Hillsborough: A tribute to the 96


As many fans woke up with the feeling of nervous and butterflies in their stomach at the thought of going to see their team in an FA Cup semi-final, the feelings later on that day would be totally different and their emotions would not be the same, as many of those fans who woke up that day would never return home.

The match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was to be one that would be keenly anticipated as the two managers who were legends at their respective football clubs, Kenny Dalglish as a player and manager with Liverpool and Nottingham Forest’s very own Brian Clough had their sides playing attractive football so everyone had been looking forward to what should have been a fantastic day and a fantastic game of football, however what transpired on that day meant that the football match or the few minutes of football that were played on that day would never really be remembered or matter!

The venue for the match was Hillsborough which was the home of Sheffield Wednesday and perhaps even though it has changed over the years; it will sadly be remembered for this horrific tragedy and will live in the memory of those who attended or watched on in horror.

One of the problems at the time was football stadiums in the country had steel fencing around the ground due to a problem with hooliganism which was particularly bad in England, where pitch invasions or missile throwing was all part of the game as these mindless thugs threatened to ruin the game we love.

On this particular day, the Liverpool support were given the Leppings Lane End and their had been reports before the semi-final that the Liverpool supporters were not happy with their given end as they had experienced crushing problems before and although they reported the possible problems, unfortunately nothing was done about it by the FA.

On that day, many supporters who did not have tickets were told to stay away from the match and those who had tickets were held up by roadworks on the M62 motorway meaning by the time many fans headed towards the ground there would be a considerable build up of fans in such a small area just outside the turnstiles at the Leppings Lane End, anyone with any sense could see that this was an accident waiting to happen but no one could ever have believed the horrible scenes and the horrific news that was to follow as the fans made their way inside the stadium.

As time ticked on, fans were becoming more anxious to get inside the stadium before the match started but fans who could not get in were still in the area and were causing an obstruction to fans that had tickets and were becoming more desperate to get to see their team.

The match neared its kick-off and fans knew that the teams had already entered the field of play, the sensible thing to do would have been to delay the kick off but this was not the case and what followed will forever be remembered by Liverpool supporters as their blackest day in their history.

Whoever decided first of all to open a side gate which saw 20 fans rushing through to get in… – but this was nothing in comparison to the opening of Gate C which caused an almighty rush of supporters rushing through the gate and into the stadium.

Many fans had rushed through a narrow tunnel and into what were already two overcrowded areas causing an almighty crush and the fans that had made their way to the front of these areas had little or no chance of survival.

As the match started, fans had started to spill on to the pitch and many feared at first that it was crowd trouble but soon the stark truth was to be revealed!

Players did not know what to think and then the referee was advised to stop the match at 3.06, as the police now knew that something was seriously wrong – as fans were spilling on to the pitch at an alarming rate!

The fans were being waved back by the players until many of the fans uttered words which no one could believe at the time, those words would numb even the hardest of Liverpool players as they were told that fans were dying in the away end.

As the situation became clearer of the severity of what was happening, bodies were being laid on the pitch, many already dead.

I remember watching these events unfold as I sat watching Grandstand with my girlfriend at the time, now my wife and tears poured down my face as I could only look on helpless as many fans lay dying or dead on the Hillsborough pitch.

Twenty three years on and I still find it hard writing about the event and I was not even involved, I cannot begin to imagine how the Liverpool fans felt watching TV programmes over the past 23 years and even now as it comes to the anniversary of that fateful day.

On the 15th April 1989 at Hillsborough a total of 94 people died that day with 766 other fans being injured and 300 taken to hospital but the total would not end there as Lee Nicol would lose his battle for life at the tender age of only 14 – four days later.

But for Hillsborough and for Liverpool the final death toll would become 96 as Tony Bland died in March 1993 after being in a coma, his suffering had ended but for the families who lost loved ones their suffering and fight for justice for the 96 still goes on!

So many things have changed in the world of football since that day and following the disaster, the Lord Justice Taylor report would make sure of that.

Safety was now to be of paramount importance and the fences would now come down for good and many of the top stadia in the country became all seated.

