Hillsborough - L'est We Forget

Posted by Rushian on April 15, 2004, 11:16:29 PM

No one that has ever met me has ever been in any doubt of the fact that I like my football - I've lived and breathed the game for most of my life. And people often ask me what my most memorable moment in the game is. Yet every single time I'm faced with that question my mind turns to one particular day. It's not the double win in 1986, the treble successes of '84 or 2001, or the glory of Wembley, Rome or Cardiff, as you might expect, considering Liverpool's illustrious history. In fact there wasn't even a football match going on.

Predictably the location however was Anfield, and the date was April 16th 1989. The previous day was undoubtedly the most heartbreaking in the history of Liverpool football club, as ninety-six Liverpool fans lost their lives at the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forrest at Hillsborough. Everyone remembers where they were that afternoon. I wasn't at the match - I was at a friend's party close to my south Liverpool home. But I can remember the game of football we were playing that afternoon being stopped, with everyone crowding around a TV, watching the horrific scenes unfold in front of our eyes.

The weeks that led up to my mate's party were exciting times. His dad had promised to try and get us all tickets for the semi-final. As it turned out he couldn't get enough tickets, so rather than take a few of us, he had decided to forget the idea and hold a party that all of his son's friends could go to. And as we watched the horrendous scenes broadcast live on the BBC that fateful afternoon, I remember looking at my mate's dad, who had gone completely white, some achievement for a man of Asian extraction. He was no doubt considering the enormity of what could have happened, had his quest for more tickets been successful.

The following day, along with just about every other inhabitant of Liverpool, I went to Anfield to pay my respects. My best friend's mum took a few of us to the Kop - they were all Evertonians, but that didn't matter. This was a time when collective and private mourning more than overshadowed the insignificance of local footballing identity. Even then I could appreciate that it didn't matter who you supported that day. In the playground at school, younger kids would go around asking people, 'Livvy or Evvey?' The answers they got never deviated from the two options on offer. You were either red or blue - it was as simple as that. But in the time following Hillsborough, that differentiation disintegrated somewhat. For this was a time when you were just a Scouser, with Blue and Red coming together, as the following poem written by Rita Soo in 1989 explains:

I made a pilgrimage to Anfield
On an sunny April day
To lay a humble tribute, for the souls who passed away.
My heart was filled with sorrow
Tears I couldn't hide
I saw tributes all in colours
Intermingled side by side
It's as though a field of flowers
Had sprung up overnight
All rivalry forgotten, no bitterness in sight
That sad procession passes in their silent reverie
Their love and understanding for all the world to see
As I looked into their faces
I saw pride as well as pain
Dear God in Heaven up above
Don't let them die in vain
One family together, united in our grief
A silent tear, a quiet prayer
For those who fell asleep.

We now live in an era where relationships between fans of Liverpool and Everton at the match can be strained. But back then things were different. Times were hard in Liverpool in the 1980s, but Merseyside had the top two sides in the country, and football was a release from the pressures of every day life. As people pulled together, there was rivalry between the two sets of fans, but it was always friendly. And this is why the most profound and memorable moment I've ever had in football, indeed the proudest yet most poignant moment of my life was at Anfield that Sunday morning.

Outside the ground there was a 'mile of scarves', a line of Everton and Liverpool scarves tied together stretching between the two grounds across Stanley Park, the land that separates Merseyside's two Mecca's of football. Even at that age I appreciated the symbolism. It was a show of unity that incited such intense pride in the midst of such distress. The slow walk we then took across the Kop when entering the ground is something though which I will never forget. As an eight-year-old the mass of flowers and tributes which filled the pitch and the Spion Kop stand was the most amazing sight I had ever witnessed, and to this day it remains the most moving scene I have ever experienced. I had never stood on the Spion Kop in such poignant circumstances when it was so bare and quiet yet so full of colour and beauty.

My favourite Liverpool hat was placed on the Kop that day, along with my scarf. When you're eight, such items are your pride and joy, but I didn't think twice about parting with them that morning. I didn't go to Anfield intending to do it, but as I looked around and saw the variety of tributes for those who had perished, it was the natural thing to do. Everyone wanted to pay their respects.

The Kop was our home, our church, our shrine. Hundreds have had their ashes scattered at that part of Anfield, and the connection people have with that terrace was undoubtedly intensified that day - even for those who would choose to never again see Liverpool play. Uncontrollable grief and pain brought people together that Sunday morning in April, and there was only one place people wanted to be. The entire city seemed to flock instinctively to the Kop.

