För ett par dagar sedan var det 20 år sedan den hemska läktarolyckan i Hillsborough som skedde när Liverpool FC skulle möta Nottingham Forrest i FA-cupen den 15 april 1989.
Kaoset på läktarna ledde till att 96 personer fick sätta livet till och merparten av dessa var Liverpool-fans.
När jag var i Liverpool tillsammans med mina bröder i augusti förra året så såg vi vid ett par tillfällen en fantastiskt live-artist som heter Paul Kappa. Han spelade på The Cavern Pub och hans framträdanden är ett av de starkaste intrycken jag bär med mig från den resan.
Efter detta har jag haft kontakt med Paul på Facebook och det är där som jag igår fick förmånen att läsa hans tankar om katastrofen som han själv befann sig mitt i. Jag har frågat honom och fått okej att publicera hans gripande text här i min blogg:
Personal Recollection of Hillsborough 'Death Loves A Crowd'
It was April, 1989.
I had just bought a 1979 Ford Granada with a 2.8 V6 engine with an automatic gearbox with a sunroof and metallic blue paint. I paid for it with gig money which I had been saving since becoming a self employed musician the previous year.
Liverpool football club were on a roll, yet again, this time in the FA
cup. Me and my friend roger Jones had been song writing partners since
we were 15 years old. Roger’s Mum and Dad moved away to Bristol when he
was 18, and Roger opted to stay back here in Liverpool.
Roger worked for the Post Office, and I, after a brief spell trying to
work in a HiFi shop realised that I could make money if I learned some
Elvis songs, on the social clubs, but there was also a resurgence of
interest in Rock Music at the end of the eighties and my anachronistic
liking for all things Hendrix and Zeppelin was also making me money.
Roger and I had tried to be an original band, which effectively means
you’re broke unless you become a mega star. Nobody was interested in
our original songs, even though they were unique, and I’ve been hearing
that ever since!
Roger bought a house in Oak Street, Bootle. A little Victorian terraced
house and the band moved in. We still maintained our band, as we still
hoped to make it, somehow. I, however, had formed the ‘cabaret’
division, in recognition of the fact that I needed cash to live on, and
Roger didn’t take part, he was too tired after working all day, and he
didn’t know the names of any chords. He is a brilliant musician, just
using his ear for melody, which is why we created our own music and
failed to reproduce anyone else’s!
It was a bachelor pad, for us musician misfits. We decided we’d go to
the game every week, so much so, Roger said we should buy season
We did, and Roger, who was very modern in his thinking, paid for them
on his credit card, and I tried, sometimes, when I remembered, to pay
A kop season ticket didn’t break the bank then, it cost £2.50 to see a game, on the legendary (then standing) kop.
We also began to go to away games. I always had a Saturday night gig, and had to get back, so if it was too far, I couldn’t go. We did the FA cup run on the 88/89 season. We set off for Carlisle and
Hull and Millwall (!). We didn’t have a clue. We set off, on a whim,
without tickets, in the middle of the night to Carlisle. After an hour
we were in the middle of nowhere in the lake district, and had to sleep
in the car for a few hours. We must have thought Carlisle was the Outer
Hebrides and needed to allow 12 hours travel time!
I always had a big saloon car, which got the band around. Roger didn’t
drive then. I had an Austin 1800 ‘land crab’, before I crashed it on
the East Lancs, on a day out to Manchester with a girl I had no
business being with. Then I had an Austin Princess, a 2 litre DOHC
engine, in a fetching British Leyland orange. These cars were always a
bit crap, and the cylinder head gasket was gone on the Princess.
Someone said: Why don’t you get a decent car? Enter the Ford Granada, much loved by the Sweeney TV show. I paid £600 for it and drove it carefully to a gig at the Ship and Mitre on Dale Street. This was Friday 14th April 1989. When I got back to Bootle that night, roger said we couldn’t get
tickets for the semi final against Nottingham Forest. We didn’t mind
going to Hull and getting tickets on the street; it’s easily done. But
we didn’t think of going to a semi final without tickets.
On Saturday morning, Roger had been to work and someone, somehow, at the Post Office got him two tickets. We dropped everything, and got in my new car, with the sunroof open,
the radio on and the sun blazing overhead; I put my foot down and
listened to the roar.
Along the way we discussed ‘Jockey’ Hansen; would he play?
Peter Beardsley; who would Dalglish put out?
It felt good. We were following the FA cup sequence like true Liverpool
fans. We never knew European Cup adventures, Heysel had finished all
that. This was as good as it got for us.
The motorways were jammed. We left Liverpool at 12.30 PM, and had to
make Sheffield by 3PM. That’s easily done, and I had learned from
Carlisle and Hull, not to go too early, or have to pull over and sleep
for a while!
The traffic was so bad that it was ten to three before we parked up in
a suburban street as near to Hillsborough as we could get. We followed
the crowds and true to form, got to the ground just before 3.
There was pandemonium. There were no police or stewards around; we
didn’t know where to go in. The turnstiles were log jammed. The
turnstiles looked very dangerous, and we kept away.
We looked for the specific entrance to our section on Leppings Lane. The queues looked deadly.
I was confused. I’d been at the FA cup final at Wembley against Wimbledon in 1988, and that was really frightening. Fans were really herded like animals, and treated with as much respect as the slaughterhouse.
Hundreds at a time, shuffling through tunnels, if anyone fell, you’d be trampled.
It was so obvious, even the years before.
There was no margin for error. If something went wrong it would go wrong spectacularly.
Today on the 15th of April things were going wrong. There was no
control, no direction. It wasn’t bad behaviour, or football hooliganism.
The 70s had seen a lot of that. Football had become political. Stanley
knives were carried, people were hurt. The authorities knew Liverpool
was a popular club and nobody really wanted the following scouse rabble
in their town.
There are some good reasons for that, because there was some looting and pillaging in places, let’s not pretend there wasn’t. Heysel stadium was a very bad day, and the tragedy there, I think set
up Hillsborough too, because I think attitudes were set in the minds of
Liverpool fans were not seen by Margaret Thatcher and (spit) Bernhard
Ingram, as human beings with families and a passion for their beloved
team. Liverpool fans were strata of subhuman.I didn’t feel subhuman, though. Just a bit scared.
A police man with gloves and a peaked cap with ‘I’m an important
officer’ decorations on it said to me “get in here lad”. There was a
big grey concertina gate that let in vehicles and so on to the ground.
I tried to show him my ticket, but he wasn’t vaguely interested in it.
By now I didn’t know where Roger was, it was so mad outside the ground and utterly chaotic that we’d lost each other.
I’ll find him inside I thought. I went down a tunnel marked where my ticket said to go. The crush in
the tunnel was bad, but at the time, one was used to crowd crushing…but
would find your own space when things settled down. Not today.
The game was underway. Jockey Hansen was playing! Beardsley hit the bar!
But this was crazy. I couldn’t move. I was wearing a thermal lined long
Mac, and was really overheating. Sometimes it’s cold at the match, even
if it looks warm. It was my heat insurance, paying dividends!
These crushes on the kop were fleeting. At corners and when goals were
scored when the mass of packed standing bodies swayed together to get a
better view. You could get skewered on a control barrier if you were
unlucky. But it wouldn’t last. Space would come back to you. Today,
there’s no space, no air just the sweat and the panic and the weight of
hundreds of trapped people bearing down on you. A claustrophobic’s
nightmare; and I’m claustrophobic.
The man next to me screamed so much so long, down my ear, he gradually
slipped down, and I never saw him again. I wanted to get my arm to him
to help him up. I thought; ‘if you go on the floor here, you’re a dead
man. I couldn’t move my arm. It was pinned in place over someone else’s
chest but tonnes and tonnes of body weight. My feet were not touching
the ground, yet I knew there were bodies beneath my feet.
I was just
like someone pinned to an invisible wall. I could not move. Someone
popped up over the top of the crowd, like a bar of soap shooting out of
a pair of hands. He ran across people’s heads trying to escape, other
people with spare fists tried to punch him as he went. I guess that’s
the survival instinct. ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’; some are
heroes, some are villains. I was not in control of anything.
I was moving down the terrace, not under my own steam, trying to keep
my nose up to get some air. I was suffocating. I passed between crowd
control barriers, thinking about the men and boys slumped over them,
they looked like rag dolls; like they were dead. ‘Better get up off
them, they’ll crush the life out of you’, I thought.
The noise of so many people screaming for their lives really stays with you.
Some people I could see were being pulled out into the upper tier.
