I’m not sure whether I should say anything about Hillsborough, so I’ll try put it across in as sensitive way as possible, and I hasten to add, I’m not trying to upset, or annoy anyone.
The thing is, the one over-riding factor in what happened that day, was that had there been no perimeter fences, there would likely have been no one killed. It was typical of the 80s, and it is staggeringly hard to believe that it happened. When I look back, I can hardly get my head around it, it is so blatantly obvious it would end in tragedy.
I loved football, and watched it from being a 5/6 year old. I watched it mostly with my grandad, we watched it all the time. He was a Bradford fan. We saw the fire together on television. If you watch that back now, the crowd were singing while the stand burned. It looks ridiculous. Did they not know people were dying? No they didn’t. It was unprecedented. With one exception, all the people that died were trapped by gates behind the stand. With hindsight, no one would have been singing.
I watched Heysel live too. With hindsight, would those responsible have done what they did? I’d like to think not.
I saw football violence throughout the 80s. It was common. I expected it. Every time I watched a match, I expected it, and when it happened, I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t even shocked when it happened near me at a game.
So up came the fences, to control the yobs and the idiots, and not too long after, Hillsborough. I’ll never forget that. I cannot imagine what it must have been like in there. I cannot imagine what it must be like for someone who knew their loved ones were in there. I cannot imagine how it felt to lose someone there. I don’t want to.
Even when the eventual truth comes out, there will be no winners. There will be no justice. No one set out that morning with any intention of hurting anyone, let alone seeing 96 people that would never go home.
There was a passage in Life On Mars, which was set in 1973, where with hindsight, Sam Tyler talks to a football thug:
Sam Tyler: I used to go to football with my dad. United and City fans used to walk to the match together. Our next door neighbour, he had a City flag up in his window. Kids used to play together in the street – red and blue. But then people like you came along and you took it away from us.
Pete Bond: A good punch up’s all part of the game. It’s about pride. Pride in your team. Being the best.
Sam Tyler: No it isn’t. This is how it starts and then it escalates. It gets on the telly and in the press and then other fans from other clubs start trying to out do each other. And then it becomes about hate and then it’s nothing to do with football any more. It’s about gangs and scumbags like you roaming the country seeing who can cause the most trouble. And then we overreact, and we have to put up perimeter fences and we treat the fans like animals. Forty, fifty thousand people herded into pens. And then how long before something happens, eh? How long before something terrible happens and we are dragging bodies out?
You can watch the clip here, from 50:15 (http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=life+on+mars+episode+5&FORM=HDRSC3#view=detail&mid=29C6EDA13BCB02F25B8729C6EDA13BCB02F25B87)
It was incredibly poignant, and I’m not embarrassed to say it made me cry, because it happened. What he is talking about there, what the writers were describing, happened, and they had seen it. I had seen it.
I’ve said the word hindsight several times, and now crucially, and so very sadly, that’s what we have got. Football as a sport has moved on, and has improved immeasurably as a spectator sport, but not without devastating loss. It would be wonderful to be able to go back in time, as in Life On Mars, and show all the idiots that became football hooligans a video of Hillsborough, and say “LOOK”. Show it to the government. Show it to the police. Show it to the FA, to the fans, to everyone. But we can’t.
All we can do is know NOW that we can make sure that something like this never happens again, and for every person who is ever involved in football hooliganism or violence, to never be allowed near a football ground again.
Football brings great emotion to those that love it, myself included, and I’ve had some wonderful times at matches, and watching it on television with friends. I’ve watched other teams win who my friends support, and enjoyed congratulating them. I’ve enjoyed taking the mickey when they have lost. The enjoyment in sharing laughter and jokes with fans of other teams, whether you know them or not, is quite a wonderful thing, and I’ve never quite understood why anyone would want to fight about it.
I don’t have any words of inspiration to finish, this was just a little insight into my thoughts, while I was on lunch break, about a day I will never forget, and I will remember with sorrow and sympathy, but with the hope that it never happens again.
It is perhaps a wonderful irony, that what happened that day, led to a whole city, and two rival football teams and their fans being united, and an image which genuinely moved me, it is so wonderful.
I hope they win the title this year. It would be nice, that.