“You’ll never walk alone,” The Hillsborough Memorial Match, April 1989

On 30 April 1989 Celtic and Liverpool met at Celtic Park in what was an emotional day for fans of both clubs as they united in grief at the loss of life of 96 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough 2 weeks earlier.

As an 11 year old I watched the events of the opening minutes of the Liverpool v Nottingham Forrest FA Cup semi final unfold on TV with my dad. I remember the disbelief in my parents eyes as the reality of the events became clear and the tragic loss of life was reported on news bulletins throughout the evening. Even though we lived in Glasgow a real sense of sadness and grief was felt in our home for some time after the tragedy.

In the days and weeks after Hillsborough, football matches and results really took on no significance as the people of Liverpool mourned the loss of their sons and daughters as a result of this tragedy. Anfield became a place for mourners to pay their respects to those who lost their life, as flowers and scarfs were left on the Anfield turf and the Kop terracing.

The strength and resilience of the people of Liverpool helped unite their city in grief, as did the actions of the management team and players as they supported the relatives of those families who had lost loved ones.

As some focus moved towards the return to action on the football field, Celtic and Liverpool agreed to play a memorial match at Celtic Park.

My sister picked up tickets to the memorial match and gave me the ticket as a gift for my Confirmation a few days before the game. I remember approaching the main stand that day and seeing so many different coloured scarfs in and around the stadium as people from across the UK had come to pay their respects.

On getting to our seats, we found we were sitting next to a group of family and friends who had made the trip up from Liverpool for the match. They were still raw with emotion, but grateful for the welcome given by fans around them on their journey.

Before the match kicked off a Celtic fan laid flowers on the pitch at the Celtic end of the ground & then fans held their scarfs high and joined in a rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

Liverpool ran out 4-0 winners on the day, but the purpose of the match was not test who was the better footballing side, but to allow a new chapter to begin as the healing process continued for the people of Liverpool.

Another emotional rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” echoed through Celtic Park and scarfs were swapped between fans once the match was over.

The Liverpool team returned home and looked to turn their attention back to their actions on the football pitch.

I was at a Celtic match with my son towards the end of the season a few years ago and he asked why some fans were walking round the trackside with a huge Liverpool flag. It took some time to explain what had happened that day in Sheffield and the special bond  between both clubs.

So much has changed in football since the events at Hillsborough in 1989, but the commitment and dignity shown by the families and friends to ensure Justice for the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their life that day should never be overlooked.

Martin Donaldson

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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