You'll never walk alone
April 15, 2014 12:42 PM   Subscribe

It's incredibly tense in the English Premier League at the moment, with three teams fighting for the title. With Manchester United disintegrating and lucky to secure European football, the much anticipated Spurs title challenge fizzing out and Arsenal struggling to even reach their customary fourth place and access to the Champions League, it's up to Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool FC. The latter two met last Sunday in an emotional, stressfull match which saw Liverpool win 3-2, setting a giant step forwards to winning the title.
For Liverpool fans and many neutrals it would be wonderful for Liverpool to win it now, because it's been twentyfour years since their last one, because of Steve Gerrard who, a single childhood slipup aside, has always been loyal to Liverpool and who has won everything but the title with them, but mostly because it's been exactly twentyfive years since the Hillsborough Disaster and just weeks after a new inquest into the disaster and the coverup has started.

It all started as a normal FA Cup between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, but after only six minutes the game was abandoned as the Liverpool fans in the away end climbed over the crush barrier onto the fields. At first it was thought to be just another example of fans misbehaving but it soon became clear something monstrous was happening, as shown in BBC's Match of the Day that night.

Ninetysix people died that day and the disaster hit the city of Liverpool hard, not just because of the deaths, but also because of the coverup by the police that followed the disaster, as recounted in a BBC Panorama investigation from last year. Though initial reports into the disaster had laid the blame for it on the shoulders of the South Yorkshire police for inadequacies in handling the crowd that day, much of the particulars of what exactly had happened remained unknown, while the police and the media started blaming the Liverpool supporters themselves for what happened, most notably in the Sun, still being boycotted in Liverpool to this day.

Football supporters in the late eighties were largely seen as scum, hooligans and criminals and the Heysel disaster -- in which Liverpool supporters had attacked Juventus fans during the 1985 Europa Cup Final, resulting in the death of thirtynine supporters when a wall collapsed -- was fresh in people's memories. The narrative therefore that Hillsborough was another Heysel was easy to believe.

Yet in Liverpool and amongst the survivors and relatives of those that had died in Hillsborough there was a need for justice that never abated, organising to both keep the memory of those who had died alive and to seek justice for their deaths.

It all came to a head at the 20th anniversary of the disaster, as the speech of the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, MP Andy Burnham was interrupted by shouts of justice for the 96; four days later the government decided to open up police files about the disaster, leading to the setting up of the Hillsborough Independent Panel reinvestigating the disaster and its aftermath, two years ago reaching the conclusion that there was indeed a coverup.

Now, in the twentyfifth anniversary of the disaster, a new, proper inquest has started at the same time as both of the city's football clubs are doing the best in the League they've done for years, Everton in the race for fourth place, Liverpool chasing their first title in twentyfour years. Is it any wonder both fans and players, Steve Gerrard especially, who lost a cousin at Hillsborough, get a little emotional?
posted by MartinWisse (26 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
posted by lalochezia at 12:56 PM on April 15, 2014 [10 favorites]

Not sure if it's linked in your text, but in the U.S., ESPN has a two-hour special on Hillsborough tonight at 8pm EST.

As a life-long fan, I'm trying to keep a lid on how I feel about this season, but it's tough. It's going to be a tense few weeks.
posted by idb at 1:01 PM on April 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Men in Blazers podcast has really been...passionate about this season's tight finish for weeks now. As someone who doesn't follow EPL closely, I really got caught up in the narrative just by listening to thise guys. And I am really excited to see how the season finishes.

As for Hillsborough's anniversary, I arrived in England in 1993 and people were still very much talking about it. I hadn't heard about it, other than the bare facts, but it was clear that the country was still reorienting to the tragedy.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:33 PM on April 15, 2014

Never been a big Stevie G fan, but he has stuck with his club, he's a solid pro not a cheating primadonna like many overseas players and for his sake, having lost a relative at Hillsborough, I hope they win it.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:34 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have very clear memories of the day Hillsborough happened, I was watching the football on tv and went out to tell my dad what was going on. It was a sunny day in Dublin and he was gardening, it was only later that he came in and saw the news and realized the extent of the tragedy and what I had been trying to explain. That day and the subsequent coverage is something from my childhood that stands out and made a big impact on me for some reason. (I barely remember the coverage of the Berlin Wall falling, by comparison). It's quite incredible that here we are in 2014 with these families still trying to get a proper inquest.

Can't bring myself to cheer Liverpool to the premiership this year though. For people around my age they were the original gloryhunters/bandwagoners team, and though I'm in theory older and wiser and more mature now I still remember all the insufferable little brats in spanking new Liverpool kits rubbing the rest of our faces in it 9 months after discovering football. Who over the last couple of months are insufferable big brats! Sorry Stevie G.
posted by jamesonandwater at 1:38 PM on April 15, 2014

Props from a Spurs fan. Sunday's tie was outstanding, probably the best football match of the season in the EPL, and as far as I'm concerned the right team won. Watching Gerard choke back sobs made it so real. For a day when Hillsborough was on the minds of everyone, the Kop was in terrific voice and the match was a microcosm of Liverpool's season: they are punching above their weight, have no business challenging for the title, but their heart and drive has taken them to where they are. One more win and they make the Champions League after several years in the European football wilderness. Four more wins and they've done something impossible.

