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Day: April 14, 2009

Hillsborough – Twenty Years On

Where were you on April 15th 1989? I was at Clarence Park in St Albans, for a Vauxhall-Opel League Premier Division match between St Albans City and Barking. It was a beautiful spring day, but there was little excitement in the air. City were just safe from relegation, whilst Barking were mid-table. The season was winding down like a car running out of petrol, and the atmosphere subdued. Most of the crowd – myself included – were there out of habit, because we couldn’t think of anything else to do on a Saturday afternoon. The first radio reports started to come through after about ten minutes of the match. A man standing just behiind me on the terrace had a transistor radio pressed to his ear. “The crowd’s on the pitch at the Liverpool match”, he said, rolling his eyes. Several others rolled their eyes, too. We were only four years from the riots at Luton and Birmingham City. The idea of a pitch invasion wasn’t as far out of the question then as it is now. Something about this hastily formed opinion, however, didn’t seem to hang right. For one thing, Liverpool supporters had an excellent reputation. It also seemed odd that anyone would invade the pitch five minutes into an FA Cup semi-final. Something, I suspected almost immediately, was going wrong at Hillsborough. The news filtered through...

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Match Of The Midweek: Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool

How, then, do you hype up a match that most commentators have already decided is a done deal? It’s a serious dilemma for ITV Sport. Liverpool vs Chelsea is, according to the learned hacks of the English press, all over. Chelsea won the first leg at Anfield by three goals to one, an accomplished performance that stunned Merseyside silent (apart from the faint sound of guffawing from the direction of Goodison Park) and seemed to further cement the reputation of Guus Hiddink. Hiddink’s involvement at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of this season has become one of the more intriguing sub-plots of this Premier League season. Will he stay or won’t he? Will Roman Abramovich pull out all of the stops to lure him away from the lucrative Russian national team job? Will Guus – as he has promised on several occasions – stay and finish off the job of trying to qualify them for the 2010 World Cup Finals, or will he succumb to the lure of Premier League riches? For now, though, this is going to be a procession, isn’t it? The papers have been full of Steven Gerrard’s absence and how this will be the undoing of Liverpool. Liverpool need to score three goals at Stamford Bridge to get through to the semi-finals, and Chelsea’s defence is, we’re reliably informed by Clive Tyldesley, “the best in...

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