Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hillsborough - 20 years on

As we approach the 20 year anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, club captain Steven Gerrard talks candidly about his memories of the time, the fight for justice and his own personal loss. You were only young at the time, but what do you remember about the events of April 15, 1989?

Steven Gerrard: I was still a baby. I was only nine years old at the time so I only have small memories from back then. But I've learned more about the actual events as I've got older.

Your own family has a personal connection to the tragedy. Tell us about that...

Well, I was really shocked and deeply saddened when I watched the scenes live. I was completely and utterly shocked, whilst wondering if there was anyone we knew personally at the game. It was exactly the same for every Liverpool fan at the time because I'm sure everyone was wondering if they knew anyone who was at the game too. I remember going to bed that night, lying there praying, and keeping my fingers crossed that it didn't get any worse than what we had already heard. Unfortunately for myself and my family we got the dreaded knock the next morning to say that a member of our family was at the game and had been tragically killed.

Is it true that in terms of Jon-Paul's memory, he has always motivated you to become a Liverpool player?

Yes definitely. Obviously it was a difficult time to know that one of your cousins had been at the game and had been tragically crushed. Seeing the reaction of his Mum, Dad and family helped drive me on to become the player I have developed into today.

In terms of the importance of Hillsborough to Liverpool Football Club, could you clarify just how central this event is in our history?

It is central and very important to this club. The 96 will never ever be forgotten, and nor will the people that got hurt. But it is important these people get remembered individually and not just as the number 96. This club has fought for justice ever since and will continue to do so. We have stuck together since that day, like we always do here, and that shows what kind of football club we are, sticking by each other when times are tough. We are not just about what happens on the pitch but we are all one off it as well.

That commitment to the cause was epitomised with the Kop mosaic, 'The Truth' before the Arsenal match a couple of years ago, wasn't it?

Yes, of course. You can always rely on our fans to give proper support when times are hard and it's the same with Hillsborough. Time has gone by, but the scars will never ever be healed and the fans will never ever forget. So you can always rely on our supporters to be there for you when you need them.

When foreign players arrive at the club, is it important they learn about the tragedy?

I think it was such a big tragedy that the majority of the players are already aware of the event. They have probably seen the scenes on the news as it would have gone out worldwide on the television at the time. Straight away you learn the values of the club and what it's all about; not just the good times but the bad times as well. So the players are brought up to speed about what happened at Hillsborough and they pay their respects every year like all the staff of Liverpool Football Club do. We go to the memorial service every year and thousands of people still turn out to this day, so it goes to show that the Liverpool supporters will never forget about it and neither will the players.

In terms of the annual memorial service, it is obviously very difficult, but also a very important day for yourself too...

Yes of course, even when I stop playing for the first team I will continue to go to the service and show my respects every year. I do see Jon-Paul's family there as well so it's nice to go and share the memorial service with them, as well as all the other families that are there showing their support.

This year the families of the Hillsborough disaster have been given the freedom of the city. What can you say about the way they have conducted themselves throughout this period?

It's unbelievable really. They have shown great dignity. I think they should be proud of themselves. I know how horrific it has been for them so I think they have conducted themselves very well and should be proud.

Finally, as captain of the club, is there any sort of message you can give out to the families and survivors of Hillsborough 20 years on?

Just to continue to conduct themselves the way they have done so far. They have behaved impeccably and the club are very proud of them and the way they have handled this tragedy. The players will continue to be a support for them, I can guarantee that.

*taken from

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