Brendan Rodgers: The Hillsborough families are inspirational, says Liverpool manager on 25th anniversary of disaster

Dalglish has written to all 92 Football League clubs asking for donations to a display of what will be thousands of scarves, laid out on the Anfield turf in the shape of the number 96

Football Correspondent

If there was any awkwardness in creating a circularity between Liverpool’s restoration to the top of English football and the breakthrough in the search for an understanding of the club’s darkest day, Brendan Rodgers yesterday found a way of overcoming it.

The Liverpool manager, whose success has partially been built upon the relentless attempt to achieve through endeavour what other clubs may solve with money, declared ahead of Tuesday’s deeply resonant 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster that the relentless work ethic of those who have campaigned for the 96 – their refusal to yield – was a personal inspiration.

“To see the fight from the families…” said Rodgers, who will address the Hillsborough Memorial Service at Anfield. “It would have been so easy for people to give up, but the relentlessness of their campaign has continued and it provides such inspiration. For me, I see so much of life’s values and ethics in their work and again it is not something I shy away from. I embrace it because it is a life’s work what they are putting in. I would look at it not so much as a manager but as a person on what I can gain from that. It is a huge commitment from them to make their lives a little bit better.”

The search for an understanding of why the 96 died, which has involved the stories of their unfulfilled lives being explored in painfully fine detail at the reconstituted inquests in Warrington in the past few weeks, is one which has come to preoccupy and inspire many Liverpool managers. For Kenny Dalglish, it became a life’s work, after Anfield had thrown open its doors following the disaster, and the scenes around the stadium today will graphically recall that immediate aftermath, a quarter of a century ago.

Dalglish has written to all 92 Football League clubs asking for donations to a display of what will be thousands of scarves, laid out on the Anfield turf in the shape of the number 96. The campaign takes its inspiration from the one-mile chain of scarves between Goodison Park and Anfield, created a week after the disaster and started by the then Everton star Ian Snodin. The scarf Snodin tied to the gates of Goodison began a chain which expanded out of Bullens Road, over Walton Road, across Stanley Park and through the Bill Shankly Memorial Gates at Anfield to the Kop. Everton’s contribution to the acts of remembrance continues to grow, with the club planning their own permanent memorial at Goodison, where today’s service will be simultaneously broadcast.

Rafael Benitez was another Liverpool manager who became deeply associated with the campaign, making his own financial contribution. “You are always in my thoughts,” he said.

And, beyond the acts of remembrance, Liverpool’s players maintain the belief, instilled in them by Rodgers, that they can mark the anniversary year by reclaiming the title, which they last won in 1990.

Captain Steven Gerrard, whose 10-year-old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was the tragedy’s youngest victim, has declared in the aftermath of Sunday’s 3-2 win over Manchester City that the club’s next game, at Norwich on Sunday, would be viewed with the same intensity as the Champions League final against Milan, in 2005. 

“Norwich now become Man City. Norwich become Chelsea. Norwich become Manchester United,” said Gerrard, whose intensity and emotion as Liverpool seek to attain what had seemed unlikely in his footballing lifetime has taken some by surprise. “That’s how big it is. We have got to treat Norwich like we treated AC Milan in 2005. That’s just how football is. We can’t think about what colour shirts Norwich are wearing and the personnel in them. We have got to treat them like the best team in the world.”

Though football players and managers are usually disinclined to talk in superlatives, Gerrard made no pretence to hide that the win over City was the biggest league victory of his career. “Yeah. Absolutely. By far,” he said, admitting that handling the emotion of this near achievement was proving a challenge.

“It is a tough week, preparing for these matches,” he added. “There are long days going into them. Everyone knows personally how much I want it. I’ve just got to stay calm, relax and take it each game as it comes. I’m trying to do that but it’s difficult to control my emotions. I’m just trying to do different things. In my spare time, I’m not sitting around thinking about it. I’m watching the TV, spending time with my kids and my friends to take my mind off it. I want the games to come every day, not every week, but that is unfortunately the way it goes. I’d love to play the remaining four games in the next four days but it is not possible. I have to manage the time well and make sure that I’m not getting anxious and wasting unnecessary energy.”

The emotion of today will certainly build the collective spirit which seems to give Liverpool, with their run of 10 consecutive wins in the Premier League, a psychological edge. “Over the time I have been here, it becomes your life,” Rodgers said of the Hillsborough campaign. “So, to be asked to represent the families and victims of Hillsborough and to give a reading, I am very honoured and proud to do that. Hopefully, the reading will do them justice.”

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable