Remembering Hillsborough 22 years on

I doubt it gets any easier for people like Anne Williams.

She still fights for justice for her son Kevin and when you meet her, her face bares all the emotional scars of that fight. Her voice and the way she speaks to you gives you just a sense of the anger she still feels towards those who caused her son’s death.

Last year, after the memorial service for the 21st anniversary, I interviewed Anne and found out a little about her story as part of a package I put together for JMU Journalism. Here is the interview in full:

Two years ago, Hillsborough was national news, I remember it led all news bulletins and the barracking that the Anfield crowd gave Andy Burnham was memorable and powerful and prompted action.

Action came in the form of a panel, the one Williams mentions sceptically, to comb through the unreleased state documents pertaining to Hillsborough in the hope of finding answers as to why no one has ever been held to account for the death of 96 football supporters at a football ground.

Today, Hillsborough will hardly be mentioned but the pain for those who lost family and friends and those who survived will go on and the city of Liverpool will pause to remember the 96 who never came home from a football match.

Gary Curtis was one of those who did come home but who lives with the trauma of the day everyday. Last year, I interviewed him as part of my package for JMU Journalism.

His journey to Anfield was the first time he had been back in a football ground since 1989. Speaking to him beforehand, you could hear the fear in his voice but thankfully he made it through the service and hopefully that, in someway, has helped his suffering.

Here’s the interview in full (the other questions come from Andy Downton from Heart FM):

I have no link to Hillsborough but as a Liverpool fan for all my life and someone who has lived and fallen in love with the city over the past four years I do feel a certain attachment to the events of 15 April 1989.

My thoughts are better encapsulated in this blog I wrote two years ago on the eve of the anniversary and as I contemplated doing my dissertation on the subject. In the end I didn’t for other, unconnected reasons.

My package in full for JMU Journalism on the 21st anniversary service can be heard here:

All that’s left to add is Justice for the 96. Please visit this website, learn and pass it on. To educate one, is to educate a thousand.

Anfield from the press box

I had rather hoped that I would be updating this blog more regularly but alas this has not been the case so I apologise to my many readers (all five of them!) and promise only that I wil try to do better.

It’s been pretty quiet of late. I’ve been getting the head down, trying to get on top of this dissertation although last night I got a welcome reprieve from an evening with the books when I was offered the chance to be part of Click Liverpool’s live coverage of Liverpool’s hosting of Birmingham, a game that disappointingly finished 2-2.

It was my first foray into the press box at Anfield and indeed into the inner bowels of the stadium. The plush carpets and the warm and welcoming press room where soup, sandwiches, tea and coffee were aplenty. Unfortunately I’d been the chippy beforehand.

As the journos were busy tapping away on their laptops and Mark Lawrenson was shooting the breeze with the BBC folk, joking about Andriy Voronin’s nickname being Bon Jovi I took it all in and learned a bit about how Click is covering each Liverpool home game with exclusive minute by minute reports.

I was charged with the task of collating the stats as the game progressed, not as easy as you would think especially when temperatures felt like they were below zero and every so often I had to wiggle my toes just to ensure they weren’t frozen.

Fortunately I had gloves for my hands, my colleague Richard Buxton wasn’t so lucky as he rubbed his hands together for heat whilst incessantly and impressively typing out the game’s action.

In some ways the atmosphere was so much better in the press box as you could take it all in, the view was fantastic and you could hear Alex McLeish go mental on the touchline as well as witness at close hand Birmingham’s new owner, Carson Yeung, sit comfortably in his ridiculous dead animal coat.

But then again there are draw backs like not being able to jump for joy when David Ngog opened the scoring or swear continually when Cameron Jerome put the visitors in front.

Afterwards I took in the press conferences of McLeish and Rafael Benitez, both good football men, both disappointed. The former by David Ngog’s dive for the penalty and the latter by the result which makes it one win in nine games for the Reds.

These are dark times at Anfield but yet there is a togetherness about the place and you can sense it just as much in the press room and the inner depths of the great stadium as you can in its famous stands.

Meeting Ryan Babel…and his agent!

Earlier this week I met Ryan Babel, the much maligned Liverpool winger, who was launching a competition in conjunction with Juice FM to find the next big urban music star.

As a big Liverpool fan the chance to interview one of their players was definitely not being turned down and although the focus was on Babel’s music and his search for new local talent, I was determined to slip in a few questions about the football.

Babel is now in his third season at Liverpool and things haven’t been going well. In his debut campaign we witnessed his undoubted potential as he scored a number of crucial goals and proved very effective when coming off the bench.

But last season he failed to build on this and found himself in and out of the matchday squads, never managing to hit the heights of his first season and facing plenty of criticism from fans and pundits who expected so much more from the 22-year-old.

This season, just a few games old, has been much the same. He was left out the squad completely for last week’s 4-0 league win over Burnley at Anfield and was limited to a fifteen minute cameo against Debrecen in the Champions League midweek.

I spoke to him on Monday after the Burnley game and following speculation in recent weeks that he was on his way back to Ajax from whom he signed in 2007 when the transfer window reopens in January.

Despite English being his second language, the Dutchman is a master of the football speak and deflected questions about his Liverpool future with ease when I asked him about it, insisting he intends to stay at the club.

This had as much to do with his undoubted training in the ways of dealing with interviewers as it did with his agent, present throughout the interview and hovering behind me as I asked questions.

I am reliably informed he got even closer behind me and was practically breathing down my neck as I broached the issue of Ajax towards the end of the interview. Check it out below.

Nonetheless it was a decent interview and Babel himself was an incredibly nice guy with a firm handshake, a smile and a wink. He was not at all like the typical arrogant, moody footballer nor did he display the kind of ‘don’t care attitude’ that sadly he often seems to do on the pitch.

Having met him on Monday I witnessed him at close hand, just three rows from the pitch, make an impressive substitute cameo against Debrecen on Wednesday night.

Babel up close

In his interview Babel insisted he sees his long term future at Anfield. You would like to believe it but if he is not doing the business on the pitch he may not have a choice in the matter.

But having seen what a nice guy he is, for purely selfish reasons I hope he does have a long term future at the club, realising the potential he has shown all too infrequently over the last few years.