Faith Of Our Families: The Hillsborough Disaster

Another excerpt from Faith Of Our Families: Everton An Oral History 1878-2018, published by deCoubertin Books

09/12/2017 16comments  |  Jump to last

As Everton enter their 140th year, Faith Of Our Families: Everton: An Oral History tells the story of the club through the voices of the people who made the institution one of the most revered in world football. Assiduously curated by award-winning author, James Corbett, the book features more than 150 original interviews with the club's players, managers, fans and administrators, offering an unparalleled and unprecedented insight into the club's story.

The following is an excerpt from Everton: An Oral History that provides a Blue perspective of the harrowing day that would claim the lives of 96 Liverpool supporters, many – perhaps most – of them family, friends and neighbours of Evertonians.

James Mossop: I was in the press box and I could see there was trouble in the crowd. Then somebody said, ‘There’s two dead’. I said, ‘Don’t be silly, don’t exaggerate.’ Then you saw people climbing over and then the vivid memory I have was of a kid on a hoarding on one of the advertising hoardings as a makeshift stretcher, and I went down to the front and I thought, ‘He’s dead, the kid’s dead, he’s dead’. A policewoman was giving him the kiss of life, another one was pumping his chest and he suddenly sprang to life and all the crowd on that side cheered then he just ... that was him gone with a slump. Afterwards they were laying out all the bodies in a gym in the far corner of the ground and the relatives were going to identify them. I nipped around there, where I wasn’t supposed to be, and seeing all these bodies lying out. It was horrific.

Eric Brown: As as a football journalist you set from home on a lovely, sunny day, thinking ‘This day’s going to end with me seeing a team at Wembley.’ You don’t expect to be writing about a tragedy and people dying and people who are dead, people who have lost their lives. That certainly seems surreal. I set off to drive up to Hillsborough for a day and come back, but in fact I was still there four days later because I was covering all the aftermath; the visit of Margaret Thatcher. Charles and Diana turned up, the police press conferences. It was absolutely horrendous. I don’t know how these war correspondents see people shot and blown up every day. It wouldn’t suit me I’m afraid.

Bishop Tom Williams: It was always a threat. If it hadn’t have been Liverpool supporters it would’ve have been Everton. I remember going to an England game at Wembley in the early 1970s and we went into the old Wembley. We were going through this tunnel and it was no higher than a ceiling and we were about twenty deep. There must’ve been about five hundred in this tunnel and we nearly suffocated before we got out; that’s just going through from the underground into the ground. We were treated like garbage by the police. It was awful. There was an idea that if you were a football supporter, you were therefore a hooligan.

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Pat Nevin: It was another beautiful, sunny day, the Everton fans we were loving it because we played well that day, we battered Norwich [in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park]; Norwich were a good side but we passed them to death and created chances, and boy we looked fast and sharp, and just brilliant. We played really well that day. And that was part of it as well. I scored a goal as well, that’s nice for me, we’ve got to the cup final that’s fantastic as well, this is exactly what I’ve come here for. Maybe that’s another little false dawn.
Neville Southall: It was a good game against Norwich and it said a lot about how our fortunes had changed that they finished well above us in the league that season. I was always confident in semi-finals though, and besides the two-legged League Cup semi against Arsenal the previous year never lost one in my entire career. It was a close match and in the end Pat Nevin’s goal was enough for us to win it. We were all delighted, jumping around and quite oblivious to the dramas that had unfolded at the day’s other semi-final.

Kevin Sheedy: We’d heard there’d been an incident, but we didn’t really get told the full facts. You look at the media and what’s available now. It was only on the way back when you realise what’s actually happened, and then you see it unfold when you get home on the television. That was a sad day for football.

Tony Cottee: At the end of the game, again I still had no idea. At the end of the game I was celebrating with the Everton fans and I threw my shinpads in the crowd, I was jumping up and down, I was really excited because I had worked for seven years as a footballer and hadn’t got anywhere near a cup final and then first season I had got to the Cup final with Everton. So I was celebrating and then when I eventually jogged towards the tunnel, I got to the tunnel entrance and there was like a Chief Inspector with like a flat cap on, a policeman, and he stopped me and his words were, ‘You’re out of order.’ I said to him ‘What you on about? I’ve just got through to the FA Cup final.’ He said ‘You’re out of order, you’re a disgrace to football’ and all this. And he had a right go at me, and he was manhandling me, and in the end I just pushed him off – get lost sort of thing – I thought ‘How dare you spoil my day’, because he was spoiling my celebrations. The only reason I can think of, and the obvious reason, is the fact that he knew what was going on at Hillsborough and I didn’t. He obviously thought that I was trying to encourage the crowd to get on the pitch or something. I don’t know what he thought I was doing.

Colin Harvey: I watched the first half from upstairs and then I came down to watch it from the bench. I didn’t hear anything. As soon as I came out the pitch, [journalists] Colin Wood and John Keaton were there, and said, ‘Have you heard what’s going on at Hillsborough?’ I said ‘No, what’s going on?’ They said, ‘There’s been some crowd trouble.’ Now that’s all we knew at that time, right after the game. It wasn’t until 45 minutes later that we started to hear that there had been fatalities and then on the coach going home the full impact was coming through then.

Ian Snodin: There was nothing coming through, there were no mobile phones then really, so nothing was really getting fed through to us, and it wasn’t till we won. And it was unbelievable, fantastic in the dressing room. Everybody was jumping round, and then Colin Harvey went, ‘Can we just sit down a minute?’ I’d just burst in the dressing room to congratulate the lads. And he just said, ‘There’s been a major disaster at Hillsborough’. It hit everyone in that dressing room, we just went from euphoria to just numbness. The journey home we were just listening to radio reports. Casualties that were going up and up and up every two miles of the journey. It didn’t mean anything that we’d won the semi-final to be quite honest, because you know what a tight knit city this is, Liverpool. Whether it happened to Liverpool fans, Everton fans, collectively they get together. It was a very, very sad day. From being up there getting to a cup final to realising what happened, it was unbelievable.

Wayne Clarke: My first thought was, ‘Oh there’s been crowd trouble’. Violence and stuff like that. Of course coming back from Birmingham, I only lived junction 11 off the M6 so I got off fairly early, three,
four or five junctions up. It wasn’t until I got in the house and I put the television on that I could see the tragedy that it obviously was. I just couldn’t believe it, it was awful.

Kevin Ratcliffe: Don’t know until you get back into the changing room after the game. So you’re celebrating that you’ve won and everything, but there’s a little bit in the air that you’re not quite sure, that’s there’s been something that’s gone on at Hillsborough. But you’re not aware of exactly what’s gone on, there’s been a delay. There’s been a delay, not that it’s been postponed. To actually think that there’s deaths involved and things like that, we don’t really know until we get [on the bus] and then you hear, ‘Oh, some people have died.’ Died? How can people have died? What’s happened? Straight away you’re thinking about what happened at Heysel, or there could be a bit of trouble. The last thing you’re thinking of is that it’s trouble between two sets of supporters and there’s been deaths then, but then you realise that the death toll is getting higher and higher. With at least 20, and then that 20 goes to 30, 40, 50. And then it ends up the next day or a couple of days later at 96.

Pat Nevin: It was certainly one of the high points of my career, and they’re lost within ten minutes. Walking off that park I was happy as I’ve ever been walking off a football park in my life, because we were in a cup final. But when that happened, it’s a really odd thing to be absolutely honest with you when you come off. People often talk about your brain not being able to compute things, to be fair you ask any Evertonians and Liverpudlians as well, what they felt the moment they heard, everyone will say, ‘Horror’. But if you really think about it did you really get how serious it was? Did it really sink in? So you take that and also add in the fact that we were on the biggest high in the world, as we were walking off, it must have taken me about thirty seconds to a minute before it really struck. I was told before the start of the interview on BBC Radio, because I was interviewed after the game and it just fell apart during that interview, because it just sank in. So it was this shunt of emotion, and I don’t want to ever hear that interview again, but I know how I ended it. Because we were vaguely talking about scoring a goal, and vaguely talking about the game, and Mike Ingham who was interviewing me; he was looking at me and I was looking at him, thinking, ‘What the hell are we talking about this for?’ The third question I just said ‘Listen I’m really sorry mate, but I really don’t want to talk about this anymore.’ And I think he said, ‘Neither do I’ and handed back to the studio as if to say, ‘Let’s forget about all of this. Let’s get back to the real story, let’s talk about more important things.’

