Thursday, 1 October 2009


I was at Anfield on Saturday for Liverpool's Premier League match with Hull. It struck me that Liverpool and their fans have done a wonderful and dignified job of keeping alive the memory of the 96 supporters who died at Hillsborough. It is over 20 years since that disaster and the promises made at the time have been kept to the letter. Before the game on Saturday George Sefton, the club's long-serving announcer with that wonderful, gravelly bass voice, played a recording of the unofficial Anfield anthem "Fields of Anny Road" which includes a verse dedicated to the Hillsborough victims and the ongoing fight for justice. Outside the Shankly Gates the floral tributes at the Hillsborough Memorial were as fresh and plentiful as ever. No pathetic plastic wrappers which tend to be all that's left by roadside crash scenes after the first few weeks, these tributes are constantly refreshed. The vast majority of the students who've just enrolled on my university course were not even born when Hillsborough happened but the fierce commitment of Liverpool supporters means that their generation is fully aware of what took place and why it matters.

Football as a culture is very good at protecting and honouring its own, in a positive way. Liverpool fans have been just as consistent in their support of Michael Shields. Their campaign, in which the club itself played no small part, prevented the Shields case from falling off the agenda, much as Jack Straw might have wished otherwise.

It's not just Liverpool. I found the tribute to Sir Bobby Robson at the Ipswich v Newcastle match moving and memorable. Laura Wright sang My Way beautifully and the way the crowd joined in made an even more special moment.

Fans and clubs spend a lot of time at each other's throats, but when they all sing from the same hymn sheet they can create a very potent force.

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