Friday, 19 April 2013

Hillsborough- A Mancs view- By Annie Eaves

Hillsborough – A Mancs View.

By Annie Eaves

I’m a United supporter. I’m from Manchester, well Salford to be precise.

I don’t like Liverpool. That’s the plan isn’t it? The script we all adhere to. Something only people from one of the two cities could understand. Our city is better than yours, yes you have the river and easy access to a beach but we’re Manchester. We started the industrial revolution, we invented the computer, we split the first atom. You played a major part in the slave trade.

I don’t like scousers. That’s the norm isn’t it? I prefer Mancunians. Scousers don’t like me. Scousers don’t like Mancs. All very well and good, except it’s rubbish. I do like most Scousers, indeed the ratio between my like of individual Scousers and Mancs is no doubt exact. I’m not going to stereotype Scousers as being salt-of-the-earth or having wit. They’re people, all individuals, all like you and me in their own ways.

When I was younger I’d hear conversations in pubs and offices and take part in them. Surely they knew they were killing their own fans? Surely they knew they were going in the wrong section? Surely some of the fans were to blame? I’m not ashamed of having those thoughts, it’s natural. It’s a natural question to ask of such a situation. I ask questions of many situations and my queries were not to be confused with insults. I kept them to myself mostly but read a bit. Here and there. I read more each year and each year I feel more closely connected to what happened in Sheffield. I feel more informed.

Perhaps it’s because I’m now a parent. Perhaps it’s because I’m older. I’m not sure why but each year with the more articles, diaries, first hand accounts I read, I feel more emotionally connected. This makes me more likely to talk to others about it. My mother who has buggered off to Spain for her 60′s came to stay yesterday and last night we sat and talked about Hillsborough. How when I was a youngster aged nine she was trying to explain to me what had happened, she knew little herself as the coverage had been so confused, she didn’t know what to say. She just told me that evening she was washing the dishes and realised that there would be many mothers who had seen their excited sons off to football that morning, like she had done many times herself, who would never see them again. She said she had cried and felt angry, she still gets upset now.

These genuine emotions make the behaivour of some football fans sickening.

Ignorant, insulting, and bizarre.

Last week against Fulham, during the barracking of Danny Murphy which I whole heartedly joined in with, I heard a man behind me shout ’96 was not enough’. Well I say shout, he more murmored it. I expect he knew that anything louder would result in him being shouted down, or worse/better. I believe I was the only one to hear, I was filled with rage. To be fair, I’m easily filled with rage. I wasn’t sure how to react and in my time thinking, the moment had passed. The ball had moved on and those who hadn’t noticed originally were not going to notice now.

I needed to let him know though. All I could do was simply turn and stare at him. He and I knew why I was giving him the Eaves stare. It was enough, if anything ever could be, to let him know this wasn’t on. In these moments you want to transport yourself and the idiot to a quiet country pub and drink and explain. Explain to the idiot why what he said is ridiculous, read the idiot the first hand accounts that never fail to bring tears to my eyes. Tell the idiot about the young man who cannot forget the feeling of crushing ribs under his feet. The young man who couldn’t remove his elbow from crushing someone’s windpipe before it was too late.

The Eaves stare is pretty good, but couldn’t convey that.

However these idiots are becoming rarer. I hope it’s because they read a bit. Here and there. I hope that they are not just biting their lip through a fear of being controversial. I hope that they are not just stopping the chants because they feel they should. I hope they have learned and feel the connection all football supporters should with Hillsborough.

Whilst the campaigners may not get the Justice For The 96 that they so desperately crave, their efforts are rewarded. This year many people will have read the first hand accounts through links on Twitter, Facebook, the rest. They’ll have read articles in papers. I have no doubt that somewhere today there’s an individual who had questions and now feels they are answered. An idiot will have been turned.

Somewhere today someone will have shed their first tear for Hillsborough, they won’t forget it. I don’t forget mine.

To read more from Annie Eaves follow her on Twitter @AnnieEaves

Monday, 15 April 2013

Heroes: April 15 1989

HEROES. April 15th 1989
Peter Hooton was the lead singer of The Farm and also edited influential Liverpool fanzine The End. Here, he salutes the heroes who showed their true colours on a day that changed lives forever.
It started like any other morning. A bright crisp spring morning, the beauty of the Snake Pass in the Peak District was breathtaking, as we travelled to the FA Cup semi-final being held at Hillsborough, Sheffield between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Little did we know that the coming day would forever change our lives and the game we loved.
After an uneventful journey, we arrived at the ground at about 2pm as we had done the previous year, at the same venue against the same team. Only this year things were different, outside the Leppings Lane it was absolute chaos.
The year before the police had appeared organised with a cordon checking tickets at the end of the road. This year things seemed to have gone badly wrong, with one or two mounted policemen in the middle of a massed motionless crowd. It was the sight no football fan wanted to see outside a ground: non-existent queues, no obvious police presence and no stewards. I had been in these situations many times before outside the Kop during the 70s prior to all-ticket games, and outside many away grounds - most notably Wolves in 1976 and of course Wembley, especially against Everton in 1986.
I knew the futility of getting into a crowd and trying to get to a turnstile! You panic, you sweat, you struggle to breathe and just as you get to within touching distance of the entrance you are sure to hit by a sway that takes you back to where you started. So I decided to go and get something to eat from a nearby shop and wait for the police to get their act together.
By 2.30pm it became obvious the situation wasn't going to get any better. So I reluctantly entered the crowd. It must be emphasised these were Liverpool fans with tickets, the touts I talked to that day were struggling, business was as they say "on the floor" compared to the same lucrative match the year before. This was not a ticketless crowd trying to bunk in or force the authorities to open the gates, this was a good-humoured crowd who deserved proper organisation, who wanted it, who were demanding it. Alas it was not forthcoming!
After ten to fifteen minutes of movement, invariably sideways and getting no nearer to the turnstiles, I saw fans climbing onto the turnstiles screaming at the police inside the ground to do something. Nothing happened. By 2.55pm, a sway took me to within inches of the turnstile. This was it; I was in, relief, emotion, I could hear the teams coming out onto the pitch, the roar of the crowd, another few agonising steps and I had made it.
Once inside, I was met by a jovial group of policemen, I told them in no uncertain terms that somebody was going to die outside the ground unless they did something quickly. They had to open the gates, I pleaded. I wasn't the only one. Most people, who staggered through the turnstiles due to sheer exhaustion, were also telling the police to get their act together. The common consensus was that they had to do something otherwise there would be a fatality or serious injuries outside the ground.
Either side of the Leppings Lane end were stairs into the side sections (which we now know were nearly empty). The gaping black hole of the Leppings Lane tunnel lead directly into the middle of the already packed terracing. No-one could have imagined the consequences of heading into that tunnel. The simple solution to such congestion would have been for club stewards and/or police to block off the central tunnel and funnel fans to the side sections. I had a ticket for the North stand so I went left but if I had had a ticket for the terraces I would have certainly gone into that tunnel.
Once inside I think I saw Liverpool hit the bar as I certainly know the game had already started before I found my seat. After a couple more minutes, a fan appeared on the pitch. He seemed unsteady on his feet, nobody had the faintest idea of what was happening and then more and more people spilled out onto the pitch.
The referee took the players off. I didn't think trouble, I immediately thought overcrowding. The Leppings Lane had been uncomfortable the year before and was well known in football circles for being a crap end. More and more people started to fill the pitch and Forest fans began to sing "You Scouse bastards" thinking that this was indeed a pitch invasion.
It soon became obvious that something more serious was happening but still the enormity of the tragedy could not have been imagined. After 20 minutes or so, an ambulance appeared at the opposite end of Leppings Lane and drove along the edge of the pitch. Around about the same time the police inexplicably set up a cordon across the halfway line. About 50 or so policemen stood there throughout the duration as the tragedy unfolded, making jovial smalltalk and passing the time of day. Presumably some of these people would have had first-aid skills but were under orders to stay on the halfway line. I know this because at 3.30pm I went onto the pitch and asked them why they were standing there and what was happening. It soon became obvious as the injured, dying and deceased were carried on the advertising hoardings, the vivid image we now know so well.
Most people on the pitch that day were bewildered, feeling either hopeless, confused or inadequate. I saw heroes that day and the majority were not in uniform. The real heroes that day were the ordinary Liverpool fans who seemed to take control of the operation, taking casualties to the opposite end of the pitch and laying the fans in the penalty area, in front of the Hillsborough Kop.
As the Liverpool fans tried to revive lifeless bodies, I felt totally inadequate. I tried to convince myself that these people had simply lost consciousness but in my heart of hearts I think I knew they were dead. The line of police looked on. Some people refused to give up pumping chests of complete strangers or maybe loved ones, giving the kiss of life to fellow Liverpool fans as the line of the police looked on.
The heroes of April 15 1989 were the ordinary Liverpool fans. Whoever you were; I salute you, your role in the tragedy unbelievably tarnished by the gutter press cover-up the following week.
That day, that night, that week, that year, that decade, I was inconsolable. But I was also proud to be a Liverpudlian. I had witnessed the selflessness, courage and dignity you afforded the dead and dying before they were handed over to the authorities. 96 RIP.
Peter Hooton was the lead singer of The Farm and also the edited influential Liverpool fanzine The End and contributed to The Face, NME, Loaded, Goal and the Liverpool FC official magazine

This article is from The

Monday, 8 April 2013