Others escaped over the wire into the neighbouring pen. I was in the
middle of this area, thinking; “I’m never gonna get out alive!” As the
push toward the fence at the front seemed inevitable, I realised I was
going to die. At that point, the panic inside me seemed to subside, and
a great feeling of inner calm came. Perhaps this is the subconscious
mind making a person ready for the prospect of oblivion, easing you
out, so to speak. It was, in a disquieting way, pleasant. And as nice
as it was, this moment of transcendence, I can do without it, for many
years to come, thanks.
When I looked around, there was a dead man lying behind me. I knew he
was dead, because I saw my father when he died, about 18 months
earlier, and it’s that look. There’s nothing there. Just a shell, the
human being has departed, and the body has no relevance.
Behind him was a windy trail. A gap through people; a way out, and I took it.
I wandered on to the street behind the ground. Some women saw me and
thought top ask me if I was alright. I must have liked like a ghost. My
thermal Mac was in shreds, on my person still.
I bought a can of coke at the newsagent. I think I was pretty dazed. I
said to the women “there’s people dead in there”. And I walked away.
They looked shocked. I guess I did too.
As I waited outside for Roger, who I thought might be dead. I was
obviously on a shut down. The paramedics were frustrated; they couldn’t
get the vehicles in where needed. People were brought out, dead or
dying. Decisions were made; ‘leave him, do that one’, defibrillators
were used, more and more bodies had coats places over their heads,
nobody had shoes on; It was carnage; a massacre.
People wanted to kill the Police. Everyone knew who was to blame. The
Police tried to stop people opening the gate of the pen onto the pitch;
they thought the subhumans were trying to invade. Brian Clough thought
that, and said so, wiping away any respect I ever had for him.
Eventually, about three hours later, I found Roger. He thought I was dead! How we laughed!
We went to the car, and drove home. All that was said in the press, to my mind, is unforgivable. The
inhumanity shown to those hard working families and their young sons
and daughters who lost their lives at a great sporting event by
politicians press and public alike disgusts me. Scousers are sometimes
accused of self-pity, but if you want to look at the treatment of that
event in the eyes of the rest of Britain, there’s no wonder we’re a bit
If scouse was a skin colour, it would have been racist attack. Thatcher and Ingham can go to Hell with the Sun newspaper, for all time, as far as I’m concerned.
I’m sitting here typing this with my 16 month old son on my knee, he
pushes the keys and I stop to correct all the mistakes he’s making for
me. It’s not annoying it’s a joy. It’s the joy of being alive; being
here. The 96 will never have that simple earthly pleasure again. There
were sons and daughters coming to them too, for sure. They all had
that, and everything taken from them that day. Those responsible
deferred the blame and the pain was heaped on the families. The tragedy
drags on. It’s disgusting.
In an hour we’re going to Anfield together for the first time. I’m so glad to still be here and have the privilege of being alive and
knowing my son. My life has been amazing, because there’s always been
the Hillsborough event which puts things in perspective for me. My
underachievement and spectacular failure in my music career is offset
by the joy of watching Liverpool play. It was ever that way. I might be
shit at everything I do, but the team was pure class, and I could
forget about me. There was something to aspire to on the fields of
Anfield Road. That’s how everyone felt, and feels about Liverpool, and
the 96 died, just wanting that dream. I can never forget the 96 who
died, even though I never knew them. It’s in my heart and soul. I was
just a bystander really. I have survivor’s guilt. We all know what
happened that day. You were blameless; and there are those that are
shameless about it. One day someone will hold up their hand, and
justice will be done.
My story is not a great one about that day. There are no great ones, but there were heroic acts.
I was shell shocked; it affected my life for some years to come.
I never wanted to complain, and I never have. Being alive is enough for anyone.
I made this story about some of the personal trivia of my life at the
time, because, without doubt, life is made up of such personal trivia
and seemingly irrelevant details.
That’s what life is, and would have
been for every one of the 96, whose story finished abruptly after 3
o’clock that Saturday afternoon.
Post Script: I never made Anfield this afternoon. I got stuck in
traffic, in my 1998 Mercedes E class estate with a 2.3 V6 and air
conditioning, and couldn’t get near the ground. Eventually Curtis fell
asleep and we drove past the Shankly Gates, and back home. I watched
the service on the BBC with my son asleep on my chest, and tears in my
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