The Hillsborough Report, Tony Bland, Remembrance and Aeroplanes

A lot has happened since England's World Cup qualifying campaign got under way just over a fortnight ago, with as many off-field issues as there have been on. It would be wrong of me though, if I weren't to address the Hillsborough Independent Panels findings and the subsequent report published by them on the 12th September.

The opening line of the forward which read 'The disclosed documents show that multiple factors were responsible for the deaths of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough tragedy and that the fans were not the cause of the disaster', confirmed what many already knew. Whilst there is nothing substantial in the way of  'Justice for the 96' yet, The Sun's infamous headline published in the wake of the disaster, has finally been exposed officially.

'THE real TRUTH' is finally out. It's been revealed that 164 (one-hundred and sixty-four) Police statements were amended and it was these very people who are believed to have supplied the tabloid with details of how the tragedy unfolded, seemingly in order to shift the blame from themselves. The Sun didn't 'make up' the claims - indeed, many other newspapers and media outlets ran the exact same story back in 1989 - it was the fact that The Sun chose to take their sources as gospel. It was the headline more than the content which caused such rightful uproar. Although a lot of the material in the new report was covered in Lord Taylor of Gosforth's initial inquiry-report back in 1989/1990, the bereaved at least may finally have some genuine closure. What is often misreported however, is that 96 people died at Hillsborough. 95 people did lose their lives that day, but one man who was in attendance, succumbed to his injuries and passed away almost four years later. The case of Tony Bland is addressed on pages 51 and 52 of the report and to say that it is a sombre read would be an understatement. 

Having been crushed on the terraces, the 18-year-old (hardly a 'man', really) suffered severe anoxic brain damage and spent the next few years in what was described as a 'vegetative state'. As time passed though, it was clear that Bland would never recover. Neurologist Dr Jim Howe, who headed the treatment team, confirmed at the time that Bland "remained unresponsive ... no eye contact and no sign of communication". It was agreed that treatment should be withdrawn, however legal complications meant that Bland's family had to take the case to the High Court Family Division and it was later also heard in the House of Lords. Eventually though, it was ruled that the withdrawal of treatment would not be unlawful.

'On 3 March 1993, Tony Bland died peacefully, his parents with him.' Rest in peace.

The Biggest Rivalry in English Football™, otherwise known as Liverpool vs Manchester United, saw it's most recent chapter written at the weekend, with the Anfield clash ending favourably for the visitors, who came away with a 2-1 win. With the Hillsborough report still fresh in the mind and certain sections of the press choosing to stir things up before kick-off, there was an added sense of occasion. Manchester United leged Sir Bobby Robson presented Kop Hero Ian Rush with a bouquet of flowers on the pitch before kick-off whilst the two sides wore tracksuits adorned with the number '96'. When Steven Gerrard scored the opener for Liverpool, his celebration was another poignant reminder of the tragedy which saw him lose a cousin.

The debatable sending off of Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey could have proved a turning point, but whilst fate will always favour the team with eleven men, Manchester United never really looked convincing as their Merseyside rivals dominated proceedings. Unfortunately, the day was marred as at full-time, two Liverpool fans were seen performing Munich aeroplane gestures in front of the away contingent, presumably in retaliation to the media's claim that United fans had been mocking the Hillsborough disaster as early as the Wigan game a week before. The allegations, of course, were false. The song in question, 'Always the victims, it's never your fault', has been sung by fans of many clubs, from Manchester United to Everton, since Luis Suárez was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra. 

Unsurprisingly, Evra was booed for this (booed for being racially abused, wow...) hence the song. The song pokes at the way the club handled the Suárez affair as well as their public support of Michael Shields - a Liverpudlian who was convicted of attempted murder - and the Heysel disaster, where then Liverpool Chairman John Smith, inexplicably attempted to shift the blame of killing 39 Juventus fans onto Chelsea supporters. Always the victims, it's never your fault. Whilst the timing of the song is perhaps ill, there has never been any direct mocking of Hillsborough and/or the impact the disaster had on Liverpool the football club and Liverpool the city. The press however have told us otherwise.

I can't speak for every person who has ever sung the song, but given how it has been sung at every home game and every away game for the past year or so, it's funny how the press chose to notice it at such a convenient time for them to sell papers. Hillsborough was a truly horrendous tragedy, but to expect Manchester United fans to cease mocking Liverpool Football Club for other unrelated things because of this, is simply unrealistic. Given the years of abuse from Liverpool fans regarding the Munich disaster still present at the weekend, with the aeroplane gestures accompanied by shouts of "Munich!" preceding Robin van Persie's winning penalty, not to mention the banner seen at Heysel all those years back which celebrated the Munich air-crash, the bitter rivalry between the fans doesn't look like easing up any-time soon.