To be clear. I do not support Liverpool Football Club. I am old enough to remember them in the old Second Division. They got promoted around 1962 and were an instant “hit”, bringing a breath of what they believed was fresh air to the First Division. In part it was due to the rise of Liverpool …the city…as a cultural icon….The Beatles, Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Jimmy Tarbuck.
In part it was due to the charismatic personality of their manager, Bill Shankly. He had a way with one-liners….going back to the times when the Liverpool directors went to lowly Huddersfield Town to offer him the “best job in football”. Shankly simply replied “has Matt Busby resigned from Manchester United?”
The Media was kind to Liverpool FC. Their fans swayed (in black and white) on the Kop terracing singing “She Loves You , Yeah Yeah Yeah” and later “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, made famous in the 1960s by Gerry and the Pacemakers but actually the anthem of another club (was it Birmingham City?).
At a time of football hooliganism being rampant, Liverpool FC styled themselves and sang “the best behaved supporters in the world”. True enough…but my sister a young fan saw a fan of Crystal Palace beaten up outside Anfield. It sickened her…the language the fans used was racially abusive.
Of course the cities of Liverpool and Manchester have long standing rivalries that go beyond Football. And for visits to and from Manchester United, Liverpool fans had an unpleasant song about the Munich Air Crash in 1958. A certain irony in that because on the day of the disaster only two clubs telephoned Old Trafford offering help….Nottingham Forest and Liverpool. Shamefully, in recent years Manchester United fans have found a response in the “Hillsborough Song”.
And on the football field rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United continued. In the 1960s United had the best of it. Then Manchester United went from 1967 to 1993 without winning the Championship and ironically Liverpool have now equalled that losing streak (1990-2016 at least).
I like the city of Manchester. I like the city of Liverpool. Two decent places. At times the whole Liverpool “fab”, “gear”, chirpy Scouser self-image irritates me. And there is a darker side…the Heysel Stadium in Brussels where in a match between Liverpool and Juventus, around thirty Juventus fans died as a consequence of hooliganism. Liverpool fans aided by the media absolved themselves of any blame. Curiously the Heysel Tragedy has been deleted from Liverpool and British memory. The thirty dead were…after all….foreigners.
That was just two years before Hillsborough in 1989….ninety six Liverpool fans died. To those of us who watched it unfold on TV, it was unforgettable. Was it crushing? Hooliganism? As Saturday became Sunday, the official briefing blamed Liverpool fans and a compliant media spread the lie.
To those of us who live in Norn Iron, it is a familiar enough lie. It took decades for the Bloody Sunday and McGurks Bar families to get a form of Justice and the Ballymurphy families still wait.
Let us be clear. The Truth about Hillsborough has been known for decades. Today’s inquest verdict that the fans were “unlawfully killed” merely makes it official. While the tenacity of the bereaved families is to be applauded and the media will happily go with the new narrative….police, successive governments and the media need to be criticised.
The Sun…the newspaper who most enthusiastically went with the hooligan narrative is repulsive. They published lies…that the wallets of the dead and dying were stolen by other Liverpool fans. They will seek to portray themselves as fellow victims…that they dutifully believed the police briefings at the time.
Yet Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. We should not kid ourselves that the unlawful killing verdict will lead to prosecutions. And if elderly people are actually prosecuted, then it is almost impossible to get a conviction…nobody will go to prison.
This is how the Establishment works.