The Chelsea-Liverpool tie now becomes the decider, all else being equal. What you saw at the end of Sunday's match was Steven Gerard's leadership and heart on display, probably a small glimpse of what their dressing room is like at the moment. Chelsea is a formidable side, but there can only be one result this season for those of us that still cling to the magic that football can still generate. Special or not, I would love to see Rodgers brush Mourinho aside.
posted by salishsea at 1:54 PM on April 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

I was also a football-loving boy when Hillsborough happened and (apart from the obvious immediate horror of the event) I remember it was very confusing to feel the forces of state authority (police, politicians, corporate media) for some reason wanting to insinuate again and again that, just like being poor, it was definitely your own fault if you went to a football match and got crushed to death. Strange times.
posted by colie at 1:58 PM on April 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

jamesonandwater...I too came of age in the late 1970s when Liverpool were the bandwagon team. But since Hillsborough I've had a soft spot for the club - certainly more so that the Manchester teams or Spurs' London rivals. And that is despite my general hate on for Suarez (whose handball and subsequent glee against Ghana in 2010 still turns my stomach) There is no support in the Premier League that can really rival what the Kop produces and knowing several LFC supporters who lived through the Hillsborough aftermath, even as the game was being cleaned up from hooliganism, I can't NOT hope they pip their rivals. In my books they are allowed this one title and then they have to give us our Champions League spot back.
posted by salishsea at 2:00 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry mate, that's Everton's place now...
posted by MartinWisse at 2:09 PM on April 15, 2014

they are punching above their weight, have no business challenging for the title, but their heart and drive has taken them to where they are.

As a Minnesota soccer fan, I have a soft spot for, as well as some personal experience with, that kind of thing.

As an American soccer fan, I've been unable to generate any kind of significant rooting interest in the EPL, despite Landon and Howard at Everton or Dempsey at Spurs or Jozy on his various travels. Closest I've come was a passing interest in Burnley after they played a friendly with our local team a number of years back and won promotion the following season - they were mostly super friendly guys at the joint team dinner after the game, which was as close as I had to a reason to support anyone in particular, but still, it was tough to really care.

I don't have any connection to Liverpool or to Hillsborough; I've found a lot about the club pretty silly in recent years (to the extent I've paid attention which isn't huge). But I've traveled to watch my team for a big game. I know what supporting a team through the lows and the highs means. And like any human, I can't think about Hillsborough without a pang. I can't hear them sing "Justice for the 96" without getting tearful and angry at the same time, along with a whole lot of other emotions in one of those Feelings Cocktails that are so familiar to anyone who stands with a team for long enough to understand all the stories that are happening at once. I don't pretend to understand what it means to be a Liverpool fan - especially one who remembers Hillsborough - but I understand a piece of it, enough to understand how huge all this is.

Which means that I'm not particularly invested in this season, but the emotion sure makes it interesting. I don't personally care a whole lot about the final outcome, but it sure is fun to recognize when you're watching Something Huge happen. And when you are, it's hard to not hope it gets as big as it can get, rather than all crashing out. Which I guess is as close as I've ever been to a rooting interest in EPL.
posted by nickmark at 2:40 PM on April 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's been pretty tense - I've taken to hiding under a blanket during all Liverpool penalties because I just can't watch.

It makes watching the games at the bar super awkward.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:54 PM on April 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

This was a pretty affecting interview to wake up to this morning. I was nearly in tears when I heard Ray Houghton's voice choke as he signed off with "and I'll probably be crying my eyes out."
posted by ambrosen at 3:22 PM on April 15, 2014

posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:10 PM on April 15, 2014

Hold on a minute here....Gerrard is undoubtedly one of the finest players of the Premier League era, but let's not whitewash his past by claiming he's always been a one-club player: the guy withdrew from contract negotiations and said that he wanted to leave Liverpool.

More importantly, while I'm a Man United fan and have hated Liverpool since they were successful, I have to admire their performance this season. It's going to hurt to see them (especially Luis Suarez, the world's most evil footballer) win, but they certainly deserve it (especially Luis Suarez, the world's most etc). And how appropriate that they should achieve a key victory on the anniversary of Hillsborough.

And most importantly of all let's hope that something finally comes of the new inquest. JFT96.
posted by Pink Frost at 4:11 PM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

The extent of the cover-up on Hillsborough is shocking. The lying and obfuscation on the part of those directly responsible is at least understandable, if not excusable. The lengths to which the rest of the legal and political establishment have gone in collusion with those lies is inexcusable. Hillsborough, in legal terms, was sandwiched between Lord Denning's appalling vista and the Steven Lawrence scandal (which still continues). It's a damning indictment of the fiction of the rule of law. I hope that the inquiry gets some answers, but I am not optimistic.
To speak of the football, I am kind of hoping that Liverpool do it. I like them as a club, and I like watching the team play. Rodgers has them playing some great stuff. The only fly in the ointment is Suarez. He's a fantastic player, but such an overtly odious scrotebag that it's hard to support any team he's in. It was kind of ironic when the club stood by him after his usual nastiness, to the detriment of their reputation, only to be repaid with a transfer request. He's the Orson Scott Card of football, and Liverpool are the Ender's Game that we can no longer enjoy because we can't ignore that whiff of wrongness that hangs about it.
posted by Jakey at 4:41 PM on April 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

I can't think about Hillsborough without a pang. I can't hear them sing "Justice for the 96" without getting tearful and angry at the same time, along with a whole lot of other emotions in one of those Feelings Cocktails that are so familiar to anyone who stands with a team for long enough to understand all the stories that are happening at once.

