So where were you a quarter of a century ago?
I was watching Aberystwyth playing. I can’t remember the opposition or the score. That’s all I remember are the reports starting to drift in that something terrible had happened at Hillsborough.
25 years later and hearing the name of the stadium in Sheffield still sends a shiver down the spine.
Before the fateful game it was simply a name for a grand old football ground.
By now Hillsborough stands for tragedy and tears. Death and desperation. An attempt to hide the truth and smear the name of the supporters.
The word stands for scandal.
I was 14 at the time and was constantly going to games. The thought that something could go wrong had never crossed my mind.
Even through the 80’s at the height of hooliganism I somehow felt safe. What could go wrong when you’re with your father?
Just hold on to Dad’s hand and everything will be alright.
The crowds at Park Avenue were obviously not a problem – but it was very different going to London to watch Arsenal.
I remember heading for Highbury on a few occasions when the crowd would suddenly become frantic as the kick off time approached. The desperate squeeze as everyone tried to scramble in to the old stadium.
One game always sticks in my mind when the queue was at it’s worst. The game about to start and everyone pushing and shoving towards the entrance.
Suddenly my feet were not touching the ground – my Dad’s hand had slipped from mine.
But just as the panic began to take hold the crowd and the crush cleared up just as quickly as it had begun.
Ma Dad was back by my side and the thrill of the game meant that the few scary seconds were simply forgotten.
I’ve thought of that day a lot since Hillsborough.
Among the 96 that died that day there were ten aged 15 and younger. The youngest was 10 years old.
It’s probable that most of those were with parents. Feel totally safe as the held on to a grown up’s hand.
The ages are not important of course. Every single death is a nightmare for the families.
But as a teenager at the time I have often thought about the younger fans. Suddenly slipping from the safety of their parents hands. Losing their grip.
Losing their life.
It could have happened to anyone – anywhere. Hillsborough isn’t the only tragedy of course.
Supporters have died at Ibrox in Glasgow and Valley Parade in Bradford.
Heysel should never be forgotten either. 39 Juventus supporters died at the stadium in Belgium following riots between Italian and Liverpool fans before a European Cup final in 1985.
The massive difference with Hillsborough is what happened next.
It was decided instantly that the supporters were to blame.
Within minutes the authorities were already mentioning that drunk fans without tickets had caused chaos.
It was easy to blame hooligans and that version of events stuck.
A cruel lie that was allowed to become reality – smearing the name of every fan on that terrace.
The truth was finally revealed following the long and determined campaign of the families.
The ones that simply can’t forget.
And the ultimate tribute to those that died that day is to make sure that nobody else will ever forget either.