Hillsborough – 20 years on
15th April 1989 is a date that will remain etched in Liverpool’s history forever. 96 Liverpool fans left home for the much anticipated FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. They never came home.
These 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives in Britain’s worst ever football tragedy. Last Wednesday marked the twentieth anniversary of the disaster. Anfield held a memorial service, with the families of the victims present, current and ex players and staff of Liverpool.
It proved a poignant occasion with a moving rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Emotions where high amongst the 30,000 strong crowd. A two minute silence was held at 15:06 the time the match was called to a halt.
What happened? Liverpool fans started entering the stadium 30 minutes before kick-off. More fans wait expectantly outside the turnstiles. Entrance into the stadium is slow. Pens 3 and 4 of the lower terrace soon become full to capacity.
Fans are still waiting outside and the Police open a large exit gate in an attempt to combat the growing crowd pressure outside. Fans head straight for the already packed pens 3 and 4. Almost double the ‘safe’ capacity is in the central pens.
Five minutes into the match, a fence inside the stadium gives way leading to people falling over and becoming crushed. In an attempt to escape, fans climb the perimeter fence onto the pitch. Others are pulled to safety by fans in the upper tier.
It is clear that something has gone seriously array. At 15:06 the game is stopped by the referee. 730 people were injured with 96 fatally injured. 44 Ambulances arrived at the stadium, but only one was allowed to enter. Uninjured fans aided injured fans on the pitch, with some attempting CPR.
“The tragedy of the tragedy is that it took 96 people to die for English football to sort itself out.”
Mark Lawrenson outlines how the disaster permanently changed the face of English football
It remains the darkest day in British football. It is a tragedy that 96 fans had to die, for football to clean up its act. Since stadiums have been revamped and modernised.
This week the fateful day has been recounted by many of those who witnessed the terrible scenes of that sunny day in April. Current Liverpool players, ex-Liverpool players, and fans have retold the horrific images that they witnessed that day.
Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, revealed how he lost a cousin to Hillsborough.
“It was difficult knowing one of your cousins had lost his life,” said the Liverpool captain. “Seeing his family’s reaction drove me on to become the player I am today.”
Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson spoke about the tragedy on Match of the Day. Club captain at the time, Hansen commented how had it been a difficult day for all those connected to the club.
Hansen spoke of how the Liverpool players visited a boy moments before his life support machine was switched off. He described it as a ‘horrific day’. The funerals that followed, which players attended proved difficult for everybody.
Lawrenson pointed out that ‘the tragedy of the tragedy’ was that it took 96 people to die for English football to ‘sort itself out’. The one statement that rings true, is that ‘Hillsborough must never be forgotten’, as Hansen highlights.
It is a tragedy that will remain part of Liverpool Football Club forever. It magnifies why there is such a special bond between the club and fans.