Hillsborough 25th anniversary: Brian Laws feels 'we should never forget' tragedy

Laws played for Nottingham Forest on the day of the tragedy and admits for everyone involved that the disaster has 'burned in the memory'

A quarter of a century may have passed but the harrowing memories of Hillsborough on April 15, 1989, will never fade for those who were there.

Brian Laws was on the pitch as the horror of Britain's worst sporting disaster started to unfold.

Just a few minutes of the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Laws' Nottingham Forest had been played when fans began to spill out of the Leppings Lane End.

The players were taken from the field amid chaos and confusion but what occurred, as the scale of tragedy which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool supporters became apparent, is forever etched into Laws' consciousness.

"I think for everybody that was involved that day it is burned in the memory," said 52-year-old Laws, the former Sheffield Wednesday manager who was Forest's right-back that day.

"You just can't forget it. It is something that is embedded there, it is very strong. From the day it happened to now, it is clear, it is one of those moments in life that you just never, ever forget and you can't forget.

"We shouldn't forget it either. Being part of that is something that will be with me for the rest of my life."

Laws, like most of the players, had little idea why so many fans had come onto the pitch at the point when referee Ray Lewis halted play and took the teams back to the dressing room.

He said: "As footballers you are very focused on the pitch and the noise level on the day was extremely high.

"I remember vividly what I thought at the time was an invasion of supporters coming over from the Leppings Lane End, which I was about 10 yards from when we had a throw-in.

"I was going to throw the ball in and I remember a couple of Liverpool fans running across the pitch screaming.

"At the time I think we all thought it was just a hooligan element trying to destroy or upset a game.

"But it wasn't just them, there were then four or five, then it became 10, 20 and then all of a sudden the referee pulled us all to the centre circle to make a decision on what he wanted to do.

"The Leppings Lane End was so deep, you couldn't really see anything. All you could see was a mass of bodies. We gathered round and he made a decision to pull us off the pitch.

"Everything else then started to unfold. We had no thought that anyone might have lost their life.

"People were just screaming. They were just trying to get away from the area more than anything else and it actually must have been the most terrifying thing for those supporters.

"We went into the dressing room and were told there would be a delay until a restart.

"That was the thought process until the superintendent came in and told us there had been a fatality and we would have to delay a bit longer.

"I remember (Forest manager) Brian Clough saying then if there was a fatality we were not going back and might as well get changed.

"We didn't realise what was going on. Someone then said there were three dead, then five. Then it was double figures.

"Even then, immediate thoughts were someone going round stabbing people because of the amount of people."

The match was formally abandoned at 4.10pm, 70 minutes after the game had kicked off.

Laws said: "Thoughts went to your family. I had my wife and my children there.

"With no idea where it was happening, the thought process was to panic.

"We didn't have mobiles or any other communications.

"We went down the tunnel and it was just bedlam. Then we went out and it was just deadly silent. It was just everyone in shock at what was unfolding. It was as if everything was in slow motion.

"My family and my wife at the time witnessed children being carried on hoardings.

"Then she remembers, vividly, watching someone pass away, with nothing she could do.

"It was horrendous for everyone unfolding and it was just utter shock."

It is on that personal level that Hillsborough continues to affect so many people in their daily lives.

Laws said: "Every anniversary I do sit and think and talk about it.

"Sometimes you do forget things but I think everyone would say the same thing, they still remember this so clearly.

"It is not something that is easy to deal with and I am sure there have been many that have suffered through it.

"It is embedded in my memory and I will never, ever forget it. It will never go away."

PA

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