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Rush 82:

--- Quote from: Speedy Molby on April 15, 2021, 01:45:26 am ---To Chris, Gary, Simon and 93 I didn't know

Seven hours: a survivor's account

We arrived in pen three at about 2.30pm. It was packed. That didn't bother me, I'd stood on many away ends. Always best to be behind the goal. Over the next 20 minutes, all the usual consequences of overcrowding occurred. Bumping, swaying, being knocked from one side to another. The Leppings Lane terrace had been uncomfortable the previous year, but I wasn't alarmed. When the players ran out, I applauded.

Then I was flung forwards. After a usual sway, space would come back to you. This time I was stuck tight. I was four to five feet away from the gate in the perimeter fence, which was slightly to my left. The pressure quickly increased, it was like being in a vice. Soon, I couldn't breathe.

Others shouted at the police officers on the perimeter track to open the narrow gate in the fence. They were ignored. Unable to breathe, I was frightened. A minute earlier I'd been looking foward to the match. Now my life was being squeezed out of me. My eyes fixed on the gate,  the only potential escape. I had no idea it was possible to feel so afraid, but worse than the fear was the helplessness. I was effectively paralysed from the neck downwards. I couldn't struggle. I couldn't fight for my life. Survival instinct is primal, irresistible, but I couldn't act on it. As I couldn't breathe, I couldn't scream or shout. There was no outlet to relieve any fear.

My hearing was unaffected. I was dying to the sound of the crowd responding to the match.

Then the gate sprang open. Hope. Evacuation would lessen the pressure, if I could hold on. Policemen quickly stepped forward to slam the gate shut.

I thought that was the end of me. I began to slip away. I saw the gate open again and the evacuation finally begin – I saw one of my friends escape – but I was too far gone, there were too many people between me and the gate. I gave up. I thought of my family and friends, how I wouldn't get to say goodbye. Before the end, the fear and helplessness left me. Everything seemed unreal. I fell unconscious.

An oxygen-starved brain retains some activity, in my mind I was travelling down a road. Reach the end of the road and I'll wake up, but the road kept extending. There was a whirring, staccato noise like helicopter rotors, in my left ear. Definitely my left ear.

Again, I was flung forwards. I resumed consciousness suddenly, as a television tunes in. I was hanging out of the gate, trapped below the waist, but free above it. Now able to breathe, to struggle, to act on my survival instinct. A policeman was trying to pull me out.

"Get your legs free," he shouted. "I know it's difficult."

I wriggled my legs frantically against the heavy but shifting weight behind them. Eventually I made enough space to lift my right knee out of the pen and on to pitch level. Once the knee was out, the lower half of my right leg followed relatively easily, though my shoe was prised off. With my right leg free, I had most of my bodyweight to haul my left leg out – again I lost the shoe. Once I had both feet on the perimeter track all that was holding me to the pen, to the crush, was the tail of my jacket. I shook myself out of it.

Someone picked me up and carried me a few yards on to the pitch. I lay down on my back, eyes up to the clear blue sky. Soon, relief at my escape gave way to panic at my dehydration. Weak and unsteady on my feet, I got up in search of a drink.

I staggered towards a cordon of police officers, near to the halfway line. As I reached them, one stopped me and said:

"You can't come past here."

I gasped: "I need a drink."

He replied: "Go in there," and gestured to his left, my right.

I made my way into the South Stand. I spotted a steward up a short column of steps. As I climbed the steps, the Nottingham Forest suppporters I walked past turned their heads, uncomprehending, as they saw my face. I overheard a man say: "There must be 200 in there without tickets."

The steward was little older than I was (17). I told him I needed a drink. He said:

"Have you got any money?"

I said no.

He looked at me more closely: "Don't worry mate, I'll buy it."

Then a kind lady who had children with her poured a carton of orange juice down my throat. She shouted to another steward, told him I needed treatment, and he led me across the pitch to a gymnasium underneath the North Stand.

There was a curtain partitioning the gym, injured people were being treated in a small portion at the Kop end. I lay on the floor for a while, as more urgent casualties were seen to. I was told to lie on my side in case I vomited. Suited doctors examined me, their lack of alarm was a relief. In time a fireman got around to me with an oxygen cylinder.

"Get your breathing in rhythm, it comes in bursts," he told me, placing the mask over my nose and mouth.

The oxygen made me feel stronger. I understood that I would be OK. I stopped feeling afraid.

And then something occurred to me.

"Has anyone died?" I asked the fireman.

"Don't worry about that," he said. But a radio crackled: "There are 50-60 confirmed dead."

The doctors wanted me to go for X-rays, but the Sheffield hospitals were full and I would have to go to Barnsley or Rotherham. I decided I would rather go home. I was helped to my feet and was able to walk with difficulty. A policeman led me to a police van in a yard between the North Stand and the Kop. I sat on my own for about 15 minutes, then got out of the van and sat on the rear step of an ambulance parked nearby. A reporter with a notepad asked me for a quote. I told him to fuck off.

I asked a policeman for directions to the coaches. I left the ground at the opposite end to which I'd entered and within a few seconds realised I hadn't taken in the instructions. Rather than get lost in stockinged feet, I went back into the ground. I sat in the North Stand. Few supporters were left in the ground. Police officers carried armfuls of clothing across the pitch in bright sunshine.

I boarded a police bus. One of my friends was on the bus. I asked him for a cigarette, then we sat in silence as the bus crawled to a social services building, a boys' club.

I asked for a pair of shoes, but no one could find any. I was assigned a social worker called Bill, who drove me to a phone box on a quiet street. Bill dialled my home number, pushed in the coin, then handed me the phone. My mum answered.

"It's me."

"Oh thank God."

Bill gave my mum directions to a social services centre called Meade House. I sat in a basement room, waiting for my parents. There were a few others there. Social workers offered us pizza and cigarettes. One young woman received some bad news and began wailing. A deep, resonant wail. The social workers tried to console her. The rest of us stared at the walls, the floor. My parents arrived about 9.30pm.

--- End quote ---
.

kesey:
There's nowhere else to post this so it goes in here.

There was a good turn out today at the memorial by St John's Gardens.

JFT 96 ♡

Speedy Molby:
Thanks for the responses. This day doesn’t get any easier.

WEST HAM PAUL:
From The Athletic yesterday 👍

JFT97

Neil Hodgson account

“For a long time I couldn’t bring myself to talk about Hillsborough,” explains Neil Hodgson as he pulls up a chair in Taggy’s Bar on Anfield Road.

“Then in recent years we were told we couldn’t talk about it. We had to keep quiet because of the ongoing court cases. What a waste of time that was. Those who should have been held accountable were protected by the system in this country. Justice wasn’t done. I was there. I know what went on that day. Now they can’t stop me from telling people my story.”

It’s an extraordinary one. Thirty-two years may have passed since the worst disaster in the history of English football but the horrific memories of April 15, 1989, are still painfully vivid.

The devoted Liverpool supporter was caught up in the crush in the overcrowded central pens on the Leppings Lane End at the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

Having dropped to his knees and crawled through dozens of legs in order to reach the wall at the front of the terrace, Hodgson believes he owes his life to the persistence of goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, who convinced police to belatedly open the gate behind his goal to enable fans to escape on to the pitch.

“I wouldn’t be sat here now if Bruce hadn’t done what he did. No chance,” he says. The pair have since developed a close friendship which Hodgson cherishes.

On that fateful afternoon in Sheffield and in the devastating aftermath, he witnessed both the best and the worst of human nature. Kindness and camaraderie in stark contrast to cruelty and deception. Lies were peddled and a shameful cover-up launched by the authorities who tried to blame supporters for their own wretched failings.

Andrew Devine, who suffered permanent brain damage in the crush, legally became the 97th victim of Hillsborough when he passed away in July. The true toll is much greater.

A number of survivors have committed suicide over the years, others like Hodgson’s close friend Dave Cunningham, who emigrated to Australia, still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So many families were torn apart. So many still carry both physical and psychological scars.

“No one who was there that day was ever the same again,” Hodgson says. “It affected different people in different ways but it definitely changed us all.”

Home for Hodgson was on Cambria Street in the Kensington area of Liverpool, just a mile or so from Anfield. He lived with parents Joan and Andy, and his brother Carl.

“When I was a little kid, my mum used to leave the back door open when Liverpool were playing so we could hear the roar when they scored,” Hodgson smiles.

“When the really big games came along she would always make me a rosette to wear. I was born in 1966 and my first game was against West Brom in about 1977 or 1978. I was in the Annie Road End for that one.”

After attending Anfield Comprehensive School, he went to college and trained to be an electrician, working on the schooner “Spirit of Merseyside” at the docks before specialising in automotive electronics.



“As soon as I could drive I got myself a Ford Escort Mk2 and started going to all the away games with my mates. We used to meet up at the Flat Iron (a pub close to Anfield). The landlord would make us this peppery soup to put in our flasks for the journey if it was a long one. We went everywhere.

“We were never going to miss an FA Cup semi. April 15, 1989 was a glorious sunny day. I picked the lads up and we headed for Sheffield. We were all excited about watching the Reds hopefully get to another Wembley final.”

Neil was joined in the car by his brother Carl and friends Dave and Stevie. They headed for the Silver Fox pub in Stocksbridge, just 20 minutes away from the stadium.

“We had some sarnies and played killer pool. I wasn’t drinking as I was driving,” he recalls.

“We left about 2pm and drove down into Sheffield. We parked up in Harris Road. We’d done the same thing the year before when we also played Forest in the semis at Hillsborough.



“But the difference compared to 12 months earlier was massive. In 1988 there were regular ticket checks on the walk to the ground. That regulated and staggered the flow of people. But in 1989 we didn’t get stopped once. It was a shambles. The Leppings Lane End was like a funnel and the closer we got the scarier things became. There was no organisation, no control, no cordons. There was a bottleneck.

