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'We were all in it together' - Norfolk Liverpool fan's first visit back to Hillsborough in 30 years

PUBLISHED: 06:30 15 April 2019 | UPDATED: 07:48 15 April 2019

Paul Williams, third from left. with other survivors of the Hillsborough disaster, visiting the scene for the first time in 30 years. Photo: Paul Williams

Paul Williams, third from left. with other survivors of the Hillsborough disaster, visiting the scene for the first time in 30 years. Photo: Paul Williams

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Norfolk-based Liverpool fan Paul Williams was 18 when he travelled to Hillsborough 30 years ago today. On Sunday, he made his first visit back in three decades.

A tribute to those who lost their lives at Hillsborough. Photo: Paul WilliamsA tribute to those who lost their lives at Hillsborough. Photo: Paul Williams

It was a strange feeling, as I woke on the morning of the day I was going back to Hillsborough. The first time I’d been back since the unimaginable horror of 30 years ago.

A group of about 15 of us met by the Hillsborough memorial, at Anfield. There were due to be a few more of us but some people pulled out of the trip, deciding they couldn’t face going back. I could understand that. After all, it was the scene of by far the worst day of our lives. A few of those who had decided against coming came to Anfield, to wish us well and wave us off.

The weather was reminiscent of that day, 30 years ago - bright sunshine, albeit a few degrees cooler. The hour and a half minibus journey was full of chat. Much of it relating to the day of the disaster, but all upbeat and there was plenty of laughter, too. It didn’t matter that mine was the only non-Scouse accent on the bus. We were all in it together.

We arrived in Sheffield at about 1.30pm. As we approached, the conversation was a little more subdued. The laughter and the banter was replaced by feelings of mild anxiety.

Paul Williams, 18, from North Elmham, who escaped from the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough pictured two days after the disasterPaul Williams, 18, from North Elmham, who escaped from the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough pictured two days after the disaster

We were greeted by Sheffield Wednesday’s director of communications, Trevor Braithwaite. He was a nice man. He was open to any questions we had and gave us a guided tour of the stadium. He was adamant that the current owners and directors of the club were in no way similar to the pompous, arrogant regime from 30 years ago. He was well-versed in the disaster and held many of the same beliefs and feelings as our group did.

The main focus of our visit would be the Leppings Lane area and the tunnel we had all gone through 30 years ago, dubbed at the time ‘the tunnel of death’. We all stood, trying to gauge exactly where we were standing, back in 1989. It’s all seated now of course and there is a block of 96 white seats, amidst all the rest, which are blue. One for each person, killed in the Hillsborough disaster. Those 96 seats are never occupied during a match. A nice touch. Very poignant.

We left flowers at both of the Hillsborough memorial sites, near the stadium and had a moment’s silence at 3.06pm - the time at which the match was stopped on the day, in 1989. Today, a small number of us will gather on the Kop at Anfield for a period of reflection, to mark exactly 30 years since the tragedy.

I felt a real calm going back. I don’t know what I was expecting to feel but there were no really negative feelings or flashbacks. Just a strange calmness. The Leppings Lane area where we stood all those years ago seemed a lot smaller than we were all expecting. The tunnel longer and lighter.

Dereham based Liverpool Fan Paul WilliamsDereham based Liverpool Fan Paul Williams

We all left at around 5pm, glad that we had gone and faced our demons. For me, as I stood there, there were no demons. Just a football ground.

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