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As a United fan, anything I write about Liverpool is often judged before it’s read. Fans of both teams know what they want to see written and as such, I tend to write with caution so those that do actually take the time to read it will judge me for what I’ve written and not who I am. It’s therefore with a feeling of trepidation that I attempt to write some thoughts about the reaction to the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report; and in particular to the somewhat unfair or unnecessary targeting of Man United as a club in the immediate aftermath.
It goes without saying that Wednesday 12th September 2012 will go down as a dark and sad day in British history. A cover-up of gargantuan proportions was publicised and answers about the truths about the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989 were revealed. You don’t need to be a football fan, let alone a Liverpool fan to understand the importance of what was found. There is a human side to all of this where football becomes irrelevant – when families have to wait 23 years to find out what really happened when loved ones died, and were told lies during that time, it’s impossible not to feel pleased that they now have answers.
The attitude towards football and the footballing infrastructure at the time has leant towards the feeling that this could have happened to any set of supporters. It didn’t though, and while Wednesday was a day for football fans to unite, this time now is for the families – they deserve privacy and respect rather than attempts from fans and clubs to appear to be making the biggest statements. Things should now be in motion to start to bring justice to those who committed errors. The findings were long overdue and and whilst those connected to Liverpool will continue to be vocal, there is no need for someone who isn’t, like myself, who’s pleased with how it’s turned out and respected the admirable fight shown by the Independent Panel, to do so in what would be a faux manner.
What place do these thoughts have on a Man United blog?
Soon after the findings were made public, from certain corners of the press, there started some moralising. I’ve nothing against ‘putting things in perspective’ or wise words, but on a day that was all about Liverpool, and specifically justice for those who died, Man United had nothing to do with it. A quick Google search will indicate that various online versions of newspapers have run stories about United and Liverpool fans singing crude songs and the need for them to stop.
True enough, the chants on either side aren’t pleasant but they’re not mainstream and they’re not sung by the majority of football fans at either club. Whilst the point of the stories written is important, they are somewhat misguided and disappointingly reactive – simply looking to ‘score points’ with readers. The fact that it took for the results day of the inquiry for some journalists to write that the chants were unacceptable says it all. These kinds of stories get written at least once every season and are always reactionary. Is it not an important message to be spreading at all times of the season?
Clearly, Alex Ferguson agrees that the events of this week shouldn’t be used to treat the Liverpool-United relationship any differently. Talking at his Friday press conference, he said:
“It shouldn’t need what happened this week to change things [between United and Liverpool supporters]. Two great clubs, ourselves and Liverpool, should understand each other’s problems. The fact we’re playing them after the findings we’ve been reading about in the last few days does brings a focus to it. Both clubs have suffered such tremendous fatalities through football. Maybe it’s a line in the sand now in terms of how supporters behave towards each other. The reputation of both clubs doesn’t deserve trouble. You hope supporters of both teams support their club and that’s the end of it.”
The pleas of a few journalists will not change the thought processes of a few (drunk) idiots in the crowd, they never do. Chants about Munich and Heysel will be forever sung by small groups of people, if not the next time the two teams meet, then the time after. The high-horse reporting when it comes to chanting is well-trodden ground and arguably can do as much damage as good. Liverpool’s next home game is against United and before fans are even into the ground, press are speculating about what might happen, only fueling the fire.
This is of course not a club vs club issue and shouldn’t be. United have been unfairly dragged into something that was nothing to do with them. One could even argue that the most repugnant of fans to visit Old Trafford in recent years have been from Stoke, not Liverpool. Fans of many teams sing chants that could offend and yet it’s United’s supporters who’ve been singled out. If changes are needed within football then they’re not exclusive to the fans of Liverpool and United – it’s a wider issue.
Don’t misinterpret this either, I am not advocating the chants – merely I think it’s sad that not only have United and Liverpool fans been singled out, but that in the immediate aftermath of something as important and sensitive as the Hillsborough inquiry findings, Manchester United have been vociferously dragged into something that has little to do with them. Understandably, in the days before United travel to Liverpool (next week), both clubs (and it’s their responsibility) will no doubt put the right messages out to fans as they have done in recent years. However, don’t be surprised if songs about Liverpool are sung this weekend, as they always are.
Expect the press pack to be listening closely on the 20th October when Stoke fans visit Old Trafford with their arms spread as they mimic planes. You can bet that it’ll be overlooked because it just doesn’t make for a story. Moralising is fine but in the immediate days following the inquiry results, when people are at their most sensitive, turning this into a club vs club battle (which is what the said articles and comments by the press have done) is one of the more preposterous things that could have happened.
Justice for the 96 – hopefully the families can continue their fight to ensure that those in the wrong are brought to trial.
Any offensive comments by fans of any club will be deleted.