Lest WE forget…
Let’s put a myth to bed straight away – there is an absolutely miniscule number of Manchester United fans that celebrate the death of 96 Liverpool supporters at Hillsborough. It may suit the agenda of the British media (in the build up to a televised game) and bleating Liverpool fans to portray United’s support as a mass of Hillsborough revelry but the prevailing view is that Hillsborough was a tragedy caused by people who should have prevented it and covered up by those who should have reported the truth and brought those people to justice long, long before now. The fact is that United fans, on the whole, support the campaign for justice and would take almost as much satisfaction as their Scouse “enemy” from seeing the Police, press and Tory government get what’s coming to them.
Most support the campaign because they either went to football in the eighties or have taken the time to learn from those who did that football fans, regardless of the club you supported, weren’t worth looking after or looking out for. That’s the reason Spurs fans in ‘81 were lucky not to befall the same fate as the 96 Liverpool fans. It’s the reason United fans were lucky not to die at the same ground just a few weeks before the ‘89 disaster. If the worst had happened, then you can pretty much guarantee the same arse-covering and name-besmirching exercise would have gone on. And that’s the reason the vast, vast majority of United fans support the campaign for justice. I’m very sorry if that does nothing to stoke things up ahead of a game that advertisers have paid good money to be linked with next Sunday, but it’s true.
The singing at Old Trafford yesterday contradicts this view of course, which is timely ahead of Squabble Sunday on Sky, and the media have been quick to jump on it and make out the entire Stretford End was mocking Hillsborough. The truth, I imagine, is that only a couple of thousand people sang “it’s never your fault…” – the origins of which lie in the Suarez v Evra episode from last season – but it is difficult to deny the Heysel and Hillsborough overtones and it certainly didn’t shower Manchester United in glory, however much internet apologists were insisting it was just a Suarez reference ahead of next week’s game. I’d imagine most who did sing it won’t be on the train to Lime Street next week or if they are they’d struggle to hold a decent conversation with you about why mocking Hillsborough is an insult to ordinary football fans and a defence of the Police, government and other bodies who neglected their duties and covered the whole thing up. Mind you, they would probably argue that there was no Hillsborough intent and you’d go round in the same boring fucking circle…
Anyway, putting aside those who were either oblivious to how it would be received yesterday or those who just thought they would celebrate Hillsborough by stealth, there is an important and historically significant reason why United fans stand alone on the issue of Hillsborough and this shouldn’t be forgotten by holier-than-thou hacks and radio phone-in mouthpieces who get paid to be outraged by everything and who had a feast after yesterday’s game against Wigan. You’re unlikely to see any public displays of support from United because of the celebration of Munich amongst many Liverpool fans. You shouldn’t interpret that as either my individual or United fans’ collective defence of anyone who revels in Hillsborough but that is the reason Reds are saying “good luck with justice but you can still fuck off”. To do anything else would be insulting.
You see, it’s very easy for city fans , for example, to take an outwardly-sympathetic line. For starters, they don’t have the same competitive history but they also haven’t endured over 20 years of hypocrisy from Liverpool fans over Munich or the thirty-odd year long outright celebration of the disaster amongst some on Merseyside. It’s quite logical however that United fans can want justice for Hillsborough but not go out of their way to show it because of their own rawness over decades of taunts about Munich. Almost every single one of the United fans I know feels that way – go and get justice but at the same time have a look at yourselves and the way you have behaved for years and years. We’re not going to forget.
Of course, at the extreme end, it’s just fucking moronic to start circulating pictures of Munich flags at Heysel and somehow claim that it’s ok to mock the 96 Hillsborough dead, somehow seeing it as an eye for an eye. However, reminding the world that Liverpool fans did and to some not-insignificant extent still do taunt us with Munich does go a long way to justifying why United fans will not be rushing to get banners made up to show support for the Justice campaign. After all, where is the recognition of the grief and injustice that the Munich families feel at the premature loss of their loved ones? It’s certainly not evident in the Youtube footage of the Spirit of Shankly where it seems like hundreds are happily singing about the disaster. Nor can you see much in L-Stand when Liverpool visit Old Trafford. You see more aeroplanes in their end than you do in each of the other 18 home games put together, including city’s visit, which is saying something.
There are knobheads associated with both clubs and those knobheads are unfortunately heard above the many right-minded fans from Manchester and Liverpool who dispel a lot of the media myths. However, we, barring our own knobheads, neither celebrate the Hillsborough deaths nor believe we should stand shoulder to shoulder with Liverpool fans. We sit somewhere in the middle, knowing that the Police, Thatcher’s government and all the rest of them deserve outing, but knowing the history of disrespect that Liverpool fans have shown our dead cannot and should not be forgotten. And for that, good luck with justice but you can still fuck off.