I was living in Hillsborough at the time. Me and my housemate – Russell were walking from Sheffield to Hillsborough as it happened. As we walked closer to home, we started to come across masses of people walking in the opposite direction – away from the stadium. It was way too early for the match to have finished and so we were puzzled. And then we noticed that these people were crying. Everyone was crying.
Russell began to ask people what had happened and they told us. They said that people had died and they told him how many. As we walked closer and closer, the numbering of the dead kept rising and rising as we talked to more and more people. There was a very real sense that they were dying as we walked towards them.
Hillsborough Stadium is the home of Sheffield Wednesday – the team I have supported since I remember myself. The stadium is all seater now, but I know those terraces as they were. I know what it feels like to be crushed against those bars that separate the sections of the crowd. They were painted blue, about four inches thick, rounded, about chest height and deadly if you were caught against one at the wrong time.
When a goal is scored, and the crowd surges forward, a huge weight presses against your back pushing your chest against the hard metal. At that time, the entire weight of an enormous mass of people is focused on one small area of your chest and if you are caught unawares and are unable to get your hands on the bar and push back – it can be agony. Only the strong of stature stand by those bars – those that are able to hold their body back with the strength of their arms.
Like countless thousands of football fans in football stadiums up and down the country I have experienced the ground to be full, the terraces packed, and the goals flying in relentlessly – heedless of the tears of those trapped against those bars. What should be a celebration can turn into a very real cause of pain and suffering – as happened on the 15th of April 1989.