Ian Snodin: The journey home I recall we were just constantly listening to the radio, and we were just sat there thinking, ‘Wow, a football game, people going off to watch a semi-final and not even coming home.’ So there were no celebrations whatsoever, because as I say we had a long journey back from Villa Park, which usually takes an hour and a half, and it seemed forever. It was one strange, sad journey home.

Neville Southall: The full enormity of what had happened only struck home when we reached the M62 on the last leg of the journey home and were joined by cars and coachloads of devastated Liverpool supporters. A good day turned into a nightmare.

Pat Nevin: You almost need to be a football fan to understand it, but you kind of need to have been in Liverpool – an Evertonian or a Liverpudlian – to know the feelings. I do remember, because I went straight home to Scotland after the game and later the next night I drove back down. I’ve never seen a day like it – I drove through Liverpool because I had to get something from Bellefield, and there was
people just milling about all over Liverpool, just staring into space, it looked other-wordly. There was so many people that had suffered so badly, and you know you can’t explain how bad it was, but I think over the years people have understood it.

Dave Watson: We played Spurs away the following week, before we went we went to Anfield to lay a wreath and it was full of supporters. As we walked out in our tracksuits on, it was rapturous applause. That was really touching. Football goes out the window.

Paul Power: My most emotional moment ever in football or in my life – apart from having my two children and being at their birth – was when we went to Anfield and we formed a circle around the centre circle at Anfield and all the supporters were coming in and paying tribute, laying their tributes at the end of the stadium. Colin Harvey walked into the centre circle and put a floral tribute to all the people that had died, and then everybody round the stadium just started applauding. There had been no sound when we had walked to the centre circle. There was no sound whatsoever. Then Colin just laid this wreath and we all just sort of stood round the centre circle in prayer, and then this spontaneous round of applause came. It was unbelievably emotional. To think that those Liverpool fans appreciated the gesture by the Evertonians. It was really quite emotional. Everybody felt the hurt of that situation.

Kevin Ratcliffe: We’d gone over to Anfield and half the pitch was covered in flowers. That’s the first time I’ve ever been clapped Liverpool supporters. We all went there, were dropped off outside, walked in, lay some flowers and realised ‘Wow.’ It doesn’t bring people back, but you’re thinking then, ‘This is not going to go away. This is not going to go away, how’s this football club going to react to this?’

It took two separate enquiries, two inquests and 28 years before criminal charges were finally brought against police officers who were either negligent that day in Sheffield or involved in the cover up that followed the tragedy.

George Orr: My son and my daughter were at Aston Villa that day. I’d given them the tickets so I didn’t go, I wanted them to see a semi-final and Everton get to the final. Hillsborough happened. It could’ve been them. They came out of that ground at the Villa and they didn’t know where they were because they were only fifteen and seventeen and they went up to a policeman and they said, ‘Excuse me do you know where all the Everton coaches are?’ and he said, ‘If you don’t know, how should I know?’ and walked away from them. When I heard about this later, I thought ‘That’s the attitude’. That was the attitude when you went to a football match in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s. There’s been times I’ve been to away matches like Wolves and I was in a suit and tie because I was going straight to a wedding when I got back and I’d be pushed and thrown because I’d just strayed into an aisle that I shouldn’t be standing in. It didn’t matter if you were a woman, kid or a fully grown lad; to the police you were scum. You could be the local magistrate and you’d be treated as the local criminal.

Emy Onoura: Hillsborough and Heysel were accidents waiting to happen. I remember feeling around every ground was kind of pent up, I had my hands in my pockets, more because you’d be squeezed up tight and you didn’t want anyone to rob anything out of your pockets. There was loads of dippers around. But I remember lots of times being squeezed against the wall, squeezed up on the terraces, by police horses sometimes, squeezed up against the wall in tight spots, herded around and all this kind of stuff. In hindsight they were just accidents waiting to happen. If we had drawn Forest perhaps we’d have gone to Hillsborough. We might have been the ones who were herded in.


1989 FA Cup Final – 20 May 1989

Everton 2 Liverpool 3

Pat Nevin: Initially I didn’t think it should go ahead. If you had asked me to make the choice I would have said no. But when the families said they wanted to go ahead then yeah, absolutely it goes ahead, and it goes ahead with us giving everything. So that’s not a problem, that was absolutely fine, we got on with that. There was no feeling on the day that we shouldn’t be doing this, because we weren’t the people to make that choice. The right people made that choice. Or certainly were asked about it, and they decided to go ahead with it.

Kevin Sheedy: I think we were always going to be the underdogs because of everyone’s feelings towards Liverpool and Hillsborough. I think at the end of the day it puts things in perspective – football’s football, people lost their lives. Obviously you go out there as a professional and try to win the game, but it was for Merseyside that day.

Neville Southall: For Everton it was a really difficult situation to go in to because you want to win the FA Cup, but you’re playing against somebody who morally deserved to win it. I think that was the hard bit. Obviously I had won the cup before but we had some lads who had never played so far in the cup. We had to be true to ourselves and our supporters, but also keep in mind that for Liverpool it was more than just a game. Dalglish was obviously a great manager and held everything together. It must have been even more difficult for their lads, given what the club had experienced and that some of them were playing to bring a sense of closure to the dreadful events.

Kevin Ratcliffe: We’re on a no win situation, we’re going into a game where even the songs felt as if they were all Liverpool songs leading up to the kick off. You’ve just got that negative thing going through your mind that in the end should you be here? But you’ve got to realise there’s two teams in this final, there’s two teams that have earned the right to be in this final. But there’s only one team getting the credit. It was very hard to play in, and take; the build-up about it was just weird.

Pat Van den Hauwe: All I can remember about that one is escorting one of our supporters back into the stand. He’s coming on and shouting, ‘We can still win it.’ I just grabbed him and said ‘Get back in there before you get nicked.’

Ian Snodin: It was a great game. And when the game were going off both benches and fans were cheering as though nothing had happened a month before because it was a game. Stuart McCall got two, and I remember being sat on the bench, probably four deep because I wasn’t playing, I was in my suit. I remember running onto the pitch when Stuart McCall equalised. It was gut-wrenching, the highs and the lows of the game and Rushy scored a couple of goals. Topsy turvy game, but then after the game and the disappointment of losing, the reality again struck what had happened.

Paul Power: Stuart McCall scored a couple of goals didn’t he? And then Ian Rush was the absolute bane. I just can’t understand how Kevin Ratcliffe and Ian Rush could be such close friends and play together for Wales, and Ratters being such a good defender, but Rushy always scored against Everton, and that was the case in the final. But I think because of what had happened in the semi-final, the result was maybe secondary, although both teams wanted to win it.

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Reader Comments (16)

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Dennis Stevens
1 Posted 09/12/2017 at 16:24:42
I still don't think the Final should have been played.
Jay Woods
2 Posted 09/12/2017 at 17:09:28
Not being from Liverpool (or even England), I had no feeling that the final should not be played.

I did, however, perceive that the media were hankering for a Liverpool win and that had we won, it would have been framed as rude or inconsiderate or immoral, or a direct consequence of the LFC players and fans being traumatised by Hillsborough.

In other words, we were on a hiding to nothing. And when we lost, I hated LFC as much if not more than I had ever done before.

