By Amy Lawrence
WALKING up Wembley way, en route to an FA Cup semi-final in an all-seater stadium for an all-ticket match, it was impossible not to take a moment to look back.
What have you done in the last 25 years?
I left school, got a degree, landed a series of mundane jobs before stumbling into a unexpectedly wonderful career. I learned to drive, was thrilled with my first vehicle, a vauxhall astra van in which I could play cassettes as loud as they would go. Vinyl went by the wayside and along came CDs. Videos got packed into dusty boxes and along came DVDs. I bought an iPod. I stopped the need to queue at phone boxes with a handful of 20ps and got a mobile phone. I stopped posting letters and started sending emails. I forgot about that wait for your camera films to be developed to see if pictures were any good as each image could be instantly deleted.
I watched incredulous on television as the Berlin Wall fell and Nelson Mandela was released out of prison. In time I travelled to East Germany and South Africa. I silently got on an aeroplane the night of 9/11 on the way back from a match in Spain. I saw the Iraq war break out on live 24-hour rolling news.
I watched my team win the title. I took the train and hovercraft to Italy for the World Cup in 1990. The next one, in the USA, was breaking new ground in taking the tournament to an emerging football nation. Since then the greatest show on earth went to France, Japan and South Korea, a united Germany, a South Africa unshackled from apartheid. Next we look ahead to Brazil, then Russia, and beyond that a strange and controversial winter World Cup in Qatar with the prospect of air conditioned stadia.
Years ago I was forcibly removed by the police from a football terrace for the last time. I observed the football experience change, change, change. All seater-stadia, ticket prices rocketing, an influx of foreign players, overseas managers, broadening horizons, fresh ideas, rebrands all over the place – Division One morphed into the Premier League, the European Cup became the Champions League, where you didn’t even have to be a champion to take part. I have the chance to watch a dazzling Argentinan or phenomenal Portuguese every week from my sofa at home. I can debate with strangers from anywhere in the world in bite-sized 140 character immediate messages.
I have met countless people, taken countless journeys, written countless words. I have made friends, some who have stuck around all this time, others who were like ships that passed in the night. I have loved. I became a mother, and I watch my sons grow in a state of constant awe and gratitude. I made a home for my family.
On FA Cup semi-final weekend 25 years ago I went to football. I stood on a terrace. I heard through the Chinese whispers rolling through the crowd that there was trouble at Hillsborough. People dead. The number kept growing. It was too catastrophic to bear.
The Hicks sisters, Sarah and Vicky, died together. Teenaged girls who adored their football, just like me, in 1989. At the inquest last week the detail emerged that Vicky wanted to be a football journalist and wrote Liverpool match reports in secret. What might they have made of their lives over the last 25 years? What experiences might they have had? What people might they have met? What lucky ones might they have loved? What everyday conversations and occasions might they have shared with their parents, their extended family, their friends? What children they might have parented themselves?
The thought extends, embraces, painfully, to all the 96. What might they have done, been and enjoyed about 25 years of life?
They only went, excitedly, to an FA Cup semi-final. Justice for the 96 is so desperately overdue.
Sympathy to all who lost on such a tragic afternoon.
I attended my first league game that season and did not fully understand what was lost until many years after.
May one day justice come true and their memory remain; but also may the joy and love of a sport they left behind continue.
Thanks Amy for those thoughts. I couldn’t go to see my team that day as someone had to stay at home to look after baby son so I was at home watching it all on TV with increasing horror. It must have been awful for the relatives who were also watching on TV with no way to communicate with their loved ones to let them know what was happening and maybe saving some of those 96. I felt so grateful that my daughter and her dad were at one of the very few grounds where there were no fences.
Justice for the 96
Thank you, beautifully put, as always.
Massive thoughts have gone out from all my football friends over the past 24 hours to those lost. It’s still sad and also a catastrophe.
I do not know how pieces like this are therefore relevant. Who does it help?
Thanks for writing this. Will still be read when this weekend’s match reports are forgotten.
Beautifully written, capturing quarter of a century of change in one thought provoking piece
Thanks for that.You know we all still think about those things.We just can’t help but imagine what it must be like for those families.We can’t but help thinking what it must have been like for our own families too.We came back.They didn’t know if we would or wouldn’t.
I can still remember making phone calls when we got to the Motorway services (no mobiles in those days).Some people (friends) thinking I was lying when I said that I had been with members of their family and that they were OK and on their way home.Their sobs pleading with me to tell them what had happened to them.The News wasn’t like today’s news in those days.No live feeds from the scene.
And I reckon that there is an untold story about the families of those who survived that horrible day.Not to in any way diminish the devastation of the families of the 96.There’s hardly a day goes by when I haven’t thought about them.
But we have an expression “There but for the Grace of God….”
And it still rips me up 25 years later.
I hope the families can get some peace soon they deserve it.A day i will never forget.looked on from the north stand in 89 #JFT96. YNWA
Excellent write up, Amy.
Captures the lost of 25 years succinctly.
As you said, they were all normal people who just went for a football match.
Where’s the justice?
Beautiful piece of writing Amy, thank you.