Hillsborough. For 27 years it's flitted in and out of the news. 27 years? Think where you were 27 years ago. Imagine being outside Hillsborough with your mates and it's not long until kick off in the semi final and you're buzzing with the atmosphere. And it's crowded and you're getting jostled and the sun's shining. And there's old blokes and young lads and bad moustaches and bad burgers and your ninety minutes from Wembley. And you're going to miss the kick off so you push forward and everyone's shouting to get a move on. And when they finally open the gate it's a huge human tidal wave and you shout over your shoulder to your mates that you'll see them inside as you battle to get through the turnstile. Apart from one mate who'll you never see alive again.
I'd been there with Leeds in 87. The kick off was delayed. When me and Daz got through the turnstile we came to the tunnel straight in front. It was like looking into the top of a fresh toothpaste tube of people. We tried to ram our our skinny frames into the mass of fans with little success and eventually gave up. The next tunnel along was slightly more forgiving and we somehow barged and elbowed our way in. I've never before or since been so uncomfortable at a match. That's the wrong word, it wasn't panic, but it was that feeling when you're not in control and you're just the right side of okay. Occasionally one foot would touch the ground or sometimes I'd gain or lose a couple of steps backwards or forwards with a Leeds attack or corner. But mostly I was suspended mid-air, supported by strangers. I'd chosen to wear a thick yellow jumper and as the temperature rose had to endure the consequences. I'd have happily ditched it but had no means to take it off. My arms were pinned to my side most of the time as I hung/stood like a skittle.
After the match as we were all trudging away exhausted, pissed off to lose but relieved to breathe, people were knocking on doors in the streets asking for water like battle weary troops. Women were handing out glasses over their gates.
When it happened, Leeds were at home in a dull end of season affair with a low attendance. There was a sombre announcement at half time that the semi final had been abandoned due to a disturbance and it was thought that some Liverpool fans may have died. I can see it now, on the Lowfields, in a sparse crowd of a maybe a hundred in that pen, one lad jumping up and down in celebration, both arms raised. I can see it now and I'll always see it. I don't know if it was a case of ‘Fuck em, we hate everyone and everyone hates us’ or he was simply a thick bastard, but it sticks in my mind.
One of my best mates at the time was at Hillsborough. He followed them home and away. After our match when the enormity of it all was starting to dawn I rushed home and rang his house. His mum was in a panic naturally. I didn't know what to think. He eventually called me about 8 o’clock. I can't remember what he said and I wasn't bothered, just relieved he was safe.
It's strange, I remember my dad being heartbroken by Hyesel but can't remember his reaction on that day. He'd taken me to big games many times, both Leeds and Liverpool, just as dads had taken their lads to Hillsborough, but we always came back.
Just reading the articles and the statements of the families breaks your fucking heart. As the years have gone by they've being called ‘whingeing scousers’. Jesus. What they've been through. The lies, the cover ups, the finger pointing, the accusations, the smears, the broken marriages, lost jobs, sleepless nights. To be told that their dead relatives and friends were drunken yobs who contributed to their own deaths when it was down to inept policing and a commander who froze when needed most. And for all those years and years and years to have to fight and fight and keep their dignity, I applaud them all. Bravo. You're stronger than I ever could have been.
Dignity - Thatcher, Ingham, McKenzie, Cameron, Johnson and the rest. Dignity and pride, you could learn something.
Jon-Paul Gilhooley was ten years old and he was crushed to death at the front of the terrace. His last memory would have been of sheer terror, gasping for air, surrounded by bodies and feet, urine and vomit and concrete. Just think about that. Whingeing scousers.