“We were a few yards from the turnstiles at about 2.45pm and I was thinking, ‘It’s getting a bit nuts around here’. A police horse got spooked and its arse was in our faces. My mate Dave was up against the wall and it looked like this horse was going to crush him so I grabbed hold of him and threw him right through the turnstile.

“The next thing the police ordered that they opened Gate C. They didn’t have a clue what they were doing. I went through the turnstile next to that gate and into the tunnel.”

That tunnel should have been closed off by police. It led to central pens three and four which were already dangerously packed. As they emerged onto the standing terrace Hodgson soon realised that they were in serious danger.

“The game had just kicked off and I could see Bruce in his goal,” he says.

“We tried to get across to the left but suddenly I got flipped around and I was facing the stand. We were so tightly packed together I couldn’t move back around. Dave was on one side of the barrier and I was on the other side of it.

“Dave’s face started going purple and blue. He was saying ‘Neil, I can’t breathe’. He was bent over the bar. I put my hands on his chest to push him back but because there was nowhere for him to go all that was happening was that I was collapsing his lungs.

“Next thing the barrier collapsed under all the pressure and I dropped to the floor. I was on my hands and knees. There was no way I could stand back up. There was more room down there than up top.”

Hodgson’s mind was racing but he remembered seeing a gate just to the left of Grobbelaar’s goal and made a beeline for it.

“I started crawling through people’s legs. The noise above me was terrible, screaming and groaning. It was hell. It took a few minutes but somehow I got down to the brick wall at the front, I turned right and found that gate. I was one of the first to come through it.

“It was only later that I realised how important Bruce had been in saving my life. I found out subsequently that he realised people were in serious trouble while the game was still going on and he was shouting at the police to get that gate open. Eventually, they did. If I’d spent time by that gate when it was still locked it would have been no good, I wouldn’t be here.

“I just remember stepping out onto the grass thinking, ‘What the fuck happened there?’ I was a goalkeeper myself for our pub team and Bruce was my hero. He was standing there right in front of me. It was surreal.

“I know it sounds stupid but my next thought was, ‘My mum is going to think I’m a right divvie for getting on the pitch’. She was in hospital at the time and I knew she’d be watching on TV.

“But then more and more people started coming through that gate. I turned to my left and saw my mate Dave getting passed over people’s heads. He was semi-conscious. We got one of the advertising hoardings, put him on that and took him to the top of the West Stand.

“We were getting some stick off the Forest fans initially. They didn’t know what had gone on. They thought we had just invaded the pitch. Then was that bloody stupid police line. Those officers just stood there watching while the fans helped the injured and the dying.


Hillsborough, April 15, 1989: (Photo: David Cannon/Allsport)
“We waited for an ambulance. It was about 40 minutes before we got any help. The medic said he needed to loosen Dave’s belt but as he pulled his jeans, his skin came off with them. He was screaming in agony. It was horrible to see. Imagine how much pressure is required to force fibres into someone’s skin. They tried to make him comfy and put him in an ambulance. I went back to try and find the others.”

In a daze, Hodgson returned to his car where he met Craig Zelly, a compassionate Sheffield Wednesday fan who lived on Harris Road. Friends and family were slowly reunited there.

“What a lovely man. He welcomed us into his house, gave us cups of tea and sandwiches and let us use his phone. We were mates from that day forward,” he says.

“Initially, I thought I’d lost my brother. He was nowhere to be seen. Then I heard someone say he was walking up the road. It turned out he had been going around the bodies trying to find me.

“My mate Tony Kelly had travelled in another car with his dad, Dave Jones and another fella. Thankfully, everyone we had gone with was OK.”

Hodgson travelled to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital to check on Dave Cunningham. He walked into “absolute mayhem”.

“There were priests standing on tables shouting out details about dead people’s belongings,” he says.

“They’d be shouting out stuff like what was engraved on a watch or holding up some trainers. Then you’d hear a scream or a shout of ‘oh my God, no’ as someone realised they’d lost a loved one. I’ve never seen so much anguish.

“We knew Dave had survived and with the help of a priest we found out what ward he was in. He’d lost a lot of skin but he was lucky his pelvic bone never snapped. Dave was like, ‘I’m not staying here, this bed is for someone who really needs it’. His mum came for him and the rest of us drove back to Liverpool.”

The 70-mile journey home was conducted in stunned silence.

“We had the radio on in the car and the numbers just kept going up and up. We went straight to the Flat Iron for a drink and everyone was asking us about what had gone on.

“When I finally got home I got a whack around the head from my old fella. He said I should have gone straight to see him before going to the pub. He was right. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

Hodgson returned to Sheffield in the days that followed to give flowers, chocolates and a baby Liverpool shirt to Craig and his pregnant wife. He also went back inside Hillsborough.

“I was looking at the other end of the stadium thinking, ‘We should have been in there, it was so much bigger’. My dad wrote Craig a letter thanking him for looking after us and then Craig sent my dad a Christmas card every single year after that. Quite a few times over the years he’d come over to Liverpool and stay at mine. Whenever I was in Sheffield I’d always pop in to see him. He passed away last year and we went over there for his funeral. I’ll never forget what he did for us.”

It was four days after the disaster when The Sun newspaper ran their despicable front page with the headline: “The Truth.” They alleged that Liverpool fans stole from the dead, urinated on police and beat up officers who were attempting to help the victims. They were all falsehoods generated by senior South Yorkshire Police officers and Conservative MP Irvine Patnick. A malicious narrative was created that Hillsborough had been caused by drunk, ticketless fans.

“I was actually waiting for the police to put their hands up and admit they got it badly wrong. Fat chance of that,” Hodgson says.

“I remember people talking about that front page but I didn’t want to see it myself. There was stuff on the news and I was like: ‘Oh my god, they’ve got no idea what really went on’.

“It was just a horrible feeling that people would even think that. People believed those terrible lies. Some actually thought we did those things but we never. The fact is that mud sticks. There was all that stuff about police notebooks getting changed so they all had their stories straight to try to hide their own mistakes.

“With social media and camera phones these days, there’s no way they could get away with what they did back then. But for a long time I carried a sense of shame. Not because of what we’d done but because of what some people thought we’d done. If we went away on holiday and got chatting to people I wouldn’t even mention I was at Hillsborough. It was easier that way.”

Following the disaster in 1989, Hodgson was visited at home by West Midlands Police who had been tasked with investigating South Yorkshire officers’ conduct for a public inquiry. Then a 23-year-old married father of two, he was asked to give a statement.

“At the time I played guitar in a rock and roll band and we went around playing the clubs. When they rang the door early one morning I got out of bed to speak to them.

“I had these two officers sat in my front room and next thing one of them nudges the other and goes, ‘He looks like a bit of a lad this one’. They started making comments about my flat top hairdo. I was like, ‘What’s that got to do with what I saw on the day?’

“They said, ‘Yeah, but I bet you can have a go, can’t you?’, insinuating that I liked a fight. I told them I was a family man. They said, ‘Oh, we’re just saying you look like you could handle yourself’. They seemed to be goading me, like they wanted me to say, ‘Oh yeah, you should have seen us at West Ham away…’

“At the time I just thought they were being daft. It was only later that I realised what the police were trying to do — make us look like a bunch of animals who had caused it in order to save their mates’ skin. I was disgusted.”

A fortnight after Hillsborough, Kenny Dalglish’s side returned to action with a friendly against Celtic. Hodgson made the trip to Glasgow and had another narrow escape.

“I had a rear-end blowout on the way home. My Ford Escort Mk2 bounced down the motorway and into the fast lane of the opposite carriageway. It was on its roof and I was kicking the door trying to get out.

“I managed to get out, pulled my mate out the other side and the four of us waited on the central reservation. We were shaken up but not hurt. The ambulance guy told us he thought he’d be dealing with four fatalities.

“We went to the scrapyard to get the engine out of my car and we put it in my brother’s Escort because mine was more powerful. That became the new away car. The following week we went to Old Trafford for the rearranged FA Cup semi with Forest.

“It’s weird the way it works. I know some people who were at Hillsborough who couldn’t ever go back to matches. For me, it went the other way. I needed to be close to that club. I needed to support them more than ever after Hillsborough.

“I had been winding down in terms of going to the aways as I needed to save money for the kids and for holidays. Jean and I already had our sons Mark and Andrew, and then in 1991 we had Sean Bruce, who we named after my hero.

“But after Hillsborough I needed to go wherever Liverpool were playing. I became really obsessive. When we got back into Europe in the early 1990s I went everywhere. Kuusysi Lahti away in the first round of the UEFA Cup, Genoa, Moscow, Sion, Auxerre, I was there.

“I changed and I’d say it ruined my first marriage. We just grew apart. I never saw anyone (to help with the psychological side). I just felt the people who had lost loves ones needed it more than me. I didn’t want to take up time so I dealt with it myself.”

What about his friend Dave who suffered those pelvic injuries?

“It was terrifying for him. He lives in Perth now. He’s got PTSD and struggles with his back. He’s always thanking me for saving his life. Mainly for what I did outside the ground because that horse was going to flatten him but I was only looking out for a mate.”

It was many years after Hillsborough that Hodgson got the opportunity through a mutual friend Tage Herstad (Taggy) to tell Grobbelaar about his debt of gratitude to him.

“I was doing a roast for Mother’s Day and Taggy asked if Bruce could come over for lunch. My mum and dad couldn’t believe it when he turned up.



“It was emotional telling him how I owed my life to his actions. People always say you should never meet your heroes but that’s not the case with Bruce. He’s become such a close family friend. I’ve been on holiday with him and Taggy. We take it in turns to cook for each other.”

Hodgson remarried in 2006 and had two more children with second wife Louise — Joseph and Olivia. The latter was born on April 15. “Louise already had a boy called Kieran and I’m lucky to have such a great family. It’s all friendly with my ex-wife too, which is brilliant.”

He gave evidence at the new inquest which took place in Warrington between 2014 and 2016 — the longest case heard by a jury in British legal history. The truth was finally established with the verdict of unlawful killing. The fans were completely exonerated. The jury ruled that a catalogue of failings by police and the ambulance services contributed to the deaths.

It was vindication for all the families and the survivors who had campaigned so tirelessly against the police’s efforts to blame supporters for the tragedy.

“When they read that out on the TV, it was like something burst inside me,” Hodgson says.

“I couldn’t hold back the tears. That was so important. That verdict helped me so much. Then I could talk more about Hillsborough. Then I could hold my head up high. With all the lies, it was difficult before that.”

The hope then was that justice would follow. However, Sheffield Wednesday’s safety officer at the time, Graham Mackrell, remains the only individual to be convicted of an offence in relation to the unlawful killings. He was fined £6,500 for failing to ensure there were enough turnstiles to prevent a build-up of large crowds outside the ground he was responsible for. There were just seven turnstiles available to the 10,100 Liverpool fans who had tickets to stand on the Leppings Lane and north-west terraces.

In 2019, former South Yorkshire police chief superintendent David Duckenfield, the match commander on the day, was found not guilty of gross negligence manslaughter after a retrial in Preston. Duckenfield, who had never previously overseen a match at Hillsborough, had ordered the opening of Gate C.

Then in May, the last criminal trial connected with the disaster collapsed. Retired police officers Donald Denton and Alan Foster, as well as former solicitor Peter Metcalf, had denied perverting the course of justice by altering police statements.

Mr Justice William Davis ruled they had no case to answer as the statements had been prepared for the public inquiry chaired by Lord Taylor in 1990 which was not considered a court of law.

Chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group Margaret Aspinall, whose son James died in the disaster, described the ruling as “an absolute mockery” and a “shambles”. She talked about “a cover-up over a cover-up” but insisted the families “could go no further”.

Hodgson says: “They must be so tired — 32 years of fighting. They have been magnificent.

“Every time they got knocked down, they picked themselves up and kept going. They refused to be silenced.

“It’s wrong that heads didn’t roll. How can you have so many people unlawfully killed but no one really punished for it? That sticks in my throat. It hurts but I don’t let it get to me. If I did then they’d have won. They know what they did.”



Hodgson now combines work as an electrician with another of his passions in life, cooking. He’s the chef at Hotel Tia and Taggy’s Bar on Anfield Road. Having his own bistro is the realisation of a dream.

“It started off as a hobby and went from there,” he adds.

“With cooking, you are creating something. It’s like an exam every time. The customer is judging what you put in front of them. I love that. My curry is my speciality.

“If I can get away, I’ll get a ticket to the home games but I’m just as happy sitting in the bar when everyone has gone down to the stadium and watching it on TV these days.

“We have the patio doors open and you can hear the roars when we score. It’s like being back in Kensington when I was a little kid.”

spen71:

--- Quote from: WEST HAM PAUL on August  6, 2021, 04:54:10 am ---From The Athletic yesterday 👍

JFT97

Neil Hodgson account

“For a long time I couldn’t bring myself to talk about Hillsborough,” explains Neil Hodgson as he pulls up a chair in Taggy’s Bar on Anfield Road.

“Then in recent years we were told we couldn’t talk about it. We had to keep quiet because of the ongoing court cases. What a waste of time that was. Those who should have been held accountable were protected by the system in this country. Justice wasn’t done. I was there. I know what went on that day. Now they can’t stop me from telling people my story.”

It’s an extraordinary one. Thirty-two years may have passed since the worst disaster in the history of English football but the horrific memories of April 15, 1989, are still painfully vivid.

The devoted Liverpool supporter was caught up in the crush in the overcrowded central pens on the Leppings Lane End at the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

Having dropped to his knees and crawled through dozens of legs in order to reach the wall at the front of the terrace, Hodgson believes he owes his life to the persistence of goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, who convinced police to belatedly open the gate behind his goal to enable fans to escape on to the pitch.

“I wouldn’t be sat here now if Bruce hadn’t done what he did. No chance,” he says. The pair have since developed a close friendship which Hodgson cherishes.

On that fateful afternoon in Sheffield and in the devastating aftermath, he witnessed both the best and the worst of human nature. Kindness and camaraderie in stark contrast to cruelty and deception. Lies were peddled and a shameful cover-up launched by the authorities who tried to blame supporters for their own wretched failings.

Andrew Devine, who suffered permanent brain damage in the crush, legally became the 97th victim of Hillsborough when he passed away in July. The true toll is much greater.

A number of survivors have committed suicide over the years, others like Hodgson’s close friend Dave Cunningham, who emigrated to Australia, still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So many families were torn apart. So many still carry both physical and psychological scars.

“No one who was there that day was ever the same again,” Hodgson says. “It affected different people in different ways but it definitely changed us all.”

Home for Hodgson was on Cambria Street in the Kensington area of Liverpool, just a mile or so from Anfield. He lived with parents Joan and Andy, and his brother Carl.

“When I was a little kid, my mum used to leave the back door open when Liverpool were playing so we could hear the roar when they scored,” Hodgson smiles.

“When the really big games came along she would always make me a rosette to wear. I was born in 1966 and my first game was against West Brom in about 1977 or 1978. I was in the Annie Road End for that one.”

After attending Anfield Comprehensive School, he went to college and trained to be an electrician, working on the schooner “Spirit of Merseyside” at the docks before specialising in automotive electronics.



“As soon as I could drive I got myself a Ford Escort Mk2 and started going to all the away games with my mates. We used to meet up at the Flat Iron (a pub close to Anfield). The landlord would make us this peppery soup to put in our flasks for the journey if it was a long one. We went everywhere.

“We were never going to miss an FA Cup semi. April 15, 1989 was a glorious sunny day. I picked the lads up and we headed for Sheffield. We were all excited about watching the Reds hopefully get to another Wembley final.”

Neil was joined in the car by his brother Carl and friends Dave and Stevie. They headed for the Silver Fox pub in Stocksbridge, just 20 minutes away from the stadium.

“We had some sarnies and played killer pool. I wasn’t drinking as I was driving,” he recalls.

“We left about 2pm and drove down into Sheffield. We parked up in Harris Road. We’d done the same thing the year before when we also played Forest in the semis at Hillsborough.



“But the difference compared to 12 months earlier was massive. In 1988 there were regular ticket checks on the walk to the ground. That regulated and staggered the flow of people. But in 1989 we didn’t get stopped once. It was a shambles. The Leppings Lane End was like a funnel and the closer we got the scarier things became. There was no organisation, no control, no cordons. There was a bottleneck.

“We were a few yards from the turnstiles at about 2.45pm and I was thinking, ‘It’s getting a bit nuts around here’. A police horse got spooked and its arse was in our faces. My mate Dave was up against the wall and it looked like this horse was going to crush him so I grabbed hold of him and threw him right through the turnstile.

“The next thing the police ordered that they opened Gate C. They didn’t have a clue what they were doing. I went through the turnstile next to that gate and into the tunnel.”

That tunnel should have been closed off by police. It led to central pens three and four which were already dangerously packed. As they emerged onto the standing terrace Hodgson soon realised that they were in serious danger.

“The game had just kicked off and I could see Bruce in his goal,” he says.

“We tried to get across to the left but suddenly I got flipped around and I was facing the stand. We were so tightly packed together I couldn’t move back around. Dave was on one side of the barrier and I was on the other side of it.

“Dave’s face started going purple and blue. He was saying ‘Neil, I can’t breathe’. He was bent over the bar. I put my hands on his chest to push him back but because there was nowhere for him to go all that was happening was that I was collapsing his lungs.

“Next thing the barrier collapsed under all the pressure and I dropped to the floor. I was on my hands and knees. There was no way I could stand back up. There was more room down there than up top.”

Hodgson’s mind was racing but he remembered seeing a gate just to the left of Grobbelaar’s goal and made a beeline for it.

“I started crawling through people’s legs. The noise above me was terrible, screaming and groaning. It was hell. It took a few minutes but somehow I got down to the brick wall at the front, I turned right and found that gate. I was one of the first to come through it.

“It was only later that I realised how important Bruce had been in saving my life. I found out subsequently that he realised people were in serious trouble while the game was still going on and he was shouting at the police to get that gate open. Eventually, they did. If I’d spent time by that gate when it was still locked it would have been no good, I wouldn’t be here.

“I just remember stepping out onto the grass thinking, ‘What the fuck happened there?’ I was a goalkeeper myself for our pub team and Bruce was my hero. He was standing there right in front of me. It was surreal.

“I know it sounds stupid but my next thought was, ‘My mum is going to think I’m a right divvie for getting on the pitch’. She was in hospital at the time and I knew she’d be watching on TV.

“But then more and more people started coming through that gate. I turned to my left and saw my mate Dave getting passed over people’s heads. He was semi-conscious. We got one of the advertising hoardings, put him on that and took him to the top of the West Stand.

“We were getting some stick off the Forest fans initially. They didn’t know what had gone on. They thought we had just invaded the pitch. Then was that bloody stupid police line. Those officers just stood there watching while the fans helped the injured and the dying.


Hillsborough, April 15, 1989: (Photo: David Cannon/Allsport)
“We waited for an ambulance. It was about 40 minutes before we got any help. The medic said he needed to loosen Dave’s belt but as he pulled his jeans, his skin came off with them. He was screaming in agony. It was horrible to see. Imagine how much pressure is required to force fibres into someone’s skin. They tried to make him comfy and put him in an ambulance. I went back to try and find the others.”

In a daze, Hodgson returned to his car where he met Craig Zelly, a compassionate Sheffield Wednesday fan who lived on Harris Road. Friends and family were slowly reunited there.

“What a lovely man. He welcomed us into his house, gave us cups of tea and sandwiches and let us use his phone. We were mates from that day forward,” he says.

“Initially, I thought I’d lost my brother. He was nowhere to be seen. Then I heard someone say he was walking up the road. It turned out he had been going around the bodies trying to find me.

“My mate Tony Kelly had travelled in another car with his dad, Dave Jones and another fella. Thankfully, everyone we had gone with was OK.”

Hodgson travelled to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital to check on Dave Cunningham. He walked into “absolute mayhem”.

“There were priests standing on tables shouting out details about dead people’s belongings,” he says.

“They’d be shouting out stuff like what was engraved on a watch or holding up some trainers. Then you’d hear a scream or a shout of ‘oh my God, no’ as someone realised they’d lost a loved one. I’ve never seen so much anguish.

“We knew Dave had survived and with the help of a priest we found out what ward he was in. He’d lost a lot of skin but he was lucky his pelvic bone never snapped. Dave was like, ‘I’m not staying here, this bed is for someone who really needs it’. His mum came for him and the rest of us drove back to Liverpool.”

The 70-mile journey home was conducted in stunned silence.

“We had the radio on in the car and the numbers just kept going up and up. We went straight to the Flat Iron for a drink and everyone was asking us about what had gone on.

“When I finally got home I got a whack around the head from my old fella. He said I should have gone straight to see him before going to the pub. He was right. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

Hodgson returned to Sheffield in the days that followed to give flowers, chocolates and a baby Liverpool shirt to Craig and his pregnant wife. He also went back inside Hillsborough.

“I was looking at the other end of the stadium thinking, ‘We should have been in there, it was so much bigger’. My dad wrote Craig a letter thanking him for looking after us and then Craig sent my dad a Christmas card every single year after that. Quite a few times over the years he’d come over to Liverpool and stay at mine. Whenever I was in Sheffield I’d always pop in to see him. He passed away last year and we went over there for his funeral. I’ll never forget what he did for us.”

It was four days after the disaster when The Sun newspaper ran their despicable front page with the headline: “The Truth.” They alleged that Liverpool fans stole from the dead, urinated on police and beat up officers who were attempting to help the victims. They were all falsehoods generated by senior South Yorkshire Police officers and Conservative MP Irvine Patnick. A malicious narrative was created that Hillsborough had been caused by drunk, ticketless fans.

“I was actually waiting for the police to put their hands up and admit they got it badly wrong. Fat chance of that,” Hodgson says.

“I remember people talking about that front page but I didn’t want to see it myself. There was stuff on the news and I was like: ‘Oh my god, they’ve got no idea what really went on’.

“It was just a horrible feeling that people would even think that. People believed those terrible lies. Some actually thought we did those things but we never. The fact is that mud sticks. There was all that stuff about police notebooks getting changed so they all had their stories straight to try to hide their own mistakes.

“With social media and camera phones these days, there’s no way they could get away with what they did back then. But for a long time I carried a sense of shame. Not because of what we’d done but because of what some people thought we’d done. If we went away on holiday and got chatting to people I wouldn’t even mention I was at Hillsborough. It was easier that way.”

Following the disaster in 1989, Hodgson was visited at home by West Midlands Police who had been tasked with investigating South Yorkshire officers’ conduct for a public inquiry. Then a 23-year-old married father of two, he was asked to give a statement.

“At the time I played guitar in a rock and roll band and we went around playing the clubs. When they rang the door early one morning I got out of bed to speak to them.

“I had these two officers sat in my front room and next thing one of them nudges the other and goes, ‘He looks like a bit of a lad this one’. They started making comments about my flat top hairdo. I was like, ‘What’s that got to do with what I saw on the day?’

“They said, ‘Yeah, but I bet you can have a go, can’t you?’, insinuating that I liked a fight. I told them I was a family man. They said, ‘Oh, we’re just saying you look like you could handle yourself’. They seemed to be goading me, like they wanted me to say, ‘Oh yeah, you should have seen us at West Ham away…’

“At the time I just thought they were being daft. It was only later that I realised what the police were trying to do — make us look like a bunch of animals who had caused it in order to save their mates’ skin. I was disgusted.”

A fortnight after Hillsborough, Kenny Dalglish’s side returned to action with a friendly against Celtic. Hodgson made the trip to Glasgow and had another narrow escape.

“I had a rear-end blowout on the way home. My Ford Escort Mk2 bounced down the motorway and into the fast lane of the opposite carriageway. It was on its roof and I was kicking the door trying to get out.

“I managed to get out, pulled my mate out the other side and the four of us waited on the central reservation. We were shaken up but not hurt. The ambulance guy told us he thought he’d be dealing with four fatalities.

“We went to the scrapyard to get the engine out of my car and we put it in my brother’s Escort because mine was more powerful. That became the new away car. The following week we went to Old Trafford for the rearranged FA Cup semi with Forest.

“It’s weird the way it works. I know some people who were at Hillsborough who couldn’t ever go back to matches. For me, it went the other way. I needed to be close to that club. I needed to support them more than ever after Hillsborough.

“I had been winding down in terms of going to the aways as I needed to save money for the kids and for holidays. Jean and I already had our sons Mark and Andrew, and then in 1991 we had Sean Bruce, who we named after my hero.

“But after Hillsborough I needed to go wherever Liverpool were playing. I became really obsessive. When we got back into Europe in the early 1990s I went everywhere. Kuusysi Lahti away in the first round of the UEFA Cup, Genoa, Moscow, Sion, Auxerre, I was there.

“I changed and I’d say it ruined my first marriage. We just grew apart. I never saw anyone (to help with the psychological side). I just felt the people who had lost loves ones needed it more than me. I didn’t want to take up time so I dealt with it myself.”

What about his friend Dave who suffered those pelvic injuries?

“It was terrifying for him. He lives in Perth now. He’s got PTSD and struggles with his back. He’s always thanking me for saving his life. Mainly for what I did outside the ground because that horse was going to flatten him but I was only looking out for a mate.”

It was many years after Hillsborough that Hodgson got the opportunity through a mutual friend Tage Herstad (Taggy) to tell Grobbelaar about his debt of gratitude to him.

“I was doing a roast for Mother’s Day and Taggy asked if Bruce could come over for lunch. My mum and dad couldn’t believe it when he turned up.



“It was emotional telling him how I owed my life to his actions. People always say you should never meet your heroes but that’s not the case with Bruce. He’s become such a close family friend. I’ve been on holiday with him and Taggy. We take it in turns to cook for each other.”

Hodgson remarried in 2006 and had two more children with second wife Louise — Joseph and Olivia. The latter was born on April 15. “Louise already had a boy called Kieran and I’m lucky to have such a great family. It’s all friendly with my ex-wife too, which is brilliant.”

He gave evidence at the new inquest which took place in Warrington between 2014 and 2016 — the longest case heard by a jury in British legal history. The truth was finally established with the verdict of unlawful killing. The fans were completely exonerated. The jury ruled that a catalogue of failings by police and the ambulance services contributed to the deaths.

It was vindication for all the families and the survivors who had campaigned so tirelessly against the police’s efforts to blame supporters for the tragedy.

“When they read that out on the TV, it was like something burst inside me,” Hodgson says.

“I couldn’t hold back the tears. That was so important. That verdict helped me so much. Then I could talk more about Hillsborough. Then I could hold my head up high. With all the lies, it was difficult before that.”

The hope then was that justice would follow. However, Sheffield Wednesday’s safety officer at the time, Graham Mackrell, remains the only individual to be convicted of an offence in relation to the unlawful killings. He was fined £6,500 for failing to ensure there were enough turnstiles to prevent a build-up of large crowds outside the ground he was responsible for. There were just seven turnstiles available to the 10,100 Liverpool fans who had tickets to stand on the Leppings Lane and north-west terraces.

In 2019, former South Yorkshire police chief superintendent David Duckenfield, the match commander on the day, was found not guilty of gross negligence manslaughter after a retrial in Preston. Duckenfield, who had never previously overseen a match at Hillsborough, had ordered the opening of Gate C.

Then in May, the last criminal trial connected with the disaster collapsed. Retired police officers Donald Denton and Alan Foster, as well as former solicitor Peter Metcalf, had denied perverting the course of justice by altering police statements.

Mr Justice William Davis ruled they had no case to answer as the statements had been prepared for the public inquiry chaired by Lord Taylor in 1990 which was not considered a court of law.

Chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group Margaret Aspinall, whose son James died in the disaster, described the ruling as “an absolute mockery” and a “shambles”. She talked about “a cover-up over a cover-up” but insisted the families “could go no further”.

Hodgson says: “They must be so tired — 32 years of fighting. They have been magnificent.

“Every time they got knocked down, they picked themselves up and kept going. They refused to be silenced.

“It’s wrong that heads didn’t roll. How can you have so many people unlawfully killed but no one really punished for it? That sticks in my throat. It hurts but I don’t let it get to me. If I did then they’d have won. They know what they did.”



Hodgson now combines work as an electrician with another of his passions in life, cooking. He’s the chef at Hotel Tia and Taggy’s Bar on Anfield Road. Having his own bistro is the realisation of a dream.

“It started off as a hobby and went from there,” he adds.

“With cooking, you are creating something. It’s like an exam every time. The customer is judging what you put in front of them. I love that. My curry is my speciality.

“If I can get away, I’ll get a ticket to the home games but I’m just as happy sitting in the bar when everyone has gone down to the stadium and watching it on TV these days.

“We have the patio doors open and you can hear the roars when we score. It’s like being back in Kensington when I was a little kid.”

--- End quote ---

Cheers Paul.    Only just one returned to this thread as it’s so upsetting.     Brought a tear to my eye that did

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