You got there as early as you could to stand at your favourite spot, infront or behind the crash barrier. Some preferred to be lower down, up against the fences, as close as possible to their heroes. Despite the scandalous misreports that suggested otherwise, many apparently emanating from the South Yorkshire police, Liverpool fans weren?t delaying their entry as late as possible, having a drink or otherwise. They made their way to the leppings lane end as quickly and as early as they could. Those policemen and Sheffield Wednesday football club must ask themselves, again and again, could they have done more to help. I fear the answer, particularly for the former is yes.
I heard a report by peter. Its possible that I misheard what he said, but he gave me the impression that somehow hooligans were involved. I screamed at London: ?no! tell peter no!! its not hooliganism, its not a riot, it?s a crush, its an accident. People are hurt, people are dying, its NOT hooliganism.?
That evening was surreal. The snooker went on around me, but I was oblivious to it. Writers and broadcasters, most of whom were dear friends, approached me frequently but warily. Was I all right? Could they do anything to help? Could they get me another drink? I drank a lot that evening and deep into the night, enough alcohol to have seen me pass out. Somehow I didn?t. No amount could make me forget, erase the hurt. And I wasn?t injured, I wasn?t part of the casualty list that lengthened as the night wore on.
I arrived very early around midday, and drove into my allotted car park space at the back of the main stand (bramall lane). I knew I didn?t have to go in just then but I couldn?t anyway. My hands were shaking, all I could think about was Hillsborough. I noticed police arriving . They were walking along the lane by the main entrance laughing and joking. How could they?? They were south Yorkshire police, some of them must surely have been at Hillsborough. How could they?!
Eventually, I went into the ground and up to the press room. There was the usual small talk. I heard it all but listened to none of it. I knew I wasn?t there for football reasons.
The kick off was delayed until six minutes past three. All the players were grouped in a circle, heads bowed. I stood in the press box. There was a silence except for the church bells that, as arranged, rang throughout Sheffield. I broke down, I was in a state of collapse. Ive no idea what I said in my reports or what happened in the game - It didn?t matter.
That night I drove through the peak district towards home in Macclesfield, where I was planning to stay the night before returning to the snooker. I listened to sports report along the way and stopped the car just west of Castleton to listen to Byron Butlers report from Anfield, where thousands had laid wreaths and scarves and tributes, where a service had been held.
Life had to go on. The funerals took place attended by Liverpool players who also visited those lying injured in hospitals. My admiration for them and particularly Kenny Dalglish is limitless. I cannot begin to understand how they managed to sustain the mental strength to get through all that and then find the motivation to play football.
Ironically I didn?t commentate on the final.Strangely though I didn?t mind. I wouldn?t have been able to cope as well as peter did. When Gerry Marsden stood on the pitch before kick off to sing ?you?ll never walk alone? I found it so upsetting that I had to leave our commentary box, high among the girders of the Wembley roof, and find a quiet spot to shed further tears.
It was a relief when the game ended. It wasn?t as if I felt I could leave all the painful memories behind. There have been many times since that I?ve found myself crying, remembering what happened on that April day.
Ninety-six people died needlessly at Hillsborough and I will struggle to forgive those that I hold chiefly responsible: the police. But those deaths left a positive legacy for the game as a whole. We watch games in a better and safer environment today. Why did it take a tragedy to happen to provoke the change.
JFT96 - Gone but NEVER forgotten