Twenty years ago today Ian Rush was named as a substitute for Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final clash with Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough. Here he pays his tribute to the 96.

 

Ian Rush on Hillsborough

 

People often ask me if I think about the 96 supporters who lost their lives that day and I can assure you it is something that never goes away.

I'll never forget what happened.

You have to move on with the times because that's how the world works but it's always there in the back of your mind.

We have to make sure we learn from it and ensure something like that never happens again.

The main thing is that we do remember these people. They were all Liverpool supporters who went to a match hoping to see their team win, but they never came home. They were all innocent victims. It wasn't their fault.

Hopefully one day we will have justice.

Every year our thoughts go out to the families and it's the same this year, just like it will be next year and in 20 years time.

It may well have been 20 years but the pain is still there. Even now I find it difficult to think about what happened that day.

I remember sitting on the bench and watching the start of the match, but my eyes kept coming back to the Leppings Lane terrace.

It seemed rather congested and I started wondering if everything was okay, particularly when Peter Beardsley hit the crossbar and there seemed to be very little reaction from our fans.

What followed was a complete nightmare. A fan was on the pitch pleading with John Aldridge and then a policeman began to approach the referee Ray Lewis.

The players began to run off the pitch and chaos ensued. We were trying to stay focused in the dressing room and the referee told us we'd be back on in five minutes.

But we all knew something wasn't right and when Kenny appeared he looked extremely concerned.

I then heard a voice shouting 'People are dying' before the referee appeared to say it was abandoned.

The days, weeks and months that followed were sad and traumatic.

It was an emotional time for the whole of Merseyside. We were all plunged into mourning and many are still mourning to this day.

We all tried to support one another; attending funerals, talking to families of those that had passed away and spending many hours just listening.

At the time there was much debate as to whether the FA Cup should continue or be abandoned that season.

It was a difficult decision, but ultimately it was decided we would play on.

When we did return to action we knew, as players, that we had to win the FA Cup for the ones who had died. That would be our tribute to them.

We managed to overcome Nottingham Forest in the semi-final to set up an all-Merseyside affair with Everton.

It was a fantastic game that we edged 3-2 after extra-time. The fact it came so soon after Hillsborough made it a fitting cup final.

 

One thing that stands out for me, was when we walked out on to the pitch. We didn't know which was the Liverpool end and which was the Everton end because it was red and blue all round. Everyone was singing 'Merseyside' and that was one of the best feelings that I've ever had.

I wasn't fully fit for the match but Kenny had named me as a substitute because of my record against them.

It was such an emotional occasion that the adrenalin got me through it when I came on.

I scored two goals in extra-time to help us lift the cup, but the joy I felt was touched with a huge sadness.

 

As I say it was a very emotional time and it hasn't got any easier 20 years on. The passing of the 96 touched so many associated with the club and we have to make sure they are never, ever forgotten.

 

Ian Rush on Hillsborough

 

 

Get the latest LFC news direct to your smart speaker
Never miss a beat Google Amazon
Crest

HILLSBOROUGH: Dead - because they didn't count