A look back at Hillsborough

A look at how one of the most haunting episodes in football history, the Hillsborough Disaster unfolded and what was said in the aftermath.

Football News: Hillsborough Disaster

The families of 96 people killed in the Hillsborough tragedy saw thousands of official documents relating to the disaster for the first time on Wednesday.

On April 15, 1989, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives having gone to watch their side contest an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

Here's an outline on how the events unfolded on that fateful Saturday and what those involved in the game had to say in the aftermath.

Hillsborough: As it unfolded

- For the second successive year, Liverpool were drawn to play Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final. For the second successive year, Hillsborough was chosen as the neutral venue. For the second successive year, Liverpool were allocated the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

- On a bright sunny day, fans began arriving at the ground early. By 2pm the numbers had increased substantially.

- With many coaches arriving later than planned due to road works, the sheer scale of supporters still outside the stadium at 2.30pm was more than normal. Police continued with their routine searches of all spectators despite the growing numbers.

- It is estimated 10,000 supporters are required to pass through one of seven turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end.

- The bottleneck started to cause major problems outside the stadium with the fear rising that the safety of supporters caught in the middle was at risk.

- A request to delay the kick-off to ease the growing congestion was rejected.

- A first request to open the exit gates was also rejected on the grounds of safety.

- More fans arrived outside the Leppings Lane entry as the situation starts to escalate out of control.

- A second request to open the exit gates was made, this time from Superintendent Marshall, commander outside the stadium, to Chief Superintendent Duckenfield, who was in overall control.

- In his own words, Duckenfield 'freezes' before ordering the gates to be opened.

- Supporters poured through the exit gates. With no direction from either police or stadium officials, most headed straight towards a tunnel which gave access to pens 3 and 4, which were already seriously overcrowded as the match itself began, players of both teams oblivious to the escalating problems.

- Unaware of the gravity of the situation and believing a pitch invasion was taking place, some police officers attempted to prevent supporters climbing out of the pens.

- However, other officers could see the disaster that was beginning to unfold and tried to help supporters escape the crush. At 3.06pm, the game was halted and the teams are taken off the field.

- Slowly, bodies of dead supporters began to be carried onto the pitch. Advertising hoardings were ripped up and used as makeshift stretchers.

- All but one of the 44 ambulances around the stadium were denied entry to the pitch. The one that did make it turned back when confronted with the sheer scale of the disaster.

- In total 96 supporters died, the vast majority crushed at the front of pen 3. In addition, 730 were injured inside the ground and a further 36 outside.

Hillsborough: What they said

In the aftermath, a number of players commented and recalled the incident and tried to comfort those involved in the tragedy.

Former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar: "Two or three shots went in. One shot went over the bar. I went to pick up the ball. All they said was, 'They're killing us, Bruce, they're killing us'. And I thought, 'Who'? I took the kick and kicked it away. Voices through the fence. I looked round, and I could see the fright on the people's faces through the fence, and I said to the policeman: 'Is there any chance that you can open the gate here?' Then a shot went past, and the ball was away in the corner. I went to retrieve it, and I said to the policewoman - I thought it was a policeman - 'Get the effing gate open. Can't you see that they need it'? And there were screams coming at the time. I kicked the ball upfield, and I went back and said, 'Get the ******* gate open'. I turned back and the ball went out of play on the left, and that's when I shouted to the referee. The policeman came on to the field, and the game stopped.''

John Barnes: "People wept all the way home. All the wives were crying. I was crying. Kenny was crying. Bruce said he was considering quitting. Although I never thought about giving up football despite being filled with guilt afterwards, I understood what Bruce meant. Those Liverpool fans went to Hillsborough to watch us and there we were, stepping on to a luxury coach to go home, and they were being laid out in a temporary morgue. As we travelled back across the Pennines, their mums and dads were making the reverse journey to come and identify their children's bodies. Guilt swirled around my head. Had I been out on the pitch, and not back in the dressing-room, I would have helped. I know I would have done.''


Manager Kenny Dalglish: "I don't know how many funerals I went to. Marina and I went to four in one day. We got a police escort between them. All the funerals were harrowing. All those families mourning the loss of their loved ones. Most of the church services finished with 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. I couldn't sing through any of the songs or hymns. I was too choked up. The words would never come out. I just stood there in a daze, still trying to come to terms with what had befallen the club and the people I so admired... The last funeral I went to was as harrowing as the first. I didn't get used to the grieving. Every funeral devastated me, as another family bade farewell to somebody they loved and shared life with.''

Alan Hansen: "I think the catastrophe did not register with me until we went to Anfield the following day, and walked across the pitch to the countless flowers that were being put down at the Kop end. Those floral tributes remain my most vivid memory of Hillsborough. It was Hillsborough that brought home to me the effect that football can have on people's lives.''

Nottingham Forest captain Stuart Pearce: "It was only when I watched it on television that I saw what had been going on while we had been in the dressing-room as bodies were carried away on makeshift stretchers and placed side by side in the club gymnasium. It was surreal, like watching an earthquake in Russia. Was I there? It didn't feel as though I had been there at all because I didn't see any of it. I felt strangely detached from it all, even then. It was as though I was watching something that had nothing to do with me. I had seen none of this.''

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard: "Tears, anger and confusion tore through all of us. We hadn't known Jon-Paul was at the game. He went to Anfield all the time, but an FA Cup semi-final was a special treat. Granddad explained. Jon-Paul's mum, Jackie, had somehow managed to get a ticket. She knew how much it meant to Jon-Paul to see his heroes in such an important match. It was only in Sheffield, barely seventy miles away. And he wanted to go. A friend of the family took Jon-Paul. They set off from Liverpool that Saturday morning, all buzzing with excitement, but Jon-Paul never returned. Never returned from the match. Those words will haunt me forever. Hillsborough must never be allowed to happen again. No-one should lose a life or a relative at a football match. Every time I see Jon-Paul's name cut into the cold marble outside the Shankly Gates, I fill with sadness and anger. I have never let anyone know this before, but it's true: I play for Jon-Paul.''

Ian Rush: "If such horror can ever produce a hero, that man has to be Kenny Dalglish. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that he took the grief of 50,000 people on his shoulders. He took responsibility for organising everything the club could do to help people through the ordeal. He accepted all the pressures of the world's media, to keep it from the players. He attended virtually every sad event, after spending countless hours every day at the ground, meeting bereaved families and even having to comfort some of the players, who had become close to breaking point amid all the despair around them.''

John Aldridge: "If I hadn't become a footballer it is almost certain I would have been in the middle of the Leppings Lane terrace at Hillsborough on Saturday, 15 April 1989. In the days when I was a fan I would never have considered missing an FA Cup semi-final involving Liverpool so I have to assume I would have travelled with everyone else to Sheffield for the game against Nottingham Forest. But fate decreed that John Aldridge be elsewhere that day. I was not on the Leppings Lane terrace, I was on the Hillsborough playing field, oblivious to what was going on among the Liverpool contingent.

"When the full extent of the disaster that eventually claimed the lives of 96 people unfolded, my emotions were of great sadness for the victims whose only mistake was choosing the wrong day to watch a football match; a football match in which I was playing. Yes, time does heal, but if I am still alive on 15 April 2039, the 50th anniversary of Hillsborough, I will shed tears. That is because I shed tears every year on 15 April. Not out of ritual. Not out of obligation. Not out of duty. But out of a deep sense of grief for the lost and a genuine feeling for the loved ones they left behind."



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