O'Neill pays tribute to supporters who 'never gave up'


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The Independent Football

Martin O'Neill has paid tribute to the Liverpool supporters who "never gave up" in their pursuit of the truth about the Hillsborough disaster and said he would have fought as they did.

Liverpool will play their first game since the Hillsborough Independent Panel's damning report at the Stadium of Light tomorrow against O'Neill's Sunderland, a report that condemned the actions of the emergency services in the 1989 tragedy in which 96 Liverpool supporters died.

"It's vindication for everyone at Liverpool," he said. "They pursued this for a long, long time and obviously they have been proved right.

"The fans never gave it up, and were thwarted at every single corner. It was great, really great. I'm sorry I don't have any other words to describe it other than vindication. They kept going because they believed they were right [on] what happened there and that there had been a cover-up.

"I would have kept fighting on if it was me. If the reports coming through blamed them for their own deaths, that was crazy. You would have fought on until the very end.

"It's fantastic news for the families of those people who were lost, but the sadness is still there. Those people would rather have their families around them."

O'Neill was starting his managerial career at Grantham 23 years ago when the tragedy unfolded that day. "I think young Gary Crosby was playing for Forest, I had picked him up and we sold him to Forest so I always had a big interest in his career," he recalled. "I was involved in the game at the time, well down the leagues. Coming home to hear of the tragedy which had unfolded at the time, I just remember that. It was almost unbelievable, you couldn't imagine it.

"I'm never sure it is a good time or a bad time to play Liverpool, but it will be a very emotional occasion with Liverpool fans coming in their droves."