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Short and tender memories

Submitted by on September 16, 2012 – 3:56 pmOne Comment

The real enemy

During a visit to Anfield by Manchester United following the Hillsborough tragedy, shortly after the start of the game the mancunian reds in the Anfield Road End asked their Liverpudlian counterparts en masse ‘Where’s your famous Munich song?’

It wasn’t a chant aimed at upsetting those grieving the loss of their loved ones at a disaster that could easily have involved United supporters on many previous visits to Hillsborough, but it was highlighting the hurt that Liverpool fans had induced on followers of Manchester United for many years previous to their own disaster with their songs, banners and gestures about the Munich air disaster.

The silence was, as the cliché goes, ‘deafening’ at Anfield in the wake of that song.

I was 11 at the time of Hillsborough and had only been away from Old Trafford a few times, but I went on to do so regularly until 2005 when my club was stolen from me. I can honestly say in that time, I seldom heard any United fans singing about Hillsborough. I certainly never heard it sung en masse in a football ground, and can count on one hand the amount of times I heard it sung in pubs and on trains. When it was sung, the vast majority present shut the idiots up, as happened when a handful of idiots shouted things during a minute’s silence for Tony Bland, one of the last Hillsborough victims, at Anfield in 1993.

My own lack of witness of such behaviour may be due to the company I chose to keep being of an intelligence and compassion to know what the difference is between piss taking and singing about people dying, or it may, as I would like to think, be because the vast majority of United fans rose above it and were happy to have made their point with that song and to leave it at that.

When Liverpool stopped singing about Munich that showed them up and gave us mancunian reds a sense of pride that we weren’t as ‘low’ as they had been for so many years.

Although shocked that the authorities allowed the cover-up to be revealed in such devastating depth, I was not surprised at all by any of the findings in the report about the Hillsborough disaster released last week.

As even though the majority of my active away-following United days took place after the disaster due to my age, I was party to some terrible policing for many years, as every young, working class football fan over a certain age would have been. It still goes on.

We are still treated like shit, despite nearly 100 people losing their lives for the crime of watching their football team years earlier. I remember being crushed trying to get into the newly seated Hillsborough on more than one occasion in the 1990s. I was sickened to discover that Sheffield Wednesday had simply bolted seats on the terracing where people had died, rather than knocking the Leppings Lane Stand down. It really does beggar belief that that was allowed to happen.

I also remember a visit to Goodison in 1993 when the kick off was delayed due to crushing in the central section of the old Park End terrace. The tannoy announcing ‘Will the Manchester fans please move to the left and right sections of the terracing and not the centre – it is over-crowded’ stays with me to this day.

Knowing what I do about how the media and ruling elite works in this country and as a football fan, I never believed the bullshit put about by the police, backed by the Government about what happened at Hillsborough. I certainly didn’t, and never will, believe a single word written in The Sun.

I think this was a view shared by the majority of Manchester United fans who had experienced attending football matches away from Old Trafford, or lived in areas where the police took great delight in goading young, working class men, of all ethnicities, for sport (I firmly believe this treatment was a huge contributory factor to the riots last summer, particularly where I live in Salford).

Therefore I was saddened to hear through mates who still go to watch Manchester United regularly that there was an element that had taken to singing about Hillsborough on trains and even sometimes in the ground. I am going off their testimonies and am in no way suggesting all home and away reds embark on this pathetic behaviour.

It seems to have become acceptable following ‘shit gate’ in 2006 when Liverpool fans knocked cups of human excrement off the second tier of the Anfield Road stand onto their United counterparts below. It happened, I have spoken to reds who were stood close enough to confirm it.

That, and the fact United played terribly in a very low key defeat, seemed to reignite a swapping of awful songs about death, not seen since the 1980s when Liverpool fans would revel in Munich and United fans would sing ‘Shankly ‘81’ back at them.

Furthermore, there was a sizeable group of young Mancunians who went to Anfield for an FA Youth Cup game recently and sang loudly about the Hillsborough tragedy. Many reds of our generation and older would have been extremely saddened and embarrassed to hear about these incidents.

Apparently there has also been a widespread return of the Munich songs to Liverpool fans’ songbook too – evidence is all over youtube. And who can forget the loud, celebratory chants about George Best’s death emanating from the visiting section when Liverpool visited Old Trafford soon after the Irishman’s death?

The younger element never experienced football in what is now coined ‘the dark ages’ of the 1980s and probably have never been in a situation where they felt unsafe and in danger at a football match (beyond violent confrontations with opposition supporters). They therefore have no empathy for those crushed to death behind fences, put there to cage us fans like animals.

But still, many of the older element who still follow United no doubt engage in this kind of behaviour too, through an overstated, exaggerated hatred of all things Liverpool. Their determination to hurt and upset people, probably of the same social circumstances as them, in order to score points over football, is really demoralising. Their insistence on using Liverpool fans’ Munich singing as an excuse, even more so.

This culture that exists among much of United’s hardcore for hating scousers, in order to achieve ‘top red’ status among their peers is truly sad. It is bad enough these clowns sing about Liverpool when United aren’t even playing them. But to sing about the deaths of people doing what they themselves may have been doing that same day in April 1989, really is troubling.

Watching Match of the Day last night, you could clearly hear United fans singing ‘always the victims, it’s never your fault’.

This was a song born out of the Evra-Suarez row last season. However, the singing of it on Saturday was clearly in response to the findings of the Hillsborough report and those that sang it have shamed not just Manchester United Football Club but the legacy of our once-proud fan culture.

Sadly, I fear a minority of United fans will again disgrace themselves at Anfield next Sunday. I hope I am proved wrong, but I truly have no faith in modern football fans. Many have no class or empathy and although songs like this have always been sang, going back to the 1960s, in this day and age you would have hoped that people would have more perspective on life.

It is time for the deluded few to start realising who the real enemy is and it certainly isn’t fellow football fans from a fellow working class city