Something I wrote in 2002 long before the new inquest…………..
Here is my memories and thoughts of one of the darkest days in footballs long history.
It was April 15th. I had left work early, as it was my birthday weekend. I got in just after 2:30 and stuck on Grandstand (no Gillette Soccer Saturday in them days). It was FA cup semi-final day. Liverpool were up against Nottingham Forest whilst Everton played Norwich. Just after 3 we went over to Hillsborough, as there was some kind of pitch invasion.
Bloody Scousers we all thought. It was four years after the Heysel disaster and once again the Liverpool fans were the scourges of the nation. “Bloody pissed up twats”, “what the fuck are they doing”, “can’t they just go to a football match without causing trouble”. Three harsh statements but you couldn’t blame anyone for thinking that way.
We weren’t to know.
To this day the police still think that way but the people who were there as well as the majority of the British public know different. Don’t we Mr Duckenfield? Leppings Lane. There, 2 little words that should have no effect on anyone, but to the families of 96 football fans those 2 little words are full of grief and hatred. The majority of football grounds have 4 stands and each are given names. At Portman Road we have The Greene King Stand (still Churchman’s to me), The Cobbold Stand, The Britannia Stand and The Bobby Robson Stand (North stand) Anyway what I’m getting at is on this day the Liverpool fans were allocated the Leppings Lane Stand.
For those of you who don’t know an FA cup semi-final is played at a neutral venue and Hillsborough was deemed the most acceptable venue logistically for these two teams. The two clubs met in the previous year’s semi and both lodged complaints to the FA when the venue was chosen. Both teams felt that Old Trafford would be more suitable and more importantly much safer due to constraints of segregation. As usual those in authority chose to ignore the pleas of the people in the know.
Now then back in the eighties the majority of stadia where run down and in dire need of modernisation. The home of Sheffield Wednesday FC being no different. Around 2:30 the fans turned up at the ground, some had been drinking but the majority hadn’t. Yet for some reason the old bill blamed the booze and not their own inability to make a decision. Forgive me if some of this is not consistent but I wasn’t there, I’m only recalling the facts from what I saw on Grandstand, newspaper articles, the internet and various books that I have read on the subject.
The ground did not have enough turnstiles to cope with the demand and inevitably chaos ensued. People were beginning to get crushed. At eight minutes to three Gate C was opened. Those at its entrance stumbled through, those at the back pushed harder. Thanks to the then archaic nature of football grounds the only place to go was straight into pens 3 and 4. All very well except these pens were designed for about 2,000 people not 5,000. At 2:54pm the teams came out onto the pitch. The fans at the back of the pens pushed forward to get a better view unaware that the ones at the front were dying.
For those people in pens 3 & 4 the minutes prior to kick off must have seemed like hours. The game started and the crush got worse, people started piling onto the pitch and several attempted to climb up into the seating area above. From his vantage point overlooking the whole stadium Chief Superintendent Duckenfield finally noticed what was going on and at 3:06pm he ordered the ref to stop the game. Still no one was sure what was going on. The only thing that was certain was that several people who had come to watch a football match would never go to a game again.
The simple truth of the matter was that they had lost their lives for a game of football. The scene on the pitch was one of confusion. The players left the pitch looking bewildered, not knowing what was going on. Back on the terraces people were clambering to safety whilst others were lifting their dead wives, husbands, brothers or sisters onto the pitch. Advertising hordings were ripped down and used as makeshift stretchers.
Sitting at home in my living room I was in a state of disbelief, I had no association with either club but as a fellow football fan I felt what those people were going through. As I write this it is almost thirteen years since that fateful day and the truth still hasn’t come out. Trevor Hicks lost his two daughters at Hillsborough and subsequently his marriage. He should have every reason to feel bitter about the events of April 15th, however, he has been challenging his bitterness into a fervour by forming The Hillsborough Families Support Group. All this group wants is for the truth to come out. I can’t blame them.
In the thirteen years since the tragedy it has come to light that well over 100 police statements have been altered to delete any references to police malpractice before, during, and after the event. These altered statements were the ones used in the 1989 inquiry and the subsequent 1991 inquest. At both of these the South Yorkshire police were heavily criticised for their policing of the game but were not held responsible for the deaths.
Verdicts of Accidental Death were returned at both the inquiry and inquest.
For the sake of every football fan the length and breadth of this country we cannot allow this to be brushed under the carpet. The South Yorkshire police were employed on the day to ensure the smooth running of the FA cup semi-final. The biggest factor in the policing of any major event has to be the SAFETY of those who are in attendance. On this day the safety of thousands was compromised by the inept attitude of one or two people.
These people should be brought to task, I wonder if the top brass in the South Yorkshire police as well as the bungling old twats at the FA can sleep at night knowing they are responsible for the deaths of 96 innocent people.
Oh I forgot it was their own fault because they were pissed. If there is one good thing to come out of all this then it’s the modernisation of all Stadia. Hopefully a tragedy like Hillsborough will never happen again, as I for one would hate to become a victim of police incompetence.