Thanks for this. I'm a long term Everton fan and this aptly describes my feelings about the horrors of Hillsborough. I'm supposed to hate Liverpool, but no, I just don't. Events like Heysel and Hillsborough provide a brutal sense of perspective that I simply cannot allow myself to ignore when compared with petty feuding.

It is also because of Hillsborough that I regard Kenny Dalglish as one of my heroes. His actions towards the community surrounding the club in the immediate aftermath, and the sense of leadership he showed on and off the pitch was extremely important, even if he seemed a broken, exhausted man by the time of his resignation in 1991. I continue to be awed by the sheer courage of his actions at that time and often wonder if I would be capable of the same.

Bill Shankly may have said that football is more important than life and death. Sorry, Bill, you were wrong on that one. It never is.
posted by all the versus at 8:32 PM on April 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

That 30 for 30 on Hillsborough is a must-watch.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 11:44 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it was pretty rough (and the Boston Strong lead-in didn't help). Taking the blood alcohol of dead children?? At what point did anybody think that was okay?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:33 AM on April 16, 2014

Thanks for posting this. Don't remember where I picked this up, but it gives me chills: a few days after the disaster, a minute's "silence" at Milan.

Oh and about the boycot, Billy Bragg helps explain why Scousers never buy the Sun.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:52 AM on April 16, 2014

I was a young girl when Hillsborough happened and my only real encounter with it was the charity single Ferry Cross the Mersey with Liverpudlian artists like Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson, The Christians, and Gerry Marsden. Even then it felt very, very odd that the late 80s bubblegum factory of Stock/Aitken/Waterman would get involved. I do hope the single raised money, but what a strange, anaemic response to something so devastating.
posted by kariebookish at 4:53 AM on April 16, 2014

This was posted on Reddit earlier - a letter from Thatcher's PR arsehole, Bernard Ingham, to a complainant about the disaster. It is the smuggest, nastiest piece of belittling condescension I've seen for a while. Ingham stands by his comments.

He is currently a university lecturer in public relations.
posted by forgetful snow at 5:48 AM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

As a lifelong LFC fan, thanks for this thread.

I really can't believe we are so close now, 4 games, and as mentioned up-thread, Chelsea at Anfield is probably going to be the decider.
posted by marienbad at 9:20 AM on April 16, 2014

Also, please read the Heysel link, the whole thing was not just the LFC fans, the Italian fans (Ultras) were just as bad back in the day:

"In retaliation for the events in section Z, Juventus fans then rioted at their end of the stadium. They advanced down the stadium running track towards the Liverpool supporters, but police intervention stopped the advance. The Juventus fans fought the police with rocks, bottles and missiles for two hours. One Juventus fan was captured on television footage apparently firing a pistol (later verified as being a starting pistol). When the game kicked off, riot police were still fighting a pitched battle with Juventus supporters, and they maintained a presence around the entire pitch for the duration of the game."
posted by marienbad at 9:24 AM on April 16, 2014

Christ that MOTD footage is unreal, and the Panorama doc is heart-breaking. Thanks again
posted by marienbad at 11:19 AM on April 16, 2014

Great post, MartinWisse. I was too young to remember the Hillsborough tragedy but learned about it when I was about 8 after the Taylor Report came out (my parents were absolutely elated, the 'shame' carried by a lot of Liverpool fans lasted a long time, thanks to 'that rag'). The various tributes from clubs and players around the world on the 15th have been exceptional as well, very appreciated. It's a massive shame there are still people who hold on to the 'drunk scousers' bullshit, but those people are on par with Holocaust deniers these days and their opinions are treated in the same way.

The Heysel tragedy was a dark day for football, but almost another inevitability of the combination of the growing popularity and absolute lack of organisation from the authorities that was needed, even possibly intentional neglect. My uncle (who travelled to a lot of games in the 80s) felt there was an element of 'revenge against the Italians', after travelling Reds received a very cold welcome for the European Cup final game in Rome the previous year. But the haphazard mixture of these fans with other passionate fans in a crumbling stadium was a recipe for disaster for any pair of big teams. This is not to take any blame away from those directly involved in the tragedy, but those indirectly involved were equally, if not more, culpable in my eyes.
posted by bumcivilian at 2:13 AM on April 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thank you, Jozy Altidore.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:24 AM on April 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Condor Watch   |   Poe, with a trunk full of ideas, is finally coming... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments