Meet Wesley Young, running 76 miles, Hillsborough-Anfield for the 96.

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This Thursday, a team of Liverpool fans will assemble at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium and run 76 miles, for 3 days, to arrive at Anfield on Saturday morning – all in the name of the 96 victims of Hillsborough in 1989.

This gruelling challenge will see the Reds fans battle a fiercely physical and arduous task, whilst raising money for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and Hillsborough Family Support Group.

In our first of several interviews with the team, we caught up with runner Wesley Young to hear how he’s getting ready for the run and what it means to him.

If you are inspired by what these men are doing, please donate at hillsborough-anfieldrun.co.uk. Thank you.

1. What is your name and where do you come from?

Wesley Young – Born in Oldham, lived in Rochdale for the last 23 years other than a couple of years in America for work.

2. What was your first Liverpool game, and what are your memories of it?

League Cup 3rd round replay 11th November 1992 vs. Sheffield United. I was 14. There were only 17,000 at the game but having only been allowed to go to Oldham Athletic previously (partly because of parents concerns about safety in grounds) it felt like 70,000. I’d dreamt about standing on the Kop and distinctly remember running up the long stretch of steps from the turnstiles at the Flagpole end turnstiles, and every time after that view of the Kop and the pitch once you reached the top always took my breath away. We won the game 3-0, Shaggy scored twice, one a lob from the edge of the box if I remember correctly. There was never a doubt about my allegiances but that game, a game that might have seemed drab to many, confirmed I’d be LFC forever.

3. Thoughts on the season so far, how the new signings are doing and hopes for the summer?

Well there is no doubt there are disappointments, but I only have to think back to my first game and the troubles we were having at that time, or indeed some of the games at the start of last season, to put things into a bit of perspective. We had reached a low of epic proportions under Hicks & Gillet. Anyone thinking Kenny would bring us instant riches and the glory days back really need a reality check. We have a cup in the bag and potentially another on the way. European football is on for next year. The current form is not acceptable and it’s obvious that improvements are required both in the current squads and from additions. However, I’ve had more highs this season than last.

Of the new signings you are never going to get 100% success. With this season behind him I expect Suarez to go on and score a lot more next season, especially if we can find an answer to his partner or how we play to his strengths. Andy Carroll seems a bit of an enigma as he does so much right, but as with Crouch, doesn’t look the part and simply isn’t scoring. He should be playing regularly for the rest of the season though so we can make an informed decision for next year. Downing has improved of late but he’s been a real let down. Of all the players coming in I expected him to be an impact player in the Premier League. United have certainly had more from their raid on Villa with Ashley Young, both were similarly talented and experienced players. Jose Enrique surprised me, I didn’t rate him when bought, however his recent form is more what I expected! Given our track record at the position though he’s been a success and it’s about time we had a full-back that stays fit. Jordan Henderson needs time, I see a lot of talent in the lad and would compare him to Gareth Bale. For probably two seasons he really struggled at Spurs before becoming probably one of the players of the season this year. He was given time at Spurs, we should be doing the same with Henderson. Charlie Adam unfortunately has been a real let down. I thought he was playing to his maximum potential at Blackpool and I wonder if he was simply a stop gap for this season who has played more due to injuries to Lucas and Gerrard? When compared to the likes of Alonso, was he really our answer to put us back amongst the cream of Europe? I don’t run the transfer policy but the money spent on him when Scott Parker went for less baffles me.

For the summer I hope the owners back Kenny again. Europa League will mean we need further depth, but we certainly need a couple of top quality players who should be signed to make an immediate impact. I’d like another forward irrespective of what we do with Andy Carroll. Back-up in the centre of midfield would be a priority. My other hope is that I get out to Boston in the summer as I’ve never been despite living on the East Coast of the US for 2 years, and it would be great to see the red men against Roma.

4. What inspired you to decide to run from Hillsborough to Anfield?

I’m late into the group due to an original member dropping out. In fact that place was taken by one of the support crew who unfortunately picked up an injury so I’ve only been in the team since the start of February. Conor gave me a call and asked if I was interested. I was starting to train for the Manchester marathon at the end of April, so from a training perspective it was a good fit. A good friend of mine (and many other Liverpool fans) Paul Rice sadly had just passed away, Paul was at Hillsborough on the day and had done a lot for the cause over the years. As I’m sure many others will say I felt I owed a debt of gratitude to Paul and I’m certain he’d be very proud of the effort the whole team are making to raise funds and awareness.

At certain intervals in life everyone gets given opportunities to make a difference. Without doubt this feels an opportunity for me.

5. How’s the training going? Are you on a strict diet?

At times I’d say good, at others I’d say okay. Making my excuses already I am a little behind on the training compared to the other guys, these distances can’t be underestimated. I’ve done a number of half marathons but when you start to get past 15 miles the body really doesn’t like it. I’ve had to be very strict on alcohol intake, and my previously shocking diet has now improved to poor! With all the training my body is craving calories, sometimes it probably gets the wrong type, but I’ve been pretty good at refuelling after runs and getting plenty protein. Looking at all the other guys miles I think I’m the weakest runner of the 6 in terms of distances, but a lot of this run will be down to mental strength and I have no doubt that I’ll get through this just fine, and with a smile on my face. The rest of the group have been fantastic with their support and I’m actually now desperate to get started (and finished so we can watch the semi-final!!!)

6. What part of the journey do you expect to find most gruelling and how will you cope with the challenges ahead?

Living in Rochdale on the edge of the Pennines I know how tough those hills are. The first day looks tough in terms of the terrain so miles 10-30 that day I think will be a challenge. Now that the semi-final is at lunchtime on the Saturday we need an early start for the final leg, so I expect that to be hard to get going after having done 60 miles in two days. The team should get each other through the worst of it though. Running gives you plenty time for thinking and reflection. The 96 will be on my mind constantly, and obviously I’ll have Paul looking down on me calling me a soft Rochdale wool, I shouldn’t need much more to get me through!

7. The fight for justice for the 96 continues with recent new breakthroughs; how important is it that awareness is made of the families fight?

Vitally important. I’ve tried to promote the cause through friends, family, work and other avenues. I have to say the support has been immense, by supporters of all teams, but there have still been a minority of people who knock what we are doing or what the families are trying to achieve. It comes from lack of awareness or understanding, nothing else. Opinions were formed originally by lies in the media and have been perpetuated from the failure of anyone willing to stand up and be made accountable since.

Good luck, Wesley. It’s a fantastic thing you’re doing.

If you are inspired by what these men are doing, please donate at hillsborough-anfieldrun.co.uk. Thank you.

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