Spring 1989. I didn’t have a lot of time for Liverpool. Having to endure 20 years of their fans continually crowing about their lot being the greatest team the world was unbearable. To be fair they were probably right but it still did your head in.
Liverpool’s dominance led me to have a desire that anyone would win the league or cup rather than them. So it went without saying that I became an ardent Forest fan for the Semi-Final on April 15 1989.
This was the last year before FA Cup Semi-finals were to be shown live on the telly and they were a really massive event, so it was a case of listening to Peter Jones on Radio Two and switching to Metro Radio for updates on the Newcastle game, we were at Arsenal that day.
As the radio commentary team began to realise that the trouble in front of them wasn’t the normal 1980s Saturday afternoon punch up, I remember that I stopped washing the Ford Sierra and ran inside to switch on Grandstand. I didn’t leave the telly for the next 4 hours as the horror developed in front of the nation.
It’s hard to believe that any of you out there who are under 35, probably have no recollection of this unbelievably sad day, so it’s impossible to adequately put into words what an impact this had on many a football fan.
Newcastle fans had many occasions of their own where something like this could have occurred. Hillsborough itself a few years earlier had been very dodgy on those same terraces, Spurs in the Cup, even outside Roker Park a year after the disaster when lads were fainting because of the hideous crush.
Yesterday, I once again found myself watching and listening to anything covering the events. Sadly I heard one or two comments along the lines of ‘the reaction of the city (Liverpool) was a bit over the top, with kids who weren’t even born weeping over people they never knew’. What I would say is that before you judge, please stop for a minute and think just how an event like that occurring to our own fans would have impacted on our city.
No doubt today’s instant technology has led to Liverpool websites being inundated by halfwits posting their gloating words of hate.
However, there are times when our daft footballing prejudices should not be allowed to get in the way of being overjoyed at seeing the families of a bunch of Scouse Geordies (if you understand what I mean) who simply went to see their team reach Wembley, finally get a Government to admit that the way the police were allowed to treat fans in those days was incompetent, aggressive and in time may be seen to have been criminal.
It was the reason why their sons and daughters didn’t come home
For me and probably many others in their 40s and 50s, that day will always be remembered as ‘There but for the grace of God’.