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Remembering 25 Years Ago At Highbury When I Heard The Hillsborough News

6 years ago
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It is hard to imagine how different things are today from only 25 years ago, this afternoon’s tribute to those who suffered at Hillsborough bringing those changes into harsh focus.

The way football fans were treated back then was sadly an accident waiting to happen, the attitude of those in authority towards supporters meaning in hindsight disaster was simply waiting for the worst set of circumstances to converge.

On 15 April 1989 those circumstances came together at the Liverpool v Nottingham Forest FA Cup semi-final.

Lack of investment and forethought in stadium design, added to by the authorities seeing fans as the enemy and not your normal citizens simply going to watch a football match, topped off by crucial incompetence by individuals which set the Hillsborough disaster in motion.

Only two years earlier many Newcastle fans escaped a similar situation at White Hart Lane simply because of luck. Spurs fans failing to turn up in numbers which allowed extra sections to be opened and ease the crush, if that hadn’t been an option then many of us who were there that day will be of the belief that tragedy had been a possibility.

That wasn’t a one-off either as Newcastle’s massive away support was often herded into fenced enclosures which weren’t fit for purpose.

Today’s match at Stoke, as are all this weekend’s games, kicks off seven minutes late. Six minutes to remember the time that elapsed before that 1989 Semi-Final was abandoned, then a further minute of silence to think about those people who lost their lives and their loved ones who saw them off to a football match which they never returned from.

Far too late some of the people responsible for the tragedy are being held to account and it is a tribute to the families and friends of those who died that they have refused to let them get away with it. Holding those responsible to account won’t make everything alright of course, but it is the very minimum they should be able to expect.

On that Saturday 25 years ago, Newcastle United were busy getting themselves relegated, a 1-0 defeat at Highbury thanks to a Brian Marwood goal.

I can remember clearly during the first half, somebody with a transistor radio next to us saying that the Liverpool/Forest semi had been stopped for some unknown reason, though with the nature of the times the consensus was that it must be fighting between rival fans.

As our match progressed (or rather didn’t), transistor man became more and more the centre of attention. When updates said that some fans had been injured it only confirmed what most of assumed re fighting between supporters.

However, the BBC then made it clear that the injuries to fans WERE NOT due to fighting and we all wondered just what had been going on up in Sheffield.

To our amazement, as the final whistle blew at Highbury we then heard via the radio man that there were unconfirmed reports that people had actually died. It was a very subdued group of Newcastle fans who left that Arsenal match.

I’ve recently wondered whether the modern availability of mobile phones and especially the smart phones etc we see today, would have made a difference. Whether those poor Liverpool fans who were both being crushed, and those who were forced to watch but powerless to help in the seats above, could have used modern technology to get help and/or make clear what was happening to those in authority.

On the other hand, the extra images that could/would have instantly gone viral would have been absolutely horrific, especially for those seeing friends/family in such distress.

Today is important for two main reasons.

The first of which is of course to remember those who suffered and their families, the second must be an absolute commitment to prevent anything similar happening anywhere in both this country and abroad.

That for me is the most important way we can pay tribute to those that we lost that day and in the aftermath.

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