John G Davies
3 Posted 09/12/2017 at 17:10:36
Can I ask. Why I ask, why post that on a Derby eve?
Dermot Byrne
4 Posted 09/12/2017 at 17:35:10
Agree, John G. A reasonable midweek subject ,this book... even with this excerpt. But surreal to place it as a story on ToffeeWeb on the eve of a derby game.
David Barks
6 Posted 09/12/2017 at 17:48:28
What is the point of this?
Brian Williams
7 Posted 09/12/2017 at 18:03:57
John G. I'm glad you asked as, much to my shame, I backed out of asking for fear of the PC brigade tearing me to shreds.

But it does seem an inappropriate time!!

Michael Kenrick
8 Posted 09/12/2017 at 18:09:14
Got to agree with the last three posts... very strange choice.
John G Davies
9 Posted 09/12/2017 at 18:14:43

As long as you ask a genuine question, with no disrespect, I take no notice of the PC gang.

It happens a lot of the time before derby games. We go into the game like kittens, fearful of upsetting the status quo.

In example. Have a wild guess who Liverpool's home game is the week before the anniversary of Hillsborough?

Brian Williams
10 Posted 09/12/2017 at 18:26:03
Johh. Their away game I think. Gotta be the Goodison derby?
John G Davies
11 Posted 09/12/2017 at 18:33:43
Apologies, Brian. Our home game.

We will have a pre-match ceremony that will put us on the back foot. Meek as kittens.

I wouldn't have it to be honest. A one minute silence to pay our respects and them get tore into them.

Ian Hollingworth
12 Posted 09/12/2017 at 18:35:12
And the question remains: Why post this on TW on the eve of the derby?
Tony Hill
13 Posted 09/12/2017 at 18:39:05
Everything that's wrong with our sentimental, supine attitude. Further, the Hillsborough dead are not honoured by this rewarmed pap.
Brian Williams
14 Posted 09/12/2017 at 18:39:27
That's our club for you, though, John. We do the right thing, though I believe it would be more appropriate for them themselves to mark the anniversary at their home game on the following Saturday.
Stan Schofield
15 Posted 09/12/2017 at 18:51:16
Brian@7: Like you, it seems inappropriate to me. Sometimes, 'less is more' is a good message, and I fail to see the point in yet another article on this subject.

Never worry about the PC brigade, they tend to be full of shit.

Tony Abrahams
16 Posted 09/12/2017 at 21:44:45
I had never wanted Everton to win a game of football so much in my life, but it never hurt as much when we did lose. Remember McCall's last-minute equaliser like it was yesterday, went absolutely fucking mental, and was so convinced we were going to win.

The fans were closer in those days, the red and blue scarfs, from Anfield to Goodison, was such a fantastic gesture, and although things have got a lot worse, they haven't really for me, because I still hate Liverpool, just the same as I've always done!

Hillsborough, is completely different though, I've shed many a silent tear, and I've got massive respect for many of the families, particularly that great lady Ann Williams (god rest her soul xx).

Peter Laing
17 Posted 11/12/2017 at 20:30:56
Interesting reading the narrative from the perspective of the Everton players. One thing that struck me was the difference in perception between Nevin and Southall. I was at the game aged 15 and my recollection is a tense and techy affair. I recall the scoreboard announcing that the game at Hillsborough had been delayed and then later on abandoned. We all thought crowd trouble until the news started filtering through onto the Holte End that a crush barrier had collapsed and people killed. The Barnes travel coach journey home was in total silence with a vivid recollection of disembarking on Priory Road to a guy standing there selling the Pink Echo with a headline that read ‘14 killed in crush at Hillsborough' or something to that effect.

I had two mates who were both Reds and also aged 15 on the Leppings Lane that day. Thankfully they survived. The Final was surreal, no fences at Wembley and a game that we were never going to win. I ventured onto the hallowed turf at the end of the game and can honestly say that I didn't feel the same bitter pain that I had experienced in 1986. I went to Hillsborough for the first time this year when passing through Sheffield. The Leppings Lane is still there and much of the existing architecture remains unchanged. It's not hard to imagine how such a disaster unfolded – the approach to the Stand really is a death trap.

Going back to Nevin and Southall, the big man was right – we were indeed on the wane.

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