On 15th April 1989, 96 people went to a football match and never came home.
They didn’t go to war, they didn’t go out looking for trouble, they didn’t go into hospital due to illness, they went for a day out to support the football team that they love.
They never returned.
I was at Anfield on Tuesday night for the Merseyside derby and it was my first visit since the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy.
I’ll never forget the first time I went there.
Nine years of age and beginning to understand football and follow Everton, I was the proud owner of a brand new scarf, bought by my Dad to wear on my ever increasing visits to Goodison Park. Ridiculously proud, I wore it even when it wasn’t cold.
But I gave it away. Like many others, I was frog marched by my Dad to the home of our arch enemies, were, like many others I tied it to the gates as a sign of respect for those who were lost. At 9, I couldn’t understand it. I was disappointed. Why should I leave my pride and joy tied to a gate? And the answer was simple; because it was the only thing I could do to show my support, respect and unity for not only my fellow scousers but my fellow football fans.
In the grand scheme of things that gesture didn’t change anything. But I’m glad I did it. I’m glad that I supported those Liverpool fans. To let them know they weren’t walking alone.
To compound my disappointment my Dad bought me a replacement scarf from Kirkby market on the day of the final. I hung it out of the car window and said scarf duly unravelled – as did Everton on the day of the final - but that’s another story.
A number of issues have made the Hillsborough tragedy more prevalent of late.
At the end of the weekend, both Merseyside clubs may be in the Semi Final of the FA cup. An all Merseyside cup final is not impossible.
* We have a Tory government and they’ve made a film about Margaret Thatcher. Unfortunately.
* The lack or morality in certain red top publications has been well documented.
* The agreement to release previously undisclosed papers, detailing the untold story of what happened that day and thereafter in the corridors or power is welcomed and awaited.
Plenty of lies were told in the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy under headings of “The Truth” and we’ve learnt this week that a section of Merseyside Police force compounded those lies by telling Thatcher at the time that the disaster was as a result of drunken, ticketless Liverpool fans.
Why the papers in question were leaked is open to debate. What is clear is the overwhelming attempt to deflect blame from anyone in position of power to the ordinary football fan. To deflect blame to those unable to speak for themselves due to others sheer incompetence.
Go to any Semi-Final and you will find ticketless fans. You may also find one or two who have had a drink. Thankfully, what normally follows – certainly off the pitch – is uneventful
The Taylor enquiry that followed pointed to a number of determining factors, not least of which led to the introduction of all seater stadiums but he was quite damning in his summary of South Yorkshire Police.
He said “policing on 15 April broke down in the ways already described and, although there were other causes, the main reason for the disaster was the failure of police control."
That’s right, “the main reason for the disaster was the failure of police control”.
So why do the families have to continue with their fight for truth and justice? It wasn’t their fault. It was never their fault despite attempts to smear them. And yet they have to fight tooth and nail.
It’s frightening to consider what may have happened had Liverpool fans not done all that they could to help the injured on that tragic day. How many more of the 766 injured may have been lost?
But the fight goes on.
One hopes that the release of the papers later in the year will help the families find some closure. There may be more heartbreak along the way for those concerned, as it is difficult to imagine there won’t be further stories like those leaked this week but the truth has to come out.
It can’t be hidden any longer.
Those who lost loved ones have fought their fight with the upmost class, respect and dignity. But they shouldn’t have to fight. They shouldn’t have to put themselves through further emotional turmoil on a regular basis, just to find the truth.
That’s all they want, the truth. So why do they have to go through hell to get it?
Anyone who isn’t aware of Anne Williams and her Son, Kevin, should have a quick internet search of the story.
Have a look at what this woman has been through. Have a look at what her own enquiries have shown her. Enquiries that should have been conducted by those ultimately responsible for the loss of such a young life.
Yet she has to fight for the truth. And it is a fight. It can’t be easy.
The authorities have let Anne Williams down. Just like they let everyone else down.
Have these people not been through enough? They shouldn’t have to continually jump through hoops for people all too keen to hide the documents, the conversations, the attempts to smear and essentially the truth.
The friends, family and loved ones of 96 people will never get over what happened on that day. Liverpool as a city won’t either and still bears the scars of the hideous mistakes of others.
96 people went to a football match and never came home.
Please don’t ever forget them.
Justice for the 96!
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