On June 12, 1966 I stood on the open terraces at the Leppings Lane End at Hillsborough Stadium to watch Franz Beckenbauer score twice in his first ever World Cup match for West Germany in a 5-0 rout of Switzerland, on the way to a final with England at Wembley Stadium.
Three years later I was invited to a coaching demonstration in the gymnasium at the back of the main stand at Hillsborough by my friend John Adams, then F.A. Coach for the North of England. On April 15th 1989, that very same gym was hastily converted into a temporary morgue. 96 bodies were laid out behind a temporary screen. Photos of the faces were taken and shown to frantic relatives and friends who arrived on the other side of the screen to look for their loved ones.
Liverpool FC played Nottingham Forest in one of the semi-finals of the F.A. Cup. After 6 minutes a police officer walked onto the pitch and told the referee to abandon the match and take the players off and into the tunnel. THE MATCH SHOULD NEVER HAVE KICKED OFF !!
Sheffield Wednesday F.C. did not have a stadium safety certificate, and there were problems a year before when the two teams met in another semi-final at the same stadium. 45,000 fans showed up at the ticket only match, but although there were 1,000 police officers on duty, that was 10% less than in 1988. A new, inexperienced officer was in charge, Chief Inspector David Duckenfield.
Despite a clear view from the control office he panicked and ordered the giant exit gates opened 10 minutes prior to kick-off and fans poured in. Many had been delayed due to extensive road works and the then 90 year old stadium was not up to function. They surged into an already packed central paddock, while the two either side were half empty. Fans surged forward and were crushed against inadequate barriers and a cage fence behind the goal crushed many,
49 ambulances arrived but only one was allowed on the pitch. Myself and millions of others watched live on TV as the disaster unfolded. You could see fans trying to assist, along with junior police officers, and the dead and dying carried off on advertising hoardings.
Today in The House of Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron issued a PROPER apology on behalf of the nation and parliament to the familes of the 96 and to the people of Liverpool. The reason was that an independent panel of experts who had gone through over 460,000 documents from hundreds of sources released them ON LINE today. www.hillsborough.independent.co.uk
SHOCKING REVELATIONS that after 23 years we have some truth, and tomorrow the relatives group will start the search for justice.
That evening the cover up started, by the South Yorkshire Police and the Police Union, and by the Ambulance Service. They wanted to put the blame on unruly, drunken, ticketless Liverpool fans. Blood samples were taken of all the dead to try ony see how many were drunk. Fourty one of the dead were teenagers including the two Hicks sisters, and the youngest to die was 10 year old Jon-Paul Gilhooley. His 8 year old cousin found out that evening. The 8 year old was Steven Gerrard, now captain of both Liverpool and England.
A few days later The Sun newspaper had a huge headline THE TRUTH, and how drunken Liverpool fans had picked the pockets of the dead, urinated on the police and more TOTAL LIES. The editor was Kelvin Mackenzie who for 23 years denied his lies until today. A total lowlife.
The Taylor Report a year later blamed the tragedy on the failure of the police, but there were no successful prosecutions, and 116 of 164 police statements were now shown to have been altered. The INQUEST stated that at 3.15pm all 96 were dead and a verdict of Accidental Death was recorded,. In fact it is now learned that up to 41 were still alive and MIGHT have been saved if ambulances and their professional staff had not been kept out of Hillsborough. There are now calls to re-open the inquest.
Every anniversary on 15th April there is a memorial service in front of The Kop at Anfield. I have been a number of times, including the 20th anniversary service in 2009 with a huge crowd of over 30,000. At 3.06pm there is a two minutes silence during the service. Flowers and scarves from many clubs are laid at the foot and on The Shankly Gates next to the Memorial Panel and eternal flame on Anfield Road.
On that anniversary, the then Culture & Sport Secretary Andy Burnham, M.P. for Leigh spoke at the service and promised justice. Three years later he has kept his promise. An Everton fan, he was at the other semi-final at Villa Park that fateful day.
WALK ON WITH HOPE IN YOUR HEARTS, YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE.