Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Rafa: I Believed...

When Rafa came to LFC, pre Twitter days for me, and perhaps even for Twitter, my mantra was "Believe!"

I always did believe, and I got that he was fighting the demons from within the club when things started to go a little pear-shaped! (Not Spanish waiter shaped)

Rafa was a successful Liverpool manager and not just because of 2005. He stood up to the cowboys who were destroying our club, to Ferguson and to the FA. He was his own man.

He was a successful Liverpool Manager because he reorganised the Academy and we are reaping the rewards for what he did then right now as we have youth coming through with the kwality to "make it" for the first time for many years.

He was a successful Liverpool Manager because he took our city to his heart and has made it his home. (Yes he lives on the Wirral but that was where the milkman lived!)

He was a successful Liverpool Manager because HE believed in justice for the 96. He's backed that with donations (easy given his earnings you may say - but he didn't have to) but more to the point he backed it with real and personal support to the families.

Rafa was a successful Liverpool Manager at probably the most difficult time in our history. My hero Bill Shankly brought us up from division 2 and built us from nothing into the force that let Bob Paisley & co take us to the pinnacle of club football. Shanks did that with the full backing of a board as committed as him to making LFC the best. Rafa's reign was at a time when the board were committed to draining the life blood out of our great club.

Rafa always did his best for our club. He may have made mistakes, he sold Xavi Alonso after the midfielder had a season playing top class football. (The season before his football was not top class to say the least - and that was when the sale was planned.)

Not every Liverpool fan feels as I do toward Rafa, many do, many don't. It's a game of opinions. Some of you wanted Martin O'Neill - see what I mean?

Rafa's now managing Chelsea, I wish him well. I hope he smacks Manc arses every time they meet.

I think for now though my belief has shifted, it has to. My belief is now with Brendan Rodgers and a squad that needs additions but is looking good for the future thanks partly to Rafa.

So good luck Rafa us Reds will be keeping a watchful eye on you but we will concentrate on OUR team.

We are LFC and no one knows that more than the current Chelsea manager.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Let’s Make the Banter Fun - It's time to move on

As the rivalry reignites for tomorrows Liverpool v Manchester United game let’s make sure that the banter is just that, witty banter.

Supporters from both teams have over the last few years taken the banter to an unacceptable level.  It’s often written that it is only the minority that engage in the vile abusive chants about the Munich Air and Hillsborough Disasters. I’m not so sure that that has been the case but nonetheless even if it is the smallest minority it is intolerable.

In all the years we have spent in Europe – it could easily have been a plane full of Liverpool FC players and staff  in a Munich like disaster.  Likewise in the years of success that Manchester United have had in the FA Cup it could have easily been their fans not ours at Hillsborough.

Both clubs supported each other unstintingly at the time of the disasters and the same has been true of Manchester United since the release last week of the Hillsborough report with Sir Alex Ferguson's letter to fans including:

"Our great club stands with our great neighbours Liverpool today to remember that loss and pay tribute to their campaign for justice. I know I can count on you to stand with us in the best traditions of the best fans in the game.”  

Let’s respect the two clubs but most of all show respect to the dead and the relatives of those taken in two disasters.  It’s time to move on.

As for the game, let the banter begin.  I hope that Manchester United turn up in that grey “stealth” kit!

Can you see it?

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Truth - Time for me to move on?

In April 2010, 21 years after Hillsborough, I wrote a short account about my day, "Hillsborough, Still Hurting After All These Years".  It was one of the hardest things I had ever done as I wrote and deleted paragraphs containing some of my more graphic memories.

Nonetheless, writing and publishing an abridged version of what happened to me that day was in many ways therapeutic. Having published it I felt some relief in getting it off my chest (that old cliché) and then came the feedback, feedback from every corner of the world, showing support, understanding and anger at what me and many other went through that day, a day of course resulting in the needless deaths of 96 fellow football fans.

I think that with the coverage of that fateful day over the last week or so that many of the gaps in my account can now be filled by the reader.  Some things however are still within me, eating at me, torturing me.  I know full well that the feelings of guilt and “whether I could have done more” are futile but that doesn’t prevent them from being there.

I have a haunting image that lives with me day in day and out and has done since 15 April 1989.  I had made myself safe, helped many people over the railings into the safety of the side pen, comforted a couple of young lads who were upset and bewildered.  But standing there, watching the chaos on the pitch, I could see a young man lying with his back to me not moving.  His trousers were down to his knees and he had clearly filled his boxer shorts.  I was as sure as you could be from that distance that he was dead, but I wanted to go and cover him, give him some dignity. I didn’t.

In all the mayhem, I still had respect for authority and so when there were announcements asking fans to stay on the terrace I abided by them.  I wish to fuck that I hadn’t.

So here we are in September 2012 and the Truth is finally, conclusively out there (again), and now it is time for those responsible for what happened to take the consequences for their criminal acts.  The Football Association for allocating the ground, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club operating unlawfully with no safety certificate, the police for their woeful policing on the day and the corruption and cover up that has followed. 

The FA and Police Chief Sir Norman Bettison have both showed a total lack of respect and dignity in their press statements this week even after the release of the report.  I think the lies and cover up have been repeated that much that the perpetrators’ of the fabrication now have difficulty in working out which version of “The Truth” that they are running with.

Well I have news for them. It is not over and they will face the consequences of their actions.  After campaigning for 23 years alongside the families of the 96, the survivors, LFC fans worldwide, the people of Liverpool and possibly every other City & Town on the planet we will not go away.  We are here awaiting Justice and if we don’t see it coming we will press on until it arrives.

As for Kelvin MacKenzie and that rag that has the cheek to call itself a newspaper – no apology will ever suffice for the damage you did nor will it ever be accepted.  Both should quickly vanish off the face of the earth.

After the publication of the report on Wednesday I felt overwhelmed and an uneasy and strange emptiness. Then the anger came back. This was totally avoidable I knew it then and everyone knows it now.

I don’t think that I’ll ever fully move on from that day.  It has affected my life everyday since. Perhaps my wife and family are best placed to describe the changes in me; we are still together unlike many others affected that day.  In the same way, I am still here unlike the unfortunate ones who could not live with the burden of surviving.  Again a futile thing but not something that can easily by controlled when you are physically and emotionally affected by the events.

Perhaps I’ll quieten down and speak and post less about Hillsborough on Twitter and Facebook, but it is a fact of my life.  Moving on from it is not an option as it is a part of me and something that I will continue to live with.

Justice for The 96


My sincere hope now is that everything is put in place to quickly secure new inquests and the families of the 96 can finally lay their loved to rest in peace and that Justice is seen to be done.