Sunday 20 October 2019

Real Hillsborough story told by those so lucky to survive

Hillsborough Voices - The Real Story Told By The People Themselves
Hillsborough Voices - The Real Story Told By The People Themselves

Book review - Alan Aherne

Some events in history remain forever etched in the mind, moments in time guaranteed to never be forgotten.

For example, many of my parents' generation can still recall where they were and who they were with when the news came through that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963, or when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon towards the end of the same decade.

From my own point of view, I will always remember Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when everyone in this newspaper office strained their necks in disbelief behind one of the few computer terminals with full internet access at the time as the Twin Towers came crashing down.

And sadly in a sporting context, the date April 15, 1989 will always be associated with one of the worst football disasters in history.

The blanket live coverage of all major cross-channel fixtures that we are so accustomed to nowadays was only a pipedream at the time.

Therefore, when Saturday afternoon television broke from the schedule for a newsflash some time before 3.30 p.m., it immediately grabbed everyone's full attention.

The scenes unfolding in full view of the cameras were harrowing, as 96 Liverpool football supporters were tragically crushed to death at the Leppings Lane end terrace of the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield.

Their second successive FA Cup semi-final clash with Nottingham Forest at the venue was meant to be a celebration of the best of the English game, as the Reds were in their pomp at the time and manager Kenny Dalglish had a quality squad at his disposal.

However, within minutes of kick-off it was clear that something serious was amiss behind the goal housing the majority of the Liverpool travelling support.

'Hillsborough Voices - The Real Story Told By The People Themselves' by Kevin Sampson is the latest of several books devoted to a subject that the survivors have ensured has always remained prominent in public discourse.

It recalls the memories of several Liverpool supporters, along with one Nottingham Forest fan who watched the tragedy unfold from the opposite end of the field.

We are taken back to that weekend, initially to tales of excited fans securing their tickets in the days beforehand and setting off on their fateful journeys to a venue where overcrowding on the terrace had posed problems in the past.

It took until very recently for the truth to emerge after collusion between the police, politicians and certain sections of the British media ensured that the Liverpool fans were wrongly accused of causing a tragedy that sent shockwaves reverberating around the world and ultimately led to the insistence on all-seater venues.

The police opened a gate to alleviate a build-up of fans outside close to kick-off time, although for years they had the gall to claim that supporters had forced their way in.

And then to compound that catastrophic decision, those gaining entry were allowed down a central tunnel to two already heavily-occupied pens directly behind the goal, when there was sufficient room to either side of the terrace.

What followed makes for tough reading, as 96 supporters who went to watch a football game never came home.

Their memories will never be forgotten by Liverpool supporters in particular, and that's the way it should always be.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

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