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New Left Review I/177, September-October 1989

Ian Taylor

Hillsborough, 15 April 1989: Some Personal Contemplations

When news of the Hillsborough disaster began to reach me, I was still living in Ottawa, Canada—only two weeks before returning to take up an academic position in England. A phone call from a Canadian relative giving the bare outline of the events was followed by ever more detailed reports on cbc radio and television, and gradually the realization dawned on me, a lifelong supporter of Sheffield Wednesday, that ninety-five people had met terrifying deaths on ‘my’ ground, and—to render the tragedy even more graphic for me—that they had died, crushed and asphyxiated, at my own ‘end’, the Leppings End, where I had spent so many hours of my childhood and teenage years. For me, this was not a tragedy like Bradford City, Heysel, Zeebrugge or even the Kings Cross Underground fire (though I had been to that place during many a visit to London): it was absolutely tangible, real and personal. I felt as if I knew every step and every crush barrier at the Leppings Lane End. And I was mortified, like every Wednesday supporter, by the thought that Hillsborough, so often described in Sheffield as the ‘Wembley of the North’, [1] A local saying that was conjured up, despairingly, in the piece entitled ‘Hillsborough’s Reputation as the Wembley of the North’. The Star, Sheffield, Hillsborough Disaster Special, 16 April 1989, p. 14. had now joined Burnden Park in Bolton; Ibrox Park in Glasgow; Valley Parade in Bradford and, of course, the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, on the list of post-war graveyards on European or, more particularly, on English soccer grounds.

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