I have no doubt that this is why the service in remembrance of those who lost their lives, held every year on 15th April, takes place on the Kop. I sit in the Paddock these days, the stand adjacent to that great terrace, but for this service I always get there early so I can assume the same place where I used to stand as a kid. Today is the service marking the fifteenth anniversary, proof, if ever proof were needed that the victims will never be forgotten. Thousands will join this afternoon in solemnly and respectfully remembering the victims of that terrible tragedy, which changed the fine city of Liverpool forever.

As in years gone by, those present will sit in silence as the names of the ninety-six are read out, with a candle lit for each one. Hymns and prayers follow the minute's silence, which is always impeccably observed at 3.06. The service then finishes with the collective singing of 'You'll never walk alone' - and never has this anthem been so fitting. If the people of this city clung to this song before 1989, then post-Hillsborough, it has become more intertwined with the fabric of the club than ever before.

I remember as we joined in singing at the conclusion of last year's service, I saw an old lady holding a scarf aloft, which, it would seem there was nothing particularly remarkable about, given that several people did likewise. But the scarf was a half Liverpool half Everton scarf, undoubtedly from the 1989 season. That, as much as anything at that moment, contributed to the tear that trickled down my face. April 15th is always a sad occasion, but once again this date was one where I was filled with immense pride to be from this wonderful city. She'll never know it, but I'm grateful to that elderly lady for reminding me of the unique nature of Liverpudlians.

There is a great deal of bitterness surrounding the issue of why this disaster was allowed to happen and understandably so. But instead of protesting against the unjust comments and actions of the likes of Thatcher, Clough and Duckenfield, or the media coverage from The Sun among others in the aftermath of the disaster, I'd prefer instead to simply remember respectfully those who died on that fateful day, and say a prayer for their respective families:

John Alfred Anderson (62)
Thomas Howard (39)
Colin Mark Ashcroft (19)
Thomas Anthony Howard (14)
James Gary Aspinall (18)
Eric George Hughes (42)
Kester Roger Marcus Ball (16)
Alan Johnston (29)
Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron (67)
Christine Anne Jones (27)
Simon Bell (17)
Gary Philip Jones (18)
Barry Sidney Bennett (26)
Richard Jones (25)
David John Benson (22)
Nicholas Peter Joynes (27)
David William Birtle (22)
Anthony Peter Kelly (29)
Tony Bland (22)
Michael David Kelly (38)
Paul David Brady (21)
Carl David Lewis (18)
Andrew Mark Brookes (26)
David William Mather (19)
Carl Brown (18)
Brian Christopher Mathews (38)
David Steven Brown (25)
Francis Joseph McAllister (27)
Henry Thomas Burke (47)
John McBrien (18)
Peter Andrew Burkett (24)
Marion Hazel McCabe (21)
Paul William Carlile (19)
Joseph Daniel McCarthy (21)
Raymond Thomas Chapman (50)
Peter McDonnell (21)
Gary Christopher Church (19)
Alan McGlone (28)
Joseph Clark (29)
Keith McGrath (17)
Paul Clark (18)
Paul Brian Murray (14)
Gary Collins (22)
Lee Nicol (14)
Stephen Paul Copoc (20)
Stephen Francis O'Neill (17)
Tracey Elizabeth Cox (23)
Jonathon Owens (18)
James Philip Delaney (19)
William Roy Pemberton (23)
Christopher Barry Devonside (18)
Carl William Rimmer (21)
Christopher Edwards (29)
David George Rimmer (38)
Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons (34)
Graham John Roberts (24)
Thomas Steven Fox (21)
Steven Joseph Robinson (17)
Jon-Paul Gilhooley (10)
Henry Charles Rogers (17)
Barry Glover (27)
Colin Andrew Hugh
William Sefton (23)
Ian Thomas Glover (20)
Inger Shah (38)
Derrick George Godwin (24)
Paula Ann Smith (26)
Roy Harry Hamilton (34)
Adam Edward Spearritt (14)
Philip Hammond (14)
Philip John Steele (15)
Eric Hankin (33)
David Leonard Thomas (23)
Gary Harrison (27)
Patrik John Thompson (35)
Stephen Francis Harrison (31)
Peter Reuben Thompson (30)
Peter Andrew Harrison (15)
Stuart Paul William Thompson (17)
David Hawley (39)
Peter Francis Tootle (21)
James Robert Hennessy (29)
Christopher James Traynor (26)
Paul Anthony Hewitson (26)
Martin Kevin Traynor (16)
Carl Darren Hewitt (17)
Kevin Tyrrell (15)
Nicholas Michael Hewitt (16)
Colin Wafer (19)
Sarah Louise Hicks (19)
Ian David Whelan (19)
Victoria Jane Hicks (15)
Martin Kenneth Wild (29)
Gordon Rodney Horn (20)
Kevin Daniel Williams (15)
Arthur Horrocks (41)
Graham John Wright (17)

L'est we forget the ninety-six.

Joel Rookwood 2004

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