Tuesday 28 January 2020

John Aldridge on Hillsborough: At long last, those responsible are finally preparing to face justice

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SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - APRIL 26: A general view of the Hillsborough stadium on April 26, 2016 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - APRIL 26: A general view of the Hillsborough stadium on April 26, 2016 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

John Aldridge

THE families of the Hillsborough dead were told to walk away, to accept they would never get the justice they deserved for their loved ones – but that was never going to happen.

For those whose sons and daughters perished on that Leppings Lane terrace on that fateful day of April 15, 1989, the fight for justice has been long and hard and now they might finally see someone pay the price for the mistakes that cost so many precious lives.

I was leading the line for my beloved Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final and, in truth, I have never got over what happened as football fans came to cheer me on and never returned home.

However, my daily anguish is nothing compared to the misery and despair the families of those who lost have lived through for the best part of three decades.

So the news that criminal charges have been made against those who oversaw a shambolic police operation at Hillsborough will be welcomed by the families who have fought for that outcome for far too long.

Yesterday’s confirmation that Hillsborough match commander on that day David Duckenfield and former chief constable Norman Bettison are among those who could go to jail for their role in the disaster and the cover-up that followed was greeted with delight by all of us who have campaigned for justice for the 96 supporters who died.

It doesn’t bring any of them back, of course it doesn’t, but this is the final chapter of a story that Liverpool as a city has fought so hard to tell.

Margaret Thatcher and her government hated Liverpool and were delighted to spin the lie that this disaster was all down to the actions of the club’s supporters, but all of us involved in the campaign for justice knew differently and now we have proved it.

Thatcher knew about the cover-up and the plan to blame the Liverpool fans for what had happened. I won’t have anyone tell me anything different.

She was a bitch to the miners in their dispute with the British government in the 1980s and then, in her eyes, Hillsborough was another story of blaming the working classes for the mistakes of those in power.

Well Maggie and her cronies messed with the wrong people when they took on the mothers of Liverpool fans who lost their lives.

Liverpool stands up for itself, a militant city who won’t take any crap from people in London who look down on us.

In many ways, the spirit we have is a lot like the spirit of the people in Ireland, and if we feel an injustice has taken place against us, we stand up and fight to put it right.

Many people said we were pissing against the wind and had no chance of getting to the bottom of what happened at Hillsborough, and the shameful cover-up that followed. But a handful of important politicians eventually listened to us and now we are within touching distance of punishing those guilty of horrible crimes.

My Dad was at the back of that terrace at Hillsborough and he will never forget the sights and sounds he witness that afternoon. He described a sea of people rushing in and then, a few minutes later, swarming back out, with the devastation left on the terrace highlighting the scale of the disaster that had just taken place.

Broken, crumpled bodies were strewn all over the terrace and those innocent fans did not deserve what happened to them that day, nor the disgraceful smear campaign that followed from the British government and the police. At long last, those responsible are finally preparing to face justice, my thoughts again go to the 96.

They will never be forgotten and those that have fought to clear their names of wrongdoing in the years since their deaths have made sure of that.

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