few years I saw the Reds at most London grounds.

Around 88 I moved to a new gaff around Holloway, 10 minutes from Highbury! My next door neighbour and his girlfriend were mad Arsenal fans and persuaded me and my girlfriend at the time to go down there with them a few times that season. We cherry-picked a few good games and had a right laugh, replacing "Arsenal" with "Liverpool" in their "chants". Saw Liverpool's league game and the Arsenal leg of that 3-legged League-Cup tie with the Gooners that season.

So, this Saturday it was Newcastle in town, their fans are always up for it atmos-wise, so, although it wasn't the game we wanted to be at that day, we ended up on the North Bank, Highbury. The game kicks off and after 5 minutes or so, the start-of-the-game riot of atmosphere had settled down as the game got properly underway and was bubbling along when the Stadium Announcer comes on and says "We have a report of an 'incident' at Hillsborough, in the Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. It's believed there have been several fatalities".

The simultaneous gasp from the thirty-odd thousand fans was followed by almost total silence for about 5 seconds as people looked at each other in disbelief. Then the murmurs went around the ground, "What sort of incident?", "Crowd trouble?", "Fire?", the Bradford fire from a couple of years earlier was still quite a fresh memory. "Who's got a radio?", "What are they saying?". The game did carry on, but with the atmosphere very much muted as people speculated as to what might have happened.

The stadium announcer never said any more till half-time. "At Hillsborough it's reported that there has been a crush, in which up to twenty-five people are thought to have died. 25? Twenty FIVE? Stunned, I looked at Liz and we both said together, "Let's go home".

We got back and turned on the TV. It was John Motson describing the incident and the unfolding events, as the death toll just kept going up and unbelievably up. Every news program that night reported a new death toll and gave some more detail on what had happened, the ages and the names of some of those killed, and unlike the predictable (but understandable) non-commital view of the police, the fans and the players interviewed were free to say just what they had seen. You got a more realistic idea of just what had happened from them.

And after that came the insults to add to the injury. 'That rag' printed what it printed. And to this day, knowing full well there was not a scintilla of truth in what they said, have refused to retract or apologise for it. Not that I'd ever bought it before, it had long been known as 'The Scum' to me before then, but the boycott made me proud. The more people boycott 'that rag', the sooner it will meet the end it deserves. But, appealing to the lowest common denominator as they do, it will be an uphill battle. One well worth fighting though. Anybody I've known who I have seen reading 'that rag' (not many it must be said) I have mentioned to them that they shouldn't be reading it, and why. Successfully each time, as far as I know.

And then came the buck passing from the authorities. The avoidance of 'blame' or 'responsibility' by them still leaves the whole incident unresolved fifteen years later. I did a small favour for HJC a while ago which necessitated watching the entire Jimmy McGovern 'Hillsborough' drama-doc more than ten times in just a few weeks. I'd seen it before, I'd had it on video, but it makes such uncomfortable viewing that I felt lousy for about a month, snappy and bad tempered. I had a few apologies to make afterwards.

But that was just a month. The hundreds of relatives and friends of those who died have been waiting now fifteen years to the day for the closure they seek and surely deserve. Is Justice too much to ask?

God Bless the 96

R i P

And best wishes and thoughts to those relatives and friends still fighting for justice.


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