While some things have changed for today’s football fans for the better, it should not be forgotten that disasters like Ibrox, Bradford, Heysel and Hillsborough have unfortunately happened to make us all learn such harsh lessons.

On Sunday 15th April , many Liverpool fans will still feel the grief, the hurt, and the pain over what happened 23 years ago and I think football fans all over the world will take time out to pray for those who have lost someone at Hillsborough.

One of Liverpool ’s most famous managers once said of the beautiful game, “Football is not just a matter of life or death, it’s much more important than that”.

I am sure if Bill Shankly had seen the faces of the dead and injured at Hillsborough that day, he would have wished that he had never made such a statement as the game meant nothing in comparison to the tragic loss of life that day.

Liverpool as a football club took time to mourn and to try to come to terms of what had happened to many of their fans on that day just working class men and women who would go to a game of football and never return.

The players and Kenny Dalglish took time out to attend funerals and spend time with families indeed the city of Liverpool shone through brightly then in terms of tragedy came the hand of friendship from rivals Everton as they linked scarves and the hand of friendship in times of sadness that put rivalry firmly behind them.

Liverpool had to get back to playing football and after the hand of friendship from Celtic to play a benefit match, Liverpool did get back to playing competitive football and they overcame Nottingham Forest to reach the FA Cup Final where Everton, their rivals lay in waiting and perhaps the script was written in the stars that Liverpool would win the Cup that year as Pat Nevin says, “maybe it was the right result for football and for Liverpool that day” and even though I would have wanted Pat and his Everton team mates to win the Cup, perhaps he was right!

As fate would have it, Liverpool and Everton had been due to play each other in the FA Cup semi-final again this Sunday but a compassionate plea from the Anfield club made sure that they would not play on the anniversary of the darkest day in the clubs history and they faced rivals Everton on Saturday 14th April instead, the Merseyside clash is somewhat ironic as Everton were the side they faced in the FA Cup final weeks after the tragedy back in 89.

A minute’s silence to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster will be held before both FA Cup semi-finals.

Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham and Chelsea players will wear black armbands during the two matches.

Rival captains Steven Gerrard and Phil Neville presented members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group with flowers prior to kick-off yesterday and also lay floral tributes to the Hillsborough victims at the side of the pitch.

The Anfield club will also hold their annual memorial service on Sunday afternoon.

Everton manager David Moyes backed the decision to hold a minute’s silence before both games.

He said: “From everyone at Everton I pass on my thoughts to anyone who lost family members at Hillsborough and we will do everything we can to make sure we respect a difficult game for them.”

“It was a horrendous disaster which everyone was shocked by and I am sure everyone at Everton will pass on their sympathies and on the day will give everyone who lost family members the right dignity and pay tribute to them.”

As 23 years have passed and the hurt of Hillsborough goes on with every passing year, my thoughts go out to every one of the Liverpool supporters who lost someone at Hillsborough that day and that includes today’s current Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard who lost his young ten-year old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley.

I am sure the pain will be shared in Sheffield and Nottingham as you mourn the passing of your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers.

To the 96 may you rest in peace!

To the families and friends and to Liverpool Football Club

“You’ll Never Walk Alone!”

In Rememberance:

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


About Author

Chief Features Writer for Scotzine.com. Sean has written for various publications and websites over the years and has been involved with making documentaries on Aberdeen Football Club, Dundee United Football Club, Henrik Larsson, Paul Lambert and Jock Stein and also Radio programmes, one of which "Old Firm Day" won a Bronze Sony Award. He also worked in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park. His love of writing started off with The Punter and has gone on to write for the following FIFA magazine, 442, Scotland's Oracle, Players Inc, British Football Week, ESPN, Give Me Football, Inside Futbol, 67 Fanzine and the matchday programmes of Aberdeen, Carlisle United, Montrose, Partick Thistle, Stockport County and Queen's Park. He has also been asked to write a blog for Youth Football Scotland on St.Mirren YFC such was his passion for football at every level from Grassroots to the professional game.

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