Liverpool remembers Hillsborough victims
Published 15/04/2014 | 18:07
A sombre memorial service took place at Anfield to mark 25 years since the Hillsborough disaster claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.
Loved ones of those who died were joined at Anfield by players, club officials and ordinary fans among the 24,000 attending to mark today's emotional anniversary.
The 96 Liverpool fans died in the crush on the Leppings Lane terraces at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium after going to see their team play Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989.
As the families of those who did not return home took their places in reserved seats on the Kop for the start of the service, the crowd got to their feet as one with a roar of approval and a huge ovation from all four sides of the ground.
There were also loud cheers and clapping for the gathering of past and present Anfield greats who took their seats, including current club captain Steven Gerrard, Kenny Dalglish, manager at the time of the disaster, Ian Rush, Phil Thompson, Alan Hansen and Graeme Souness.
More recent stars Jamie Carragher, Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman were also in attendance, along with Howard Kendall, Everton's manager in 1989, and current Everton boss Roberto Martinez, who gave a reading.
On the pitch, thousands of football scarves were laid out in the shape of "96", donated from fans and clubs across the UK and beyond after an appeal from Liverpool FC for scarves to show a symbol of unity across fan rivalries.
Some of those present at today's memorial are witnesses in the new inquest into Britain's worst sporting disaster, which began last month and resumes next week.
The original accidental deaths verdicts in 1991 were quashed in the High Court in 2012 after a long campaign by the fans' families.
Traditional football hymn Abide With Me was sung before the names of the 96 fans were read out.
At each name a light was lit, one by one, on a large piece of sculpture entitled the Band of Life, until all the lights were illuminated.
As the time reached 3.06pm, the exact moment the match was abandoned while the tragedy unfolded, a minute's silence began.
In the city's main streets and shopping thoroughfares, public transport stopped.
The hum and noise from outside the ground faded as a hush fell across the city while Anfield, often a cauldron of noise, also fell into a sombre stillness.
Heads bowed, some fans wiped away silent tears as they remembered the scores of lives lost.
The minute's silence ended with a round of applause, as across the city bells tolled 96 times at churches and civic buildings.
The first reading was given by Martinez, who read from St John 14:1.
In a short address afterwards, he said he was 15 at the time of the disaster, a football-mad kid in a football-mad family, when he heard the news.
He said: "We could not believe the pain and horror that the families would get by receiving the news that their loved ones would not be coming home. Would not be coming home from a football match. How can you die by watching a football match?
"That was not right or fair what happened and afterwards was not right or fair either."
To a huge cheer, Martinez added: "The authorities took on the wrong city if they thought they were going to get away with it."
He said the Hillsborough Family Support Group, which led the campaign for new inquests, was a remarkable group of people.
He said: "I know, I don't have to tell you, Everton are with you, you know that."
Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool's first team manager, gave a reading of Psalm 23, before addressing the Hillsborough families themselves.
Rodgers said his biggest inspiration as manager was each time he came to Anfield and seeing the names of the 96 on the Hillsborough Memorial.
He said: "I feel very humble to be in your company.
"You are the real inspiration for us. Your courage, fortitude, resilience and love for the people you lost, it's what inspires me, every day, as the manager of Liverpool Football Club.
"Thank you for the inspiration you give us all. You'll never walk alone."