Hillsborough disaster anniversary: Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez among those at Anfield to pay tribute to the 96 who lost their lives

Merseyside was the focus as tributes were paid 25 years on from the disaster


Whatever the anniversary and however many the years, the small agonies of Hillsborough continue to reveal themselves. Even when the 96 were remembered under an azure blue sky in a city which feels that a reckoning is coming at last, the match report privately typed out by Victoria Hicks, the aspiring teenage journalist who never came home from South Yorkshire, was heart-breaking to read when first published on Tuesday.

“The Fulham team were totally humiliated by a fantastic Liverpool line-up and really, after a bright first few minutes, they were never really in the game,” Victoria wrote of Liverpool’s 10-0 win over Fulham in the Milk Cup on 23 September 1986. She was a 13-year-old, then. She was 15 when she died.

The wounds are still open for many and the genuine difficulty for the players, as they stepped off the coach at Anfield and into a crowd feeling title euphoria, was how to respond. There was a winsome smile from Steven Gerrard and a grimace from Luis Suarez, who received the loudest cheer, before they disappeared into the stadium.

Only when the afternoon was complete and the sun was beginning to disappear beyond the corrugated roof of the old Kop, did Margaret Aspinall, the Hillsborough Family Support Group leader, give voice to the fact that Liverpool can use the spirit of the campaign to drive their title ambitions.

“Stress is difficult. But stress is also good,” she said, slowly turning her gaze towards the players. “It makes you fight and I know that you are going to do that to get this championship.” And she won the loudest cheer in the house.


She was the one whose determination to involve the Labour MP for Leigh, Andy Burnham, in this commemoration service five years ago – which didn’t go down well with many at first – helped set about changing perceptions about Hillsborough irrevocably, as Burnham spearheaded the political fight for a re-examination of the tragedy. “I’m so glad I took that risk, Andy,” she told him at the service, though little did either of them imagine that the 25th anniversary service would take place amid such deference for the judicial system, because of the reopened inquests which Burnham’s work laid the path for.

Tuesday’s event, attended by 25,000 people, was staged amid a near obsessive concern about not affecting the course of justice – “ Ironic, that!” said Mrs Aspinall – though it helped that two of the great communicators in modern football management happened to be in attendance, as the men who stand at the helm of this city’s two great clubs.

The sharp, distinctive accents of Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers pierced the silence, with the Catalonian tones of Martinez destined to be remembered here for a very long time, as he drew Everton and Liverpool together in remembrance.

Martinez was a 15-year-old, just like Victoria Hicks, living and breathing football when – as he related at his press conference on Tuesday – his father told him what had happened, far away in England. “We could not believe or comprehend the horror of receiving the news their loved ones would not come home from a football match,” Martinez said. “How can anyone die watching the game they love? That isn’t right. That isn’t fair. To have to fight for the good names of the ones you love is appalling.”

It was a measure of the way the tragedy has forged bonds at Liverpool that Rodgers, of necessity more circumspect in his observations than Martinez, paid tribute to a man whose job he took, nearly two years ago. “We are privileged to follow in the footsteps of great men and those we aspire to emulate, though we know that is impossible. One of them is in front of us today,” he said. “It’s Kenny Dalglish.”

Roberto Martinez at the Hillsborough service Roberto Martinez at the Hillsborough service

The stadium was a microcosm of the wider world’s attempt to comprehend. Nearly 2,500 viewed a transmission of the service at Goodison. Messages to the lunchtime BBC Radio Merseyside programme, in which the broadcaster Roger Phillips has charted many post-Hillsborough years, came from Charlton and Port Vale fans.

But it was Anfield which remembered most acutely. The extraordinary precision of the service – the seven minutes it took to read the names of the 96 taking us precisely to a verse of Abide With Me and then a minute’s silence – revealed a club which has been here, doing this, many times before.

There was not a deafening response from the crowd when led by a gospel choir in front of the penalty area where Raheem Sterling’s brilliance had given Liverpool a lead against Manchester City, 48 short hours earlier. Many instead preferred to sit in contemplation.

But after the elegies and the addresses were done and You’ll Never Walk Alone was sung, they chanted “Liverpool” with all their might. “My mum told me to wish you all the best for the title,” Burnham told them. “She told me to say how fitting it would be if you won it in this of all years.”

Suggested Topics
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments