When you walk through a storm, Hold your head up high, and don't be afraid of the dark. At the end of a storm there's a golden sky and the sweet silver song of the lark. Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown, Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone.
You'll never walk alone. Rogers and Hammerstein. Carousel 1945
On a Saturday afternoon, April 15th 1989 Nnety-six Liverpool fans went to Hillsborough, home of Sheffield Wednesday for an F.A, Cup semi-final to support their Reds against Nottingham Forest.
They came home in coffins!!!!
In the 1980's soccer fans were treated like cattle, and any policing was to prevent hooliganism, not for crowd safety. The paying customers had terrible, crowded conditions and Sheffield Wednesday used police from all over South Yorkshire and beyond, many with little training. At the Leppings Lane end the Liverpool fans were 'herded' into an already crowded paddock. Safety barriers bent and despite frantic pleads to police who held the keys, the fans were caged and could not get onto the pitch because of the high padlocked fence. I vividly remember,watching on television, seeing fans in the seats in the tier above haul up a few lucky ones, but the damage was done.
The game was being played but stopped after six minutes, the locked fence was opened and dead and unconcious people were carried onto the pitch.
It was a disaster waiting to happen, and in the years since, justice has not been done. The police didn't tell the whole truth and many ran for early well paid retirement and lots of cash. The day after the match THE SUN newspaper under the banner THE TRUTH, told lies about the behaviour of fans, in copy supervised by editor Kevin McKenzie. To this day many Merseysiders refuse to buy The Sun. Daily sales dropped from 200,000 to 12,00 in the area. In 2004 the newspaper finally issued an UNRESERVED APOLOGY.
A private prosecution was brought by the families against Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield and officer in charge Bernard Murray. Duckenfield claimed he was ill and could not continue in court, the case could not proceed, and he retired on a full police pension.
One of the positive results was the Taylor Report. Stadiums were transformed to all seater, fencing was removed, money poured in from television rights, safety came first, families could now go for a pleasant experience, and international companies and rich oligarches got involved. Lord Justice Taylor put the blame on inadequate policeing and stated that Duckenfield was 'Deceitful and dishonest', and had lied under oath, claiming that fans had opened the gates themselves.
Every year The Hillsborough Family Support Group holds an annual Rememberance Service on THE KOP at Anfield. This year I joined the thousands, of all ages, as we heard the 40 strong choir in a natty maroon and white strip from St. Anne Church, Stanley. We sang Abide with Me, the hymn traditionally sung prior to F.A. Cup Finals, and 96 candles were lit as each name was read out. The first team squad in dark suits and younger players in warm-ups, straight from practice filed into the Kop to polite applause.
Near the end, Phil Hammond, Chairman of the HFSG thanked everybody for support and the fans chanted JUSTICE, JUSTICE. We finished by singing the song that you have all heard and seen on Liverpool home matches. YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE.
I took the No 17 Stagecoach bus to Anfield Road for the 19th Anniversary on a sunny day in the European Capital of Culture, 2008. Before the service I went to the Shankly Gates at the far side of Anfield to look at the memorial plaque with 96 names and hundreds of flowers and bouquets. On the gates were scarves from Liverpool, Everton, Newcastle United, Durgardens, Eintracht Braunchweig, Brugge...
There were many handwritten tributes with the flowers. Uncle Steve, Hope you made friends in heaven. Love, Aaron Fox age 4
Adam, Missed and Loved - Daz & Beanie. Dear James, 19 years-such a long time-Love May.
Dad, you will be remembered for your love of Liverpool and your singing. From your sons Stephen, Kevin, and Mick.
For more information: Hillsborough-the Truth, Phil Scraton. The Day of the Hillsborough Disaster edited by Rogan Taylor, Andrew Ward, Tim Newburn. Rogan Taylor presented me with a copy in his office at Liverpool University which I visited before a EURO 1996 match at Anfield.