Memory Lapses Graham Lightfoot bemoans Sheffield Wednesday's grudging response to the tragedy.
ever, is the huge numberoffootball books, and publishers found the tenth anniversary another attractive peg on which to hang several titles . Amongst them is the aforementioned Parklife by Nick Varley, a kind of state of the nation, review of the game over the decade, vaguely sub-titled "a search for the heart of football".
As a loosely-knit series of feature-pieces based on personal experience, rather than a sustained analysis ofhowthe game has changed, Parklife misses some of the big issues mentioned above. In such a work one's personal perspective is highly influential and Varley is a Leeds fan who started out in 1975 which gives him a more blighted view than many, especially those of us who knew an earlier, better time.
There is much gloomy hooligan stuff at the expense of analysing what makes football compulsive, but Varley is an entertaining and thoughtful writer who has done some interesting original research and interviewing. He begins describing the match day routine of yesteryear, how it was all simpler and cheaper. And he confesses, at the end, he wanted to say "better" too but can't bring himself to do so, even though he writes, "I suspect many of us who were there will also remember yesterday so much more fondly. "
The truth is , ten years on, football is not so much better or worse as it is changed. We let them take the game away to be cleaned. Now we see they sent back a different article . Convenient though the Hillsborough anniversary is for publishers, now is not the time to be definitive about this revolutionary era in football. When that time comes, Parklife will have made a small, early contribution. ~
IT HAS OFTEN BEEN SAID that the Hillsborough disaster could have happened at any ground at that time. That it happened attheir home stadium is something Sheffield Wednesday fans have to live with . Ofcourse no Wednesdayite ever had to go through the anguish suffered by so many Liverpool fans because of that day but there is still an uneasy feeling of guilt by association.
A recent "red card mural" protest by Liverpool supporters at Anfield was pointed directly atthe visiting Wednesday supporters and not at its supposed targetWednesday's board. Consequently, it provoked a bad reaction from a small number ofthetravelling supporters, which in turn had a knock-on effect on nearby Liverpool fans. The fanzine Spitting Feathers has debated the idea of changing the name of the ground back to its original title, Owlerton, in order to lose the association of the word "Hillsborough" with "disaster" .
The burden will feel a bit lighter now th at the club have finally decided to site a memorial atthe ground. On February 22nd this year, following discussions between Liverpool, Wednesday and Trevor Hicks, chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, it was announced that a permanent memorial was to be built. Wednesday chairman Dave Richards said: "It was particularly appropriate as we approach thetenth anniversary of the disaster that a permanent memorial be unveiled atthe ground and we are determined to ensure that it is a fittingtri bute to those that died."
The announcement came as something of a shock to those who have campaigned for some time now to have a memorial sited somewhere within the confines of the stadium. The club have long argued thatthere were already two memorials situated nearthe ground and that a third was unnecessary. The shopkeepers and traders of the Middlewood area erected a memorial on the Wadsley Lane/Middlewood Road junction and there are replica Shankly Gates in nearby Hillsborough Park.
Though both were put up with the best of intent, their distance from the ground has always been a problem to visiting fans. (Two seasons ago, I was asked by a Leeds fan with two children clutching bouquets ifl could tell her how to get to "the Hillsborough garden" . I had to explain thatthe long walk might mean them missing the kick-off to the Wednesday v Leeds game.)
Sheffield Wednesday FC had long opposed the placing of a memorial within the ground. Indeed their policy ~ of not allowing flowers to ii! be brought into the al stadium has seemed insensitive to say the least, almost as ifthe club felt that by having a memorial, they would in someway be accepting culpability.
It has taken ten years to getto a stage where a memorial seems like a good idea to all parties: nine years of"quiet dignity" and nowayearof action . The Hillsborough Justice Campaign has been Liverpool fans protest at this season's game v Sheffield Wednesday involved in organising what they hope to be a complete boycott by Liverpool fans of their club's game with Wednesday at Hillsborough on May 8th. Such a boycott, if successful, will cost Sheffield Wednesday FC anything up to [75,000. I would like to thinkthat it has been the nine years of"quiet dignity" that has changed my club's mind.
Graham Lightfoot is Editor of the Sheffield Wednesday fanzine Spitting Feathers
When Saturday Comes 21