THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Wednesday 15 April ~

It is 20 years since the Hillsborough disaster. In WSC 28 (June 1989) Tom Bucke, who was at the game, recounted what he saw on the day

It's two o'clock on a Saturday afternoon and we along with 50 Liverpool supporters are sat on a piece of grass outside a large supermarket in Sheffield. As we drink our cans of beer, we watch the steady stream of fans moving down the road towards the stadium. Behind us a young Liverpudlian lad is practising his shooting skills, one empty beer can rattles off a low road sign and narrowly misses some fans near us.

In the morning, driving up from Leicester, we pass dozens of Forest fans, scarves out of the windows, inflatables in the back. In a traffic jam outside Sheffield, a supporter is waving a five-foot banana through his sunroof at someone further down the road. They return the wave using their inflatable trees. Near the ground the pubs are closed, but the off licences are open. One in particular is only allowing in fans two at a time in case they strip the place. The fan in front of me buys a can of beer and a small bottle of whisky. One to drink on the way to the ground, the other small enough to smuggle in.

We leave our spot on the grass and join the army of people moving towards the road towards Hillsborough. Walking against this tide are many fans looking for tickets. "You got any spares lads?" At the ground the accents change as we cross the main road and walk down the Forest end of the stadium. Everything is running smoothly here as Forest fans queue for, and pass through, the turnstiles. Having met a friend, Rogan Taylor, at reception we separate. I buy the programme and set off by myself down Parkside Road.

I reach Leppings Lane at the tail end of some trouble. Two mounted policemen are chasing a young fan around the crowded junction. One policeman manages to catch him and shouts angrily "Where are you from?" He shakes the man by the scruff of the neck and bellows "You're Liverpool aren't you?" A crowd begins to gather but I don't stay around. Must get to the ground, it's nearly three o'clock.

An entrance is packed with people. Groups of supporters are wandering around, confused. "Is this the entrance to the West Stand?" There doesn't appear to be any clear indication of what part of the stadium these turnstiles serve. I see six fans looking for the West Stand, deciding this isn't it and heading back up the Lane. Worse than this is the sheer volume of people trying to get into the ground. A thick metal wall separates the turnstiles that feed the terraces and those which serve the stand. The area on the terrace side is packed with fans and it looks like a mounted policeman is trapped in the middle. The fans sing and chant while the metal dividing wall takes a severe beating.

On the other side, there's more confusion as some turnstiles seem to feed the North Stand as well as the West one. Again, the turnstiles are badly marked. Eventually, I catch a glimpse of the one I require and join the swaying mass of people trying to get in. In the crowd, a fan is tightly clasping a ticket from a previous Liverpool game at Highbury. It's the right colour for these turnstiles. Meanwhile, the metal partitioning is being used by ticketless fans as a climbing frame for getting over the turnstiles. At the entrance, there's an old bloke who is looking a bit desperate. By pushing back, I make enough space for him to get in. I show my ticket and at last I am in the stadium. I eventually make it to my seat, a little shaken after a group of fans, inside the stadium but without tickets, attempt to gatecrash the seated area.

The game begins immediately and we watch a frenetic start, while below fans are soon climbing over the terrace fencing. To us, way up, it's obviously a pitch invasion. Some supporters give those on the pitch abuse for spoiling the match, while the majority ignore it and watch the players. With fans encroaching on to the pitch the game is soon halted and our impression of a pitch invasion vanishes as fans keel over and lay prone on the turf.

Yet, the real seriousness of what has happened only dawns when we see a middle-aged man, shirt around his neck, being given heart massage. After around ten minutes, efforts to revive him appear to end. Along the touchline there are other motionless bodies. Ambulances come, advertising boards are used as stretchers, the goal's netting is pulled down and a row of police officers is formed along the halfway line.

Everyone around me has been standing on their seats trying to see what's going on. A few, however, are sat down, heads in hands, crying. A middle-aged man in front of me hasn't been to a match for a long time. He's here with his eight-year-old son, who doesn't understand what's going on: "Dad, why are the firemen here?"

Eventually, the match is abandoned. Walking down Leppings Lane, conversations about what has happened are silenced by a fan venting his feelings on three policemen: "That's the fucking worst policing I've ever seen!" On a packed bus supposedly going to the town centre, three Forest fans make sick jokes about the afternoon's events. A group of Liverpool fans at the back decide to get off. "Bye bye, Scousers!" says someone, sarcastically. "We're gonna beat you at Old Trafford!" replies one Liverpudlian. The Forest fan in front of me gazes out of the window at the Yorkshire landscape. "God, I hate Scousers nearly as much as I hate this place."

Our bus hasn't moved for ages. We are only a hundred yards away from the stadium and caught up in an enormous traffic jam that stretches back to the city centre. I get off and join the thousands of supporters making the long walk away from Hillsborough, into town and past the phone boxes with their queues of fans ringing home.

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