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When Newcastle United came close to a Hillsborough situation – Video

4 months ago
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Thirty five years ago, White Hart Lane (Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as now) was a very different place, as was football in general.

When the topic of the Hillsborough tragedy crops up, for many older Newcastle fans, a day just over two years before the 1989 disaster comes to mind, when we could have seen something very similar.

Maybe only differences in the layout of the two grounds prevented it.

Newcastle United travelled to Tottenham in 1987 full of hope, a fifth round FA Cup tie had everybody excited, a dodgy penalty (Clive Allen) did for us on the pitch though.

Seeing this photo (see below) on Twitter, was a vivid reminder as to why this match is much talked about, though for other reasons.

In the video commentary below you’ll hear reference to an estimated twelve thousand travelling fans (Newcastle were bottom of the league at the time!), anyone who was there will tell you it felt like twice as many, as half the world seemed to be packed onto the terraces.

If you look to behind the goal on the left you’ll see the Newcastle end. If you were in there that day, when the Hillsborough disaster happened two years later you couldn’t help looking back at this Spurs match because a combination of fences and massive overcrowding could have been fatal.

Seeing those horrible fences again makes you wonder how they ever came to be there.

You also compare how crowded the Newcastle end is compared to the Spurs one (to the right), it is just crazy how the authorities back then could fail to see the potential problems.

For a perfect illustration of just how packed in the Newcastle fans were, go to 2.30 on the video when Paul Goddard has a run at goal and the ball is deflected for a corner. Look at the terraces behind that goal.

It might be 35 years ago but I remember this day all too clearly.

It is especially disappointing then to see the shambles at Elland Road on Saturday.

Considering there were only 2,690 tickets allocated to Newcastle United fans, it is astonishing just how bad a situation was allowed to develop as the away fans queued up to get through turnstiles.

Thankfully, it appears that nobody ended up physically hurt, though there were children visibly upset as the crush developed. It is a truly horrible situation when you end up in a mass of people, unable to escape out of that crowd and feeling the crush getting progressively worse.

Problems with the turnstiles and scanning tickets appeared to cause the build up of fans and as Newcastle supporters struggled to gain access to the away section, more and more NUFC fans were being allowed to enter the already crowded area.

In these situations, the people towards the front become increasingly squashed, whilst those arriving at the back and adding to the squash / crush are oblivious of the worsening situation at the front.

What is needed is somebody to take control from outside that developing situation, somebody to take responsibility, somebody to manage that crowd of people.

Somebody, such as the Police, or those working for the football club, whose job is to help get the fans through the turnstiles and safely into the stadium.

Leeds United and the authorities, Police and safety committee etc, are now investigating exactly what went wrong and lessons to be learnt.

It is ironic that at a time when safe standing areas are now being trialled at a number of Premier League and Championship stadiums, we see such incompetence and a failure in their duty of care, for those in charge on matchday at Elland Road to competently organise the safe entry into the ground of a relatively small number of away fans.

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