The date of 15th April is all about remembering the 96 to all Liverpool fans. It is a date that will always be a very significant, poignant and sad day. For those of us old enough to remember the very first 15th April will be able to recollect so very clearly the 15th April 1989.
It is still so fresh in my mind. It’s incredible to realise it was 30 years ago.
FA Cup Semi Final days of that era were exciting days to look forward to. Our semi against Nottingham Forest was no different. But as we all know, it turned into a disaster. This was the day 96 Liverpool fans attended an FA Cup Semi Final but didn’t come home.
Remembering The 96
In remembering the 96 I often look back and revisit exactly what I did on that fateful day. I was at the time working in the Isle of Man on a short stint, six months contract. But, as I said above, FA Cup Semi Finals in those days were special. So, I made the short flight home from the Isle of Man early on the Saturday morning and arranged to meet my other three pals I regularly went to the match with.
All that week, fans everywhere were frantically trying to get tickets. We weren’t any different. Another thing that clearly stood out on that day was the weather. It was a beautiful sunny day. Spring had most definitely sprung.
My three pals came to my house in the morning only to announce we had four tickets between the three of us. How were we going to divide them up?
Friends In Sheffield – Remembering The 96
As it happened, Sheffield was the perfect venue for me in some ways as a few years earlier I studied at Sheffield Polytechnic (now Hallam University), so I still had a lot of contacts there.
So as four into three didn’t go, I was the one to go without a ticket. But, I was going to travel over and meet up with some old Sheffield pals if I couldn’t get a ticket there.
We were just about to leave my house to set off when suddenly the phone rang (all landline calls in those, pre-mobile phone days). It was my sister who at the time was living in the North-East. As it happened her phone call was quite an important family phone call I had to deal with.
So, on the spur of the moment I announced that I would not be going. My three pals were on their way. To say I was miffed that I wasn’t en route was a big understatement.
For hours I was kicking my heels waiting for kick-off. In 1989 Sky hadn’t stepped in as yet to make their somewhat unwanted (to many) mark on football. So the game wasn’t live on TV. The only way to get live updates was on the radio.
A Couple Of Pints And Tune In To The Radio
As 3 o’clock got ever nearer I thought I’d have a couple of snifters at one of my locals and grab a stool at the bar and tune into the match on the radio.
The game had kicked off but it wasn’t possible to get a good radio reception. The landlord, who wasn’t really a football fan, went upstairs to his private quarters to see if there was any updates on BBC Grandstand. He came down a few minutes later with an originally, semi lighthearted message along the lines of.
“Bloody typical. Football hooligans. You’re not missing anything at the moment as the game has been stopped. Some fans are on the pitch. I’ll pop back upstairs and see what’s happening”
What seemed like quite a lengthy time he reappeared. This time he was looking quite ashen faced. He announced that it wasn’t a case of football hooliganism but it seems fans had been hurt in a crush.
The Kop In The 70’s and 80’s
Even at that point there was no indication of the extent of the carnage. Having stood on The Kop many times in the 70’s and 80’s, a baying crowd jostling for a view of the pitch was a common and accepted part of your Saturday afternoon ritual. But very soon it was becoming clear that this was something different all together.
Pete, the landlord, again reappeared and struggled to announce that there had, by all accounts, been some significant injuries to fans. And possibly, some deaths were reported.
At that point, I left the pub and went to the Shopping Precinct nearby and headed straight for the nearest Radio Rentals TV shop. Already there was quite a crowd forming outside.
Some of those congregated were saying that they heard about 15 fans had died. To say a huge shiver went down my spine was again a massive understatement. The longer we stayed and with people poking their head into the store, the figures were increasing.
Des Lynam was BBC Grandstand’s anchorman in those days. Eventually I went home and tried ringing the hotline number loads of times to see if there was any news of my three pals. The number, not unsurprisingly, was constantly engaged.
It must have been between 9pm and 10pm that I found out that my pals were safe. I say safe, but not necessarily OK. I still keep in touch with two of them and to this day they are still traumatised by the whole event.
Remembering the 96 is something all Liverpool fans of my generation will be able to vividly recollect and remember what they were doing on that fateful afternoon.
Des Lynam and the BBC coverage on the day……
Remembering The 96 – Chelsea Match – 14th April 2019
Remembering The 96 – 30 Years On
Turn the clock forward 30 years and I was at the game yesterday against Chelsea. Remembering the 96 was obviously going to be a big pre-match feature. One huge concern however was whether or not the Chelsea fans would conduct themselves as there had been reports that they may not have done.
As it happens there was nothing to worry about as Chelsea fans conducted themselves impeccably. The minute’s silence was observed respectfully and thoughtfully as it should have been.
I took a video of the preceding “You’ll Never Walk Alone” before the minute’s silence and the minute’s silence itself. Here it is as uploaded to my Twitter account…….HERE.
It needs to be said as well today that so many other club’s fans have been remembering the 96. It goes without saying that such an event goes beyond the realms of football rivalry. Many thanks to all those other clubs fans for remembering the 96.
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