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Tyne Talk

Remembering 33 Years Ago At Highbury When I Heard The Hillsborough News

4 weeks ago
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It was 33 years ago today, when the tragedy at Hillsborough took place.

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.

To make matters worse, it has been a disgrace what the families and friends who lost loved ones, have had to go through to try and get some kind of justice. Attempting to hold those responsible to account, who were in key positions of authority on the day and in preparing for this semi-final.

On that Saturday 33 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 (pre-smart phones) next to us saying that the Liverpool / Forest semi had been stopped for some unknown reason, though with the nature of the times back then, the general assumption 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 appeared to confirm what most had 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.

As the final whistle blew at Highbury, we then heard via 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.

Of course, by the time we made it home to Tyneside that night, we had become aware of the full horror of what had occurred at Hillsborough, at least in terms of the sheer number of fans who were reported to have died.

It seemed inconceivable that so many people had set out to go to a football match that day, just like us as Newcastle fans heading to Highbury, only never to return home.

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