25 years on – Hillsborough remembered

Clara Buxton 15 April 2014

Last weekend, countless football matches across England and Wales had their kick-offs delayed by seven sombre minutes. A minute’s silence was observed in packed stadiums nationwide. 96 haunting white seats adorned with red roses shone in the sun at the Hillsborough Stadium.

The Liverpool team wore black armbands over their famous red kits. Nothing was the same this weekend. It was about more than football.

Last weekend commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

25 years ago today, Liverpool FC were due to play Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final, at that point annually contested at a neutral venue. In one of football’s greatest ever tragedies, the game only clocked 6 minutes of play before a crush in the Leppings Lane end cost the lives of 96 fans.

It was a day of confusion, shock and grief. On one of the emergency services’ darkest days, only 14 of the 96 fatally injured people arrived at the hospital, whilst the unfolding catastrophe was broadcast live to a TV audience.

Nothing can be said about Hillsborough that has not been said before. The families of the deceased suffered. Their loved ones having been wrongfully vilified by the British press in the aftermath of the tragedy and a drawn-out, incomplete fight for justice that deeply affects the club and the city of Liverpool to this day.

After a particularly emotional victory over Manchester city at Anfield on Sunday, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard spoke in the press of his desire to dedicate the triumph to the victims of Hillsborough and their families. Gerrard’s cousin, John-Paul Gilhooley, was the youngest victim of the tragedy at 10 years old.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said: "We can't say too much about Hillsborough because the inquests are under way, but as a manager coming into the football club I know there are 96 people in the sky who will always be supporting this football team. If we are to achieve anything this year, they will always be in our thoughts – the 96 in the sky and the families that go with them.” 

Later today a memorial service at Anfield will commemorate the victims of the tragedy with club officials and players in attendance, the service including readings from Rodgers and his Evertonian counterpart Roberto Martinez. In a great showing of footballing fraternity, the number '96' will be written across the Anfield pitch this afternoon using scarves donated by numerous European clubs, an idea originally inspired by the 'mile of scarves' memorial formed between Anfield and Goodison Park a week after the disaster in 1989.

With a brand new inquest currently underway, perhaps there is new hope for the much enduring families of the Hillsborough dead. Perhaps this could be the year that justice is done, and that Liverpool FC, the club whom the victims of the disaster loved so passionately, win the Premier League title for their '96 in the sky'.

One thing is, and always has been, for sure: they will never be forgotten. And they will never walk alone.

Follow the TCS Twitter for live updates of the memorial @TCSNewspaper