'The wives saw bodies piled up'

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The enormity of Heysel hit me like a train after the game. Dejection over losing the European Cup final to Juventus quickly gave way to disbelief when I learned that 39 people had died. I walked with my Liverpool team-mates to where the wall had crumbled and the Italian fans were crushed. The remnants of people's lives - handbags and shoes, scarves and spectacles - were strewn among the rubble.

The enormity of Heysel hit me like a train after the game. Dejection over losing the European Cup final to Juventus quickly gave way to disbelief when I learned that 39 people had died. I walked with my Liverpool team-mates to where the wall had crumbled and the Italian fans were crushed. The remnants of people's lives - handbags and shoes, scarves and spectacles - were strewn among the rubble.

Win, lose or draw, we usually had a party after a big game. But the atmosphere at our base in Brussels was very sombre. We swapped stories and several of the wives and girlfriends were distressed because they had actually seen the bodies being piled up under the stand. Paul Walsh's partner, Melissa Berry, had been manhandled by an agitated Italian. The players all felt numb. We just wanted to get home.

The pre-match mood couldn't have been more marked. Liverpool had missed out on the League and FA Cup, so the season rested on this match. It was the biggest game of my life, only my 15th in the first team. I was the baby of the side, just 21, a left-back not long out of Shamrock Rovers in Dublin, and as excited as I was nervous.

When we were on the coach to the ground, the rival supporters appeared to be mixing well. After we arrived at Heysel there was a kids' game on the pitch, so we strolled over to the terrace where many of our fans were massed. A plastic ball was thrown from the crowd; Sammy Lee and Bruce Grobbelaar volleyed it back. The atmosphere was positive.

Our crowd were separated from the Juventus fans by some flimsy fencing. As we passed the Italians we had bits of bricks hurled at us. But we were able to step out of the way and they landed harmlessly on the track. We laughed it off.

We started to hear that there was serious violence as we were putting the finishing touches to our preparations in the changing-room. I was eventually told there might be three deaths, but not until just before we finally went out. During the delay, which lasted for an hour and a half, the coaching staff were telling us to relax and start our whole routine again in order to be ready for a rescheduled kick-off time.

Kenny Dalglish apparently had a sleep. Craig Johnston was going to be on the bench and he kept slipping out to see the trouble. I was young and apprehensive; I didn't want to let anybody down, so I wanted no distractions. I knew something bad was going on but had no idea of the scale. We were being told to stay focused. It's possible the management and my more experienced colleagues shielded me from things.

On a recent TV documentary we've all said we thought the final shouldn't have gone ahead, but I can understand why Uefa and the police said we should play. Worse trouble could have ensued.

Some of the lads have also said they felt low-key during the match. They must have been more aware of what had happened. I saw a Liverpool side striving to win. Everybody. We didn't know any other way to play. In the event, Juventus scored from a penalty that should never have been given and Ronnie Whelan was refused a certain penalty. I feel politics was in play by then. We were probably never going to win that game.

Yet when we heard so many lives were lost, no one cared about the result. We were in confusion and shock. I felt for Joe Fagan, our manager. Word had gone round that he was stepping down and Kenny Dalglish might be taking over. What a terrible way to go. He handed us our runners-up medals and said: "It's not 'boss' any more, it's Joe."

For some reason, he then grabbed me and took me in to address the world's media. All the questions were fired at Joe. I sat there wondering what I was doing. Little did I know that my third European game for Liverpool would be my last because of the ban on English clubs that followed and my premature retirement due to injury.

Next morning, we were leaving our hotel when some Juventus fans passed. One went ballistic and was banging on the side of the bus. He was restrained, but it showed the emotions that had been unleashed.

Back home, I'd set my video for the great occasion. The tape ran out before the game ended. Graeme Souness and Terry Venables did a little analysis before it was off to the BBC newsroom, There was a warning about "disturbing images" from Brussels. I sat there in silence, aghast.

Jim Beglin made 98 appearances for Liverpool between 1984 and 1987 and now works as a match summariser for ITV, the Irish channel RTE and Radio Five Live.

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