by Annie Eaves
I’m a United supporter. I’m from Manchester, well Salford to be precise.
I don’t like Liverpool. That’s the plan isn’t it? The script we all adhere to. Something only people from one of the two cities could understand. Our city is better than yours, yes you have the river and easy access to a beach but we’re Manchester. We started the industrial revolution, we invented the computer, we split the first atom. You played a major part in the slave trade.
I don’t like scousers. That’s the norm isn’t it? I prefer Mancunians. Scousers don’t like me. Scousers don’t like Mancs. All very well and good, except it’s rubbish. I do like most Scousers, indeed the ratio between my like of individual Scousers and Mancs is no doubt exact. I’m not going to stereotype Scousers as being salt-of-the-earth or having wit. They’re people, all individuals, all like you and me in their own ways.
When I was younger I’d hear conversations in pubs and offices and take part in them. Surely they knew they were killing their own fans? Surely they knew they were going in the wrong section? Surely some of the fans were to blame? I’m not ashamed of having those thoughts, it’s natural. It’s a natural question to ask of such a situation. I ask questions of many situations and my queries were not to be confused with insults. I kept them to myself mostly but read a bit. Here and there. I read more each year and each year I feel more closely connected to what happened in Sheffield. I feel more informed.
Perhaps it’s because I’m now a parent. Perhaps it’s because I’m older. I’m not sure why but each year with the more articles, diaries, first hand accounts I read, I feel more emotionally connected. This makes me more likely to talk to others about it. My mother who has buggered off to Spain for her 60′s came to stay yesterday and last night we sat and talked about Hillsborough. How when I was a youngster aged nine she was trying to explain to me what had happened, she knew little herself as the coverage had been so confused, she didn’t know what to say. She just told me that evening she was washing the dishes and realised that there would be many mothers who had seen their excited sons off to football that morning, like she had done many times herself, who would never see them again. She said she had cried and felt angry, she still gets upset now.
These genuine emotions make the behaivour of some football fans sickening.
Ignorant, insulting, and bizarre.
Last season against Fulham, during the barracking of Danny Murphy which I whole heartedly joined in with, I heard a man behind me shout “96 was not enough”. Well, I say shout, he more murmured it. I expect he knew that anything louder would result in him being shouted down, or worse/better. I believe I was the only one to hear, I was filled with rage. To be fair, I’m easily filled with rage. I wasn’t sure how to react and in my time thinking, the moment had passed. The ball had moved on and those who hadn’t noticed originally were not going to notice now.
I needed to let him know though. All I could do was simply turn and stare at him. He and I knew why I was giving him the Eaves stare. It was enough, if anything ever could be, to let him know this wasn’t on. In these moments you want to transport yourself and the idiot to a quiet country pub and drink and explain. Explain to the idiot why what he said is ridiculous, read the idiot the first hand accounts that never fail to bring tears to my eyes. Tell the idiot about the young man who cannot forget the feeling of crushing ribs under his feet. The young man who couldn’t remove his elbow from crushing someone’s windpipe before it was too late.
The Eaves stare is pretty good, but couldn’t convey that.
However these idiots are becoming rarer. I hope it’s because they read a bit. Here and there. I hope that they are not just biting their lip through a fear of being controversial. I hope that they are not just stopping the chants because they feel they should. I hope they have learned and feel the connection all football supporters should with Hillsborough.
Whilst the campaigners may not get the Justice For The 96 that they so desperately crave, their efforts are rewarded. This year many people will have read the first hand accounts through links on Twitter, Facebook, the rest. They’ll have read articles in papers. I have no doubt that somewhere today there’s an individual who had questions and now feels they are answered. An idiot will have been turned.
Somewhere today someone will have shed their first tear for Hillsborough, they won’t forget it. I don’t forget mine.
This article was originally published on the Caught Offside blog. Annie Eaves is a freelance journalist whose work can be found at Mirror Football amongst other outlets. You can also follow her on Twitter.