Tag Archives: Steven Gerrard

Hold your head up high

Everyone who knows even a little about the Hillsborough Disaster knows the name Jon-Paul Gilhooley. Whether because he was the youngest victim, aged only 10 years old, or because of his younger cousin, another little Huyton lad who didn’t die young and grew up to be Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool captain has spoken of the effect of losing Jon-Paul on his life and that of his family:

It was a difficult time to know that one of your cousins had been at the game and had been tragically crushed. Seeing the reactions of his mum, dad and family helped me drive on to become the player I have developed into today.

For me, Jon-Paul Gilhooley’s name always stands out on the Hillsborough memorial, not because he is more important than any of the other 96 people who were killed, but because I was one year older than him on that sunny day in April when Liverpool fans came from all over the country to watch a football match and not all made the return journey. For a city and many beyond it, life would never return to how it was.

As children at the time of Hillsborough, we saw our fathers and mothers – always so together and in control – left grief-stricken and powerless in the face of police and politicians’ lies. We learnt to hide our anger at playground taunts and jokes because we had to prove we were better, weren’t hooligans in embryo as they said we were. Even young Liverpool fans knew not to trust what it said in the papers, years before the Leveson Inquiry.

We saw inquests run in a way to bring shame on the worst totalitarian regime, witnessed a report by a senior judge confirming what we all knew, ignored by those that had called for it. Watched private prosecutions falter, allowing the senior police officer on duty at the ground that day to retire and spend more time with his pension. Through it all, we heard the chants from the ignorant at the other end of the ground, telling us: you did it, if it wasn’t for you we could stand, more of you should have died, you killed them.

The high-profile idiots get the media attention: the unrepentant ex-editor, the Prime Ministerial wannabe, the quiz show panel member. All prepared to use the hidden evidence and official obstructions to sound controversial and elevate their own notoriety. But actually, far worse are the everyday morons who say it to your face. One of the first conversations I had on arrival in Japan was with a fan of some no-mark club who told me ‘there were hooligans at Hillsborough though, weren’t there.’

Now imagine hearing that, hearing that you are wrong, to blame, paranoid or mawkish for 23 years, even as you try to mourn. As you try to recover from the loss of your child, parent, cousin or friend. That has been life for the Hillsborough families since the day of the tragedy.

So emotions on Tuesday were heightened. By midway through the morning here, with the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report still hours away from release, a number of news reports had already brought tears, especially this one telling of a family coping with the treatment of their seriously ill son, injured at the disaster. It seemed incredible that the families were moving closer to getting the answers they deserved, after so many setbacks.

It was afternoon in Japan when the first reports began to come through, at first shocking news – worse than even imagined – about blood alcohol tests done on Jon-Paul Gilhooley and the other child victims. Then it all followed swiftly, the Prime Minister apologised, then Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, South Yorkshire Police, so many apologies that after 23 years with none, the head began to spin. Even the S*n and its ex-editor tried to get in on the remorse,  offering too little too late.

If in fact it ever resided in Wapping, ‘The Truth’ belongs to us now.

Too many years have passed for this to really count as a victory. The Prime Minister spoke of new evidence but later amended his statement to acknowledge that all of this information had been known at the time, but deliberately concealed. It didn’t feel like a day for vindictiveness, but I felt glad that the PM at the time, Margaret Thatcher, was alive to see the scheming she must have approved fall so completely apart. I hope someone showed her the headlines.

Of course, the campaign doesn’t end here. Now the evidence is revealed, there must be reviews, reopened inquests, amended death certificates, fairer inquiries and hopefully, prosecutions to come.

But they did it. They did it for you: for all of the 96. Your mums and dads, brothers and sisters, cousins, wives, husbands, loved ones, friends – even your children – some of whom were only tiny when you were killed. They fought for you and never gave in, these ordinary yet somehow superhuman people took on the whole establishment and got them to admit what we all knew. They lied.

As our song tells us: at the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky. So long cherished as an idea and a shared goal, on Tuesday 11 September 2012, the clouds finally parted.

Justice for the 96.

2 Comments

Filed under Minitrue

We won it 5 times…

Evertonians, look away now…

I was planning to write something incredibly serious today, about the budget cuts and how the proposed £6bn must be just the start, in light of the Greek troubles.  But you can go and read something better than I would have written on the Independent website instead, while ten minutes hate indulges in some unchecked nostalgia from five years ago today.

I had a couple of opportunities to go to the Istanbul Champions League final in 2005, featuring AC Milan and Liverpool.  Both of which fell through right at the last minute, leaving me gutted enough to contemplate not watching the match at all for - oh! – about three seconds or so.  In fact, I watched the game in the excellent surroundings of a good friend’s front room, equipped with an amazing barbeque, huge telly and, really, who could ask for more?

Lucky Papa Smith did get to go and spent what sounds like a cracking couple of days in Istanbul soaking up the culture.  There is more on the city, as well as some wonderful photos of a completely non-footballing nature, here.

Words to describe what happened that evening are difficult to find, although I will give it a go.  Supporting Liverpool has always been about dealing with the depths as well as the highs, however, I don’t think any of us were quite prepared for so many of them to be crammed into one game.  From half-time, where I said a sort-of half-hearted prayer to any passing god that was listening for us ‘to please score one’, to the sight of this just half an hour later:

(Doesn’t it still rock your world seeing Smicer up there?!  It does mine.)  

There is all kinds of talk about what happened at half-time to change things and, while we will probably never know exactly, I like to think that it was a combination of Rafa’s words, the fans in the stadium who wouldn’t stop singing – my dad still had no voice three days later – and some kind of weird footballing alchemy that saw us lifting our fifth European Cup that night, the only English club ever to do so.

You can’t call yourselves Liverpool players if you have your heads down. If we create a few chances we have the possibility of getting back into this. Believe you can do it and you will. Give yourself the chance to be heroes

- Rafa Benitez

That was one of the best finals I ever played in. We played really well, much better than Liverpool, and we really deserved to win much more than them. But that’s football

- Paolo Maldini

The English club proved that miracles really do exist. I’ve now made Liverpool my English team. They showed that football is the most beautiful sport of all. The Liverpool supporters didn’t let me go to sleep the night before, there were 10 of them to every three Milan supporters. They showed their unconditional support at half-time when they were losing 3-0 and still they didn’t stop singing

- Diego Maradona

Final word to the skipper:

Two European Cup finals in three years — not bad for a little club

- Steven Gerrard

Pictures ‘borrowed’ from The Independent, Big Soccer and The Telegraph (worth reading for Henry Winter choking on our ‘Istanbul miracle’)

4 Comments

Filed under The Golden Country