Hillsborough: I could have been one of them

Hillsborough disaster, April 1989, Leppings Lane
Hillsborough disaster, April 1989, Leppings Lane

As I travelled to Saints’ weekly press conference on Tuesday morning - and tuned-in to my car radio to listen to the jury’s verdict on the Hillsborough disaster - I don’t mind admitting I was overcome by emotion and shed more than a few tears.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died on that ill-fated day in 1989 - and I could so easily have been one of them.

Twelve months earlier when Liverpool and Nottingham Forest had also met at the same stage of the FA Cup, I was among the fans who congregated in the central pen at the Leppings Lane end and felt like a sardine in a tin.

Fast forward a year - and as I entered the ground with a couple of friends one pointed to the tunnel which led to where less than an hour later the victims perished.

“Let’s go down there, John,” he said.

And my reply, which still haunts me to this day, was: “No way, I nearly got crushed to death there last year.”

Instead we opted to stand on the terracing to the right of the crush and, ironically, there was sufficient room to swing a cat around and I had acres of space to sit down on the terracing and eat a pie.

Why the late comers weren’t funneled in this direction I will never know.

But having read the verdicts it becomes crystal clear crowd control and organisation hardly existed.

Thousands upon thousands of pounds must have been spent by all sides involved in the longest inquest in British legal history.

But had the authorities at all levels - and I included Whitehall, the police and Sheffield Wednesday - listened in the first place to the fans on the spot and not attempted to put a smoke screen over the whole issue, the grieving relatives of the 96 would not have to had to wait so long for justice and peace of mind.