Most of us will easily recall where we were during major events that transpired during our lifetime. At the time of the Omagh bombing, I was out observing neighbouring farmers working at the harvest. As the horrors of 9/11 were unfolding, lunch was being had in a local hostelry. Now read on…
The day of the Hillsborough disaster saw these wheels parked in my father’s ancestral home watching on an old Bush black and white television. Admittedly, the magnitude of the tragedy went totally over my head. All that was known was that something very serious had occurred at a soccer match. Who was playing therein didn’t even register.
Liverpools FC’s, Steven Gerard
Being honest, it was only in the last couple of years as cases pertaining to what unfolded at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground began to go through the courts that it became easier to quantify the magnitude of the disaster. Perhaps it’s only from catching up with it so many years later, but, the over-riding and gut wrenching feeling is that it could and should have been avoided.
There are times when the actuality of what transpires in sport diminishes in relevance. Never has there been a greater or more poignant manifestation of such sentiments than on the occasion when Liverpool and Manchester City locked horns at Anfield. On another day, the fanfare that surrounded what was one of the best and most important soccer matches seen in a while would’ve been highly understandable and the story of the day.
Yet it all felt highly insignificant. This corner would be a great believer in destiny. And, without seeking to portray one’s self as a male incarnation of Mystic Meg, in the mind’s eye, what was – in all but name – a title decider couldn’t have panned out any better. Your columnist is not a Liverpool fan, but would love to see them attain ultimate honours.
For a multiplicity of reasons. Not least, because they have played the most attractive and entertaining football this season. Secondly because Steven Gerard is not only one of the best players to grace the Premiership, but also comes across as a genuinely good guy. Maybe the greatest tribute to the inspirational midfielder is that – akin to players like Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Jamie Carragher – he has shown unstinting loyalty to Liverpool in a manner that’s sadly lacking among many top footballers.
Superseding all of the above, though, is the feeling that there could be no more fitting or emotionally charged act of remembrance for those who went to a game and never came home than to capture silverware on the silver anniversary of the passing of 96 of their followers. It’s surely on the minds of all concerned.
No doubt it always has been and will be, but, surely never more so than on the day of the City match which was in the lead in to the actual anniversary on April 15th. Destiny oft has an almost knowing way of when to loom up. Thus, Raheem Sterling putting them up early on and Martin Skrtel adding a comforting cushion could be seen coming from afar. Things were never likely to be that straight forward, mind you, though instinct always suggested that on that day of all days Glenn Johnson wasn’t going to be left with the ignominy of his own goal depriving the occasion of a conclusion it was written in the stars to have.
Not so long ago, the point was made here that one of the pivotal reasons Liverpool have acquired a sustainability this season often adrift of them in the past has been the sheer excellence of their midfield. Fitting, then, that it was Philippe Coutinho that conjured a moment of Brazilian brilliance which won the day. And maybe much more besides.
In ways, mind you, the day revolved around Gerard. It’s in his guise that I can best at least attempt to get my head around the enormity of what unfolded that day in 1989. Solely because, for whatever reason, his cousin John Paul’s is the name that resonates most vividly in connection with Hillsborough.
If there was one utterly negative thing about the occasion, sadly that too, enveloped the Anfield club’s greatest leader. Through no fault of his own, it must hastily be added. Thoroughly aware of the foibles which can befall this trade, one would not be envious of those dispatched to interview players and managers in the aftermath of games.
Professionalism must abide be sensitivity. So, while TV3’s Trevor Welch giving Jose Mourinho a packet of biscuits may have taken cringe-worthy viewing to dizzying levels, it was still a whole lot better than the scandalous and wholly insensitive line of questioning fired at Gerard.
Geoff Shreeves is long enough at his job to know that the omerta of the dressing room is sacrosanct. At any time, that also extends to team huddles, but, for the reporter to ask Gerard what went was said therein on the day that was in ir was downright unprofessional and insensitive.
Of course, the Liverpool captain was right, it was none of the Sky man’s business. Expect Brendan Rodgers’s side to take care of business in the next few weeks. How poignantly fitting that would be.