I WAS in Sheffield on April 15, 1989.
I was 22 years, four months and 10 days old. I try to think about that day as little as possible.
The years have passed to become the decades that are now drifting by at pace. My memory of that April day is razor sharp. I think the more you try to push something away the more indelibly inked into your psyche it becomes.
There are a number of things I can recall which, in the retelling, would still feel as if I were describing events that happened to someone else. It is as unreal today as it was then.
I’ve only ever seen death up close like that on that day. I was a child of older generations that had seen far more. I hope my kids will be luckier than we were. Seeing people die, lots of them, and in such a short space of time was beyond being merely shocking or upsetting. It made me despair and feel utterly helpless and bereft in a way I’d never felt before, and have never felt since.
I cried after Hillsborough. I cried, and cried, and cried. For two weeks. Everything made me cry. I had to pull over when I was driving to cry. I cried if I went out of the house for five minutes. I cried when I read the papers or turned on the TV.
I went to Anfield every day for two weeks. I looked at the floral tributes on The Kop and read the inscriptions. I cried every time. After that fortnight I stopped crying and I’ve never shed a tear over the disaster since.
So much haunts, but a feeling more than a memory has stayed with me the most. It must have been about an hour and a half after it happened that I exited the ground. All I could think to do was to get to where we’d parked the car and wait for my friends. My best friend Giulio had been the only one of us that had had a ticket for the Leppings Lane end.
I turned up a hilly suburban street flanked by small 1950s style houses which had front gardens that gave them the feeling of being more rural-type dwellings than they actually were. Sheffield people who lived in those houses were standing by their front doors, obviously aware from their TVs and radios of the tragedy that had been unfolding just a few hundred yards from their homes.
Us fans were walking like zombies down the streets where these people lived. I recall being called out to by a middle-aged woman who asked me if I wanted to come into her home and use her phone. I hadn’t realised that I needed to do that. There would be people who were worried about me.
When I got to our car, no one was there. My other friends John and Pete hadn’t been in Leppings Lane, so their absences were no cause for anxiety. That briefly made Giulio being missing more bearable. If they had safe reason to be delayed so might he. I sat on the kerb by the car and waited for him. I waited for a long time.
I did honestly set out to write a preview of the Porto game today. I will be in Porto on Wednesday. I’m really excited about the game and about this Liverpool team and the wonderful experiences we are having with it. But, as I write this, it is exactly 30 years to that day.
I’ve never really written anything about Hillsborough. I’ve sort of never known where to begin. I feel I needed to say something today. I’m not entirely sure why now. Thirty years is a long time. It feels like the blinking of an eye.
Giulio finally appeared trudging up the hill of that street in Sheffield. God how I treasure that memory. His shuffling countenance. Broken but not bowed. Indefatigable.
Giulio and me have been to a few thousand games together since that day. We’ve lived through every incarnation of Liverpool. He still sits next to me at Anfield. He always has done. He gets to his seat very late. Last minute. He keeps me waiting. My heart still leaps when he finally arrives. I die inside just a little.
I’ve never told him this. I’ll always be pleased to see him.
More than he will ever know.
Predicted 11: Alisson; Trent, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Origi
Kick off: 8pm, Wednesday
Referee: Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)
Odds by Redsbet: Porto 27-10, Draw 49-20, Liverpool 21-20
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These played earned themselves the treat of playingat the Camp Nou. And the fans want to see Messi, Suarez, Coutinho at Anfield.
Hope we can navigate this 2nd leg and get to that cracker of a semi. Oh, and I naturally assume Barca will spank the Mancs tonight.
Thanks for your words Rob. I too was lucky enough to have a ticket but not in the Leppings Lane end. Never been back to Sheffield since never will. No idea why . 30 years on here we are still supporting this great team of ours and living in this great City. We will win tonight no doubt.
Good article. I’m pleased you wrote that. It will leave me haunted all day.
Similar story here Rob. I still go mad when people don’t let me know they are running late. Borders on panic attack.
Fully understand this article. I had the misfortune to be at both Heysel and Hillsborough. On both occasions sat in close proximity to what unfolded before my eyes. At Heysel I climbed down and tried to help. At Hillsborough, in the stands we tried to do what could be done to pull people up. The years don’t make any of it go. Like you, both events are still as clear today as when they happened. The pain doesn’t go away either.
Enjoy the Porto game.
Thanks Rob. As a 20 year old in the Leppings Lane I was fortunate enough to be pulled up to the stands above you were in J. The Liverpool fans were incredible that day and took over as best we could from the utter failure by the emergency services. Thank you Rob for such a poignant piece.
Brilliant Rob. Thanks for sharing that
Great piece Rob – takes a bit to put that down. YNWA
Rob , a wonderful story , a real perspective . It brought a tear to my eye. Shankly was right about a lot but somethings are more than football
I was at the Final a few weeks later and as a 50+ years supported now , can say winning wasn’t everything
Wow, that cant have been easy to write down, let alone live through. Fair play, Rob, thank you.
Thanks for sharing
Gave me goosebumps and a big lump in my throat. Thanks for sharing. It was a terrible day, it will always have been a terrible day no matter how many years pass. The feeling of worrying about friends, and the poor people who didn’t get to see their friends coming up the road ever again.
Absolutely incredible words Rob, I’m crying my fucking eyes out.
Thank you for having the guts to write that Rob. YNWA
Hi Rob, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tribute of that awful day.
I wasn’t at either games in Hillsborough nor Heysel, but as a kid in Dubai, all I could do was read the papers and watch whatever snippets the media could put out then.
It was shocking and surreal to me as it took place at a football game. Growing up I only read and saw death described in wars being fought somewhere far away.
This tragedy changed my perspective to say the least, but nothing compared to what you, your friends and all those families went through.
I hope you and Giulio enjoy the game and visit in Porto.
Come on you Reds!
Still remember sitting on my car in Lewisham listening to the radio as the tragedy unfolded. This article brought a lump to my throat, many thanks for sharing