Hillsborough - Our darkest day

15th April 1989 

On April 15, 1989 more than 25,000 Liverpool supporters travelled down to Hillsborough to watch the FA Cup semi-final match with Nottingham Forest. Ninety-six never returned. 
  
The sun had been shining and what should have been a fantastic day for both the club and the fans turned into the scene of the most horrific football disaster the English game has ever seen. 
  
Almost 100 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death in the Leppings Lane end just after kick-off. Football in England, and Liverpool FC in particular, would never be the same again.

The ensuing Taylor Report led to the end of terraces in the Football League, while a campaign for justice and accountability continues to this day.

But amid the tears, the scarves, the flowers and the funerals, an unbelievable bond between the club and the supporters emerged.

The city of Liverpool came together, with Reds and Blues creating a string of scarves from Anfield to Goodison. 

Below are the names of those who died, before four of the players involved share their emotional accounts of the club's darkest day.

96 Reds we'll never forget:

John Alfred Anderson (62) 
Thomas Howard (39) 
Colin Mark Ashcroft (19) 
Thomas Anthony Howard (14) 
James Gary Aspinall (18) 
Eric George Hughes (42) 
Kester Roger Marcus Ball (16) 
Alan Johnston (29) 
Gerard  Baron Snr (67) 
Christine Anne Jones (27) 
Simon Bell (17) 
Gary Philip Jones (18) 
Barry Sidney Bennett (26) 
Richard Jones (25) 
David John Benson (22) 
Nicholas Peter Joynes (27) 
David William Birtle (22) 
Anthony Peter Kelly (29) 
Tony Bland (22) 
Michael David Kelly (38) 
Paul David Brady (21) 
Carl David Lewis (18) 
Andrew Mark Brookes (26) 
David William Mather (19) 
Carl Brown (18) 
Brian Christopher Matthews (38) 
David Steven Brown (25) 
Francis Joseph McAllister (27) 
Henry Thomas Burke (47) 
John McBrien (18) 
Peter Andrew Burkett (24) 
Marion Hazel McCabe (21) 
Paul William Carlile (19) 
Joseph Daniel McCarthy (21) 
Raymond Thomas Chapman (50) 
Peter McDonnell (21) 
Gary Christopher Church (19) 
Alan McGlone (28) 
Joseph Clark (29) 
Keith McGrath (17) 
Paul Clark (18) 
Paul Brian Murray (14) 
Gary Collins (22) 
Lee Nicol (14) 
Stephen Paul Copoc (20) 
Stephen Francis O'Neill (17) 
Tracey Elizabeth Cox (23) 
Jonathon Owens (18) 
James Philip Delaney (19) 
William Roy Pemberton (23) 
Christopher Barry Devonside (18) 
Carl William Rimmer (21) 
Christopher Edwards (29) 
David George Rimmer (38) 
Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons (34) 
Graham John Roberts (24) 
Thomas Steven Fox (21) 
Steven Joseph Robinson (17) 
Jon-Paul Gilhooley (10) 
Henry Charles Rogers (17) 
Barry Glover (27) 
Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton (23) 
Ian Thomas Glover (20) 
Inger Shah (38) 
Derrick George Godwin (24) 
Paula Ann Smith (26) 
Roy Harry Hamilton (34) 
Adam Edward Spearritt (14) 
Philip Hammond (14) 
Philip John Steele (15) 
Eric Hankin (33) 
David Leonard Thomas (23) 
Gary Harrison (27) 
Patrick John Thompson (35) 
Stephen Francis Harrison (31) 
Peter Reuben Thompson (30) 
Peter Andrew Harrison (15) 
Stuart Paul William Thompson (17) 
David Hawley (39) 
Peter Francis Tootle (21) 
James Robert Hennessy (29) 
Christopher James Traynor (26) 
Paul Anthony Hewitson (26) 
Martin Kevin Traynor (16) 
Carl Darren Hewitt (17) 
Kevin Tyrrell (15) 
Nicholas Michael Hewitt (16) 
Colin Wafer (19) 
Sarah Louise Hicks (19) 
Ian David Whelan (19) 
Victoria Jane Hicks (15) 
Martin Kenneth Wild (29) 
Gordon Rodney Horn (20) 
Kevin Daniel Williams (15) 
Arthur Horrocks (41) 
Graham John Wright (17)

 

The players' account::
  
John Aldridge (LFC player 1987-89): If I hadn't become a footballer it is almost certain I would have been in the middle of the Leppings Lane terrace at Hillsborough on Saturday, 15 April, 1989. In the days when I was a fan I would never have considered missing an FA Cup semi-final involving Liverpool so I have to assume I would have travelled with everyone else to Sheffield for the game against Nottingham Forest. But fate decreed that John Aldridge be elsewhere that day. I was not on the Leppings Lane terrace, I was on the Hillsborough playing field, oblivious to what was going on among the Liverpool contingent. 
  
John Barnes (LFC player 1987-97): Saturday, 15 April, 1989 should have been a day of excitement when a compelling FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was played at the home of Sheffield Wednesday. I try not think about the day itself, but I will never forget it. The events were like a nightmare unfolding. 
  
Kenny Dalglish (LFC player-manager 1985-90, manager 1990-91): I will never, never forget 15 April, 1989. I cannot even think of the name Hillsborough, cannot even say the word, without so many distressing memories flooding back. I find it very difficult to write about Hillsborough. The memory will remain with me for the rest of my life. 
  
Alan Hansen: (LFC player 1977-91 and captain on the day) In the opening few minutes of Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough on Saturday, 15 April, 1989, I felt happier than I could have anticipated. Two months short of my thirty-fourth birthday, I had been out of Liverpool's first team for nine months - the result of a dislocated left knee sustained in a pre-season friendly against Atletico Madrid in Spain - and had only started playing again, for the reserves, four days before the semi-final. The Liverpool fans gave me a tremendous reception as I came on to the pitch, and I made a great start to the game. In those opening minutes, I hit three good passes - two long balls over the top of the Forest defence to Steve McMahon and the other to Peter Beardsley, who hit a shot against the Forest bar. All my fears about my fitness evaporated. I felt as if I had never been away. Then, suddenly, I started to fall into the blackest period of my life.

 

John Barnes: I didn't realise anything was amiss on the Leppings Lane terrace until a couple of fans ran on to the pitch shouting, 'There are people being killed in there.' I thought they were exaggerating, like when players say 'that tackle nearly killed me.' I just thought the fans were getting a bit squashed. But Bruce Grobbelaar, who was closest to the Leppings Lane terrace, quickly realised there was something terribly wrong when he went to retrieve a ball and heard fans screaming. Bruce shouted at the stewards to do something. 
  
John Aldridge: I was the Liverpool player furthest away from the Leppings Lane terrace when a fan decked out in Liverpool red approached Ray Houghton and shouted something at him. I assumed it was some kind of pitch invasion. The last action I could remember was Peter Beardsley hitting the crossbar with a fierce shot. But soon a policeman with a look of concern approached referee Ray Lewis and began talking to him. The game was brought to a halt. I remember Steve Nicol saying something to the referee, though I was too far away to hear anything. I didn't have a clue what was going on. 
  
John Barnes: Six minutes into the match, a policeman ran on to tell Ray Lewis, the referee, to halt the game. Lewis immediately led the players back to the dressing-rooms. The scale of the tragedy was still unimaginable. We thought a few fans had been squashed but that we would be playing again soon, once the stewards had sorted out the problem. Lewis kept coming in and saying, 'Another five minutes.' Each time, we all got up and started jogging again until he finally came in and said, 'That's it, lads, match off.' 
  
Kenny Dalglish: Nobody knew the scale of the disaster. I ordered the players to stay inside and went out into the corridor. A few fans had gathered there. They called out to me: 'Kenny, Kenny, there are people dying out there.' News of the horror filtered through. People who had been outside began to give a hint of the unfolding disaster. Like any man, my first reaction was to check my family was all right. 
  
John Aldridge: The confirmation that Liverpool fans had died reached us while we were getting changed. Some of us were showering, though some had already put their clothes back on. Again, I don't remember exactly what I did. I cast my eyes over to John Barnes and could see tears in his eyes. He was sitting there quietly, not wanting to be disturbed. A few of the other players looked stunned. I couldn't talk. Nobody could, there was a strange sort of silence. Usually there is much conversation and banter when the lads are all together in the dressing-room. Not now. Too many thoughts were flashing through our minds. The sense of logic was disappearing. 
  
John Barnes: All the rumours of crushing and deaths became desperate reality when I heard Des Lynam say, 'There's been a tragedy at Hillsborough. There are many dead.' I went numb. I couldn't believe it. Complete silence seized the room. Every face turned towards the television screen. No one sat down. No one spoke. Forest's players were also in the lounge. What could they say? 'We're sorry your fans have been killed?' The fact that they played for Forest and we played for Liverpool was irrelevant. These were human beings who died. We watched the television for an hour in silence. Many in the lounge were crying. Each of the players wondered whether he knew anyone who could have been in that terrible cage. I had only been at Liverpool for two years and knew hardly any of the fans. It was far worse for the local players like John Aldridge and Steve McMahon. Aldo was very agitated. He was desperately trying to make phone-calls. Eventually, we got on the coach, each player sitting next to his wife, holding hands, still numb and speechless. Everyone drank heavily all the way back to Liverpool. I got completely smashed on brandy. People wept all the way home. All the wives were crying. I was crying. Kenny was crying. Bruce said he was considering quitting. 
  
Kenny Dalglish: The next day people began coming up to Anfield. They just wanted to leave tributes and flowers at the Shankly Gates. Peter Robinson got in touch with the groundsman and told him to open the ground. Liverpool Football Club didn't want supporters standing around on the street. That was a magnificent thing to do. At 6pm we all went to St Andrews cathedral. Bruce Grobbelaar read from the scriptures. There was an awful sense of loss, confusion, frustration. So many emotions were felt. The players and their wives were determined to do something. We all went into Anfield the next day. The wives were brilliant. Everything just stopped, and rightly so. It comforted people coming into Anfield, talking to the players, the wives, and having a cup of tea. Liverpool Football Club was the focus of so many people's lives that it was natural they should head for Anfield. It gave them somewhere to go, something to talk about. 
  
John Aldridge: When the full extent of the disaster that eventually claimed the lives of 96 people unfolded, my emotions were of great sadness for the victims whose only mistake was choosing the wrong day to watch a football match; a football match in which I was playing. I remember giving an interview to the Liverpool Echo in which I said I didn't care if I never played again. I meant every word. For the two weeks following the disaster I was in a state of shock, helpless to do anything, I feel no shame in admitting Hillsborough affected me mentally for a time, a long time. I couldn't cope, It weakened me physically, emotionally and mentally. The thought of training never entered my head. I remember trying to go jogging but I couldn't run. There was a time when I wondered if I would ever muster the strength to play. I seriously considered retirement. I was learning about what was relevant in life. I didn't really see the point in football. 
  
John Barnes: The events of 15 April, 1989 at Hillsborough made me realise what is really important in life. Before Hillsborough, I had always tried to keep things in perspective but what happened on the Leppings Lane terraces made me question so much in my life. Football lost its obsessive significance; it was not the be all and end all. How could it be when 96 people died, when parents lost children and children lost parents? Bill Shankly's comment that 'football is not a matter of life and death, it is far more important than that' sounded even falser after Hillsborough. Football is a game, a glorious pursuit; but how can it be more important than life itself? 
  
John Aldridge: Hillsborough was a real tragedy on a real day involving real people. We often talk of nightmares in our lives, of disaster, of tragedies, but most of us don't really know what we're talking about. I was injured playing for Liverpool the season before Hillsborough and I called it a personal disaster. Disaster? When you know people have died in your vicinity you realise missing a football match or two through injury is irrelevant. 
  
Kenny Dalglish: I was offered the manager's job at Sheffield Wednesday after I left Liverpool but I couldn't take it because of what had happened at Hillsborough. The person who offered me the job said: 'I never thought of that.' But I can never be in the stadium without thinking of all those people who died on the Leppings Lane terraces.