Hillsborough – A Survivor’s Story
The sun shone down, hot, hot, hot! I couldn’t wait for this! Standing outside ‘The Miller’ on Queens Drive, god this was going to be a great day. I just couldn’t wait. I was like a kid at Christmas. Me, my mate, my brother and some of his, about 10 of us in all, all joking, aching for a ‘scream of a day’. Sadly the only scream we were going to hear was not the one of us all screaming with laughter.
It was the usual away trip! A copy of the Daily Sport to check where Elvis was and what aliens had been found in someone fridge that week. Butties in the bags some cans of Coke and some cans of Heineken! I was made up, I was 15 and this was going to be the second best match I was to go to (I just knew that we would be going to Wembley) and the day was set up perfectly.
On the coach it was the usual stuff, first goal scorer sweeps, sing alongs and the usual ‘˜pirate’ film to watch on the journey. Saying ‘œhiya!’ to some of the lads we had been on our coaches to some of the other away trips that season, I was living the LFC supporters dream.
The journey was pretty uneventful ‘traffic’ wise and we got there with no hassles. Offloading the coach and wandering down towards the ground. If I recall rightly, there were a few conversations as to why we had not been given the ‘œOld Trafford’ semi! (That however is an argument for another day!)
We had a wander around and soaked up the atmosphere, it was ‘buzzing’. It was in the air, were going to win and win easily.
Around 2.15 we thought we may as well go into the ground. We split up, some of us had Upper Leppings tickets, the other ground tickets, some for the stand to the left. We toddled in and right in to the middle pen 3 of the Leppings Lane. It was just a weird feeling. I had been to various other away grounds but this seemed different, not in the sense I thought something was foreboding, just strange as I was used to the Kop and that was massive to this crappy little bit of terracing. It was probably also due to the fact that I had always been with my brother and he had a ticket for the stands over to my left so it was my mate, two of my brothers mates and myself.
Again, we just chatted and soaked up the atmosphere inside, sing as loud as we could. Still I though, this is brilliant, a great day was to be had.
Time ticked on, nothing much happened, players warmed up, teams announced cheers et al, you know the usual stuff before a game.
Initially, it was a slow gathering and eventually got that bit more crowded and it was nothing more than usual in the kop. It seemed a bit strange that as 3 o’clock approached, the middle section we were in was busy yet the others were still not anywhere near their capacity.
Then a little shove, a move forward, again nothing unusual for the kop so I thought nothing of it, as did pretty much everyone else around. Then another, this a little more then again, again, again. This was strange. The match kicked off and it continued, it was madness. No one knew what had happened outside but the side pens again were still able to hold more. We squeezed through the crowds over to the right side of the middle pen. My mate was the smallest and youngest, we bunked him over, then it was me , then my brothers two mates managed to get over. We were in the right side pen, busy but better than the middle. By this time Grobbellar was wondering what the hell was happening. I think he could tell it was not good. Not in a riot sense, in another sense. The ref was looking, people were around the back of the goal.
3.06, everyone off, the game stopped. The players left. Chaos ensued.
Still stuck in the right pen, I was looking up and across at the stands, people being dragged up to safety. Looking across the pitch there was my brother running across the pitch across in front of he goal, the look on his face, terrified. He shoved a copper out of the way of the pen gate and opened it. People moved out onto the pitch we met him, relief then horror again, what was happening, it was sickening. We hoped that all would be OK, maybe a few first aid cases then everyone back in, the game to restart.
It was never going to happen. Now there was 6 of us together, we knew the others were safe, or we assumed they were. They were in the Leppings stand above. We moved towards the centre circle slowly. Why were the coppers lining across the pitch. This was not some riot, it was a fucking nightmare. It became apparent pretty quickly that this was not going to be a delayed game. Hoardings were being ripped down, people being stretchered on them. It took a while for the police to get to grips with this notion. Probably thinking of Heysel (it would not surprise me in the slightest if they were). They realised and some did help. One of my brothers mates had been at Heysel. I remember speaking to him just after, he was gutted to have witnessed that. Now 4 years on it was another footballing nightmare. Why?
One thing I remember vividly is this Forest supporter laughing down at us as we looked up into their stand. My brothers mate (the one from Heysel) flew up towards him and was luckily (for himself and the Forest fan) stopped by a copper who actually had a rather loud word with the Forest supporter. In hindsight I think even their fans were unsure of the events unfolding and again thought of Heysel.
FOOTBALL NOW WAS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH.
I think if Shankly was around, then maybe he would have wanted that scrubbed from his book of comments.
It was now that time went so slowly, everyone was helping where they could, reds fans like you and me with no idea of any medical things and those who did have a clue! As usual reds fans where what we know we all are in earnest, one big family, whether part of a crew or just a regular fan this was going to hit you hard. Everyone helped anyone they could.
Stealing from the dead, even if we were the scum of the earth, there would be no time for that. Forgive and forget that comment, never in a million fucking years. Hell will never freeze so you will never be forgiven.
I cannot even remember the time we left the ground to make our way back to the coaches. This was one day that they were going to leave without people.
On the way back there were people everywhere letting fans use there telephones. We know there were some charging, but the decent people of Sheffield let us use theirs for free. We had all managed to meet up, we were the main concerns as the 2 youngest in the group (my mate and myself) were with 2 of the others. The relieved faces were easy to see. We decided that one lad will try and call his mum. We all lived within the vicinity of each other (in fact 6 of us lived in the same street) he called to let everyone know we were all OK. By the time we got home, everyone was wondering how we were.
The strangest thing happened when we got back onto the coach. A song came on the minute I sat down. It was ETERNAL FLAME by THE BANGLES. This did , has and will continue to freak my as long as I live.
The journey home that was supposed to be 100 times better than the journey home was just silent. The odd chatter that was it, no volume at all.
Walking down home was weird. My mum came to the door, sobbing. She had been like this since it hit the news at just after 3pm. It was nearly 9pm! Even when she had received word that we were all OK she had sobbed my dad said. He was a blue, he wondered what he had done wrong to have 3 sons who were all reds! This was the day he wished that we were blue. We would never had gone, we would be at the other game. He was visibly shaken but he had dealt with death all his life. He was a copper for 30 years and in the military police before that. He has retired just after the riots but I think that took its toll on him. He got out before the whole force was frowned upon by the public. Biased I am, but he was a good copper, fair. He is dead now, maybe up there discussing with the 96 how he felt the police had done wrong in the way he would have dealt with it. That’s the thing, he felt they had made massive mistakes.
Things did not get easier for my mum, the 89-90 season was going to be my first season with a season ticket rather than just paying game by game. She agreed I could have an early Christmas present. The request for a Kop ticket was not met with the response I had hoped for but she knew she could not win. I loved the reds and they would get me it. She still had her reservations about me going to the match and standing after what had happened. Luckily 2 weeks later my brother got the call, we had got our 2 Kemlyn Road season tickets! It was going to cost mum and dad a lot more, were they arsed? Were they shite. Relieved.
Over 17 years I have argued with people about Hillsborough, even fought twice, once with a red who thought I’d see the funny side of a joke about it, His nose disagreed.
I still cannot comprehend what I saw, I was 15 and loved football. I am now 32 and still do but I don’t go very often these days. The cost of a family and tickets price me out. I did take my daughter to the Bolton game and the Youth Cup Final. She is a red too. She also knows about where daddy was on 15th April 1989. I feel it is important for the younger generation to know about these things. Not just that we won this and that, the bad times as well. This way we the memory will never die of the 96 that lost their lives.
I have never been to any of the memorial services. Each year the same ritual, I want to go. Each year I cannot get myself there. I only live about 20 mins walk from the ground (if that). It is no problem actually getting there. It’s a mind thing, I just cannot bring myself to go. I do not know why, maybe I will cry, who cares everyone does. I just cannot get there. I will try again next year, probably to get the same result.
15th April 1989, 3.06pm, Hillsborough, Sheffield
YOU WILL NEVER WALK ALONE
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