Wednesday, 15 April 2009

hillsborough remembered

I had a very brief foretaste of the Hillsborough disaster at a football match in January 1988. I went with some friends, including my now wife Kate, to watch QPR at Loftus Road and we bought tickets at the ground on the day. Having gone into one end of the stadium we found ourselves in the midst of a large crowd, crushed by too many fans entering from the back of the stand. For a short while I was completely trapped with arms by my side, unable to control my movements and being pushed forward and then back. The pressure increased and I became more anxious, trying to stay on my feet, looking round to check my friends were O.K. and wondering how many more were going to try and enter the stand. Fortunately, there was only a low wall bordering the playing surface and eventually people began to make their way onto the pitch, made of Astroturf in those days, and the game was briefly suspended. Supporters were escorted to other parts of the stadium and also sat on the ground in front of the walls and then the match continued.

I can’t remember who QPR were playing that day or what the result was but I can still remember the rising sense of helplessness and panic and the relief when the problem was sorted out. A minor incident experienced by football fans across the country week after week over many years. But what if there had been barriers protecting the pitch and hemming in the fans? Well we discovered what might happen a year later at Hillsborough. I was playing in a hockey tournament that day and wandered in to the bar between matches to catch up on the FA Cup semi finals only to be confronted by the awful pictures which have since become so familiar. The full horror of the tragedy was still unfolding later in the afternoon as commentators tried to make sense of what they were witnessing and then gradually the rising count of dead and critically injured began to emerge.

The BBC commentator Alan Green gave a very powerful personal account of the Hillsborough tragedy on Radio 4 this morning. The sense of frustration and anger at what took place that day is still clearly discernable in the tone and content of what he said. Green can sometimes go over the top, and isn’t the most popular guest at Old Trafford, but I thought his piece struck the right balance on the Today programme.

There are several aspects of the tragedy that remain as running sores for the people of Liverpool. The first is that the full truth of what happened at Hillsborough has never been told and suspicions and accusations remain about who was responsible; the police, football authorities, Sheffield Wednesday and football supporters have all been blamed. The second is the scandalous way in which the reputations of the dead, the injured and other fans were trashed in briefings from the police that were then published by the press. +Nick Baines, Scouser and Liverpool fan, gives an insight into the burning resentment still felt by many in the city at the way The Sun in particular reported events. These slurs are raked up every now and again, Boris Johnson now Mayor of London is one such offender, and unfortunately they will persist until a full authoritative account is given of that terrible day.

A lot is said and written about the animosity between Manchester Utd and Liverpool fans but this Man Utd fan would like to take the opportunity afforded by the commemorations today to remember those who were killed, injured and bereaved.

1 comment:

Nick Baines said...

Thank you. Good post.