Alan Hansen was making his first start for nine months when Liverpool took on Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough. Here he recalls the tragic events that unfolded 20 years ago today.

Alan Hansen on Hillsborough

The 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough against Nottingham Forest was my first game of the season.

I'd been out for nine months after suffering a knee injury in pre-season and had played no part in the campaign whatsoever.

Once or twice it looked like it might be all over for me. Because of my age, the knee was taking longer to heal.

After another operation it suddenly started to get better, I was training again and I played in a reserve game on the Tuesday or Wednesday night.

I got through that and Kenny took me to Hillsborough but I never, ever thought that at any stage I would be taking part in the game. Then Barry Venison got a virus late on the Friday night.

Kenny told me I was down to play a couple of hours before kick-off and that was traumatic for me before everything else started.

It was the semi-final of the FA Cup, which was such a massive game at the time, and I really didn't think I was ready to play.

We started the game and it was just like any other semi-final.

The tension levels were higher than in any other game you play because at that time the semi-final of the FA Cup was so big because of what was at stake for the winners and losers.

If you won you got to play at Wembley and we'd been there the year before and been massively disappointing against Wimbledon so we were looking to set the record straight.

We were all looking forward to the game from that aspect and the Liverpool supporters had travelled down the M62 in numbers, as they always would do.

Six minutes into the match it all went pear-shaped.

I saw the first two guys who got onto the pitch and I told them to "get off – you're going to get us into trouble." One of them shouted back to me: "Al, people are dying in there."

Then the referee got us off the pitch and we were back in the dressing room hearing stories that there had been fatalities. It was surreal. We could not believe what was happening.

It never really sunk in until we went upstairs and saw what was happening on television. Our wives and girlfriends were in tears and that's when we realised the magnitude of the disaster that was happening in front of our eyes.

Without a shadow of a doubt it was the worst time of my career.

You can't compare the aftermath to anything in football. It was totally different to anything else.

Nothing you had ever seen or done in your life could prepare you for the next 10 days, two weeks and even after that.

When the families came to Anfield it was like in the end they were counselling us.

Everyone was in tears every day and that was hard but it was nothing compared to when we started going to the funerals.

I naively thought that once I'd done four or five funerals it might get easier but it got worse. It was so tragic, every single one, and all of them had 'You'll Never Walk Alone' played at the end.

When I start talking about it the memories come flooding back and what a difficult time it was for everybody.

For us, as players, it was difficult but for those who had lost mothers, fathers, brothers, sons, whoever…their lives had ended. I just felt so sorry for every single one of them.

Our first game after Hillsborough was a friendly at Celtic 15 days later and in actual fact the easiest part about it for us was playing again.

When you are out there on the pitch, and when you are going for the league and cup double, you tend to find that whatever personal problems and worries you’ve got disappear.

You focus on the game and so playing was the easy part. It basically took our minds off what had happened and anything that did that was respite.

The whole thing was still with us. The memories, the bereaved families faces – it was just horrific so playing again was the easy part.

I also have to say that Kenny was absolutely fantastic after Hillsborough.

Somebody had to lead from the front and it was Kenny and Marina who did it.

Kenny had to organise everything and he stood up at time when Liverpool needed him to and was counted.

He took the respects and wishes of the families on board, he was in the players lounge at Anfield every day and continued to manage the football club at the same time.

To do that speaks volumes for him. To go in every day and give counselling was hard enough but to organise other stuff and focus on managing the club as well was incredible.

Everybody knew it was leadership of the highest quality. You don't get better leadership than that.

The aftermath of Hillsborough strengthened the bond between the players and fans.

There is something special about Liverpool and its supporters anyway. Even though Liverpool haven't won the old Championship or the Premier League since 1990 the support has remained phenomenal.

It goes back to the 1960s, and even before that, but largely because of what Bill Shankly created.

Shankly set everything on its way. It was the bond between him and the fans that set us apart from everybody else.

People can talk about this, that and the next thing but Liverpool and its supporters have got a bond and a unity that is different to any other football club. Long may it continue.

I think Hillsborough strengthened everything in the Liverpool community.

The way the supporters, the players, the manager, everybody reacted was fantastic.

I honestly don't think any other community would have been as good in such tragic circumstances as Liverpool and its supporters were.

Alan Hansen on Hillsborough

Alan Hansen was talking to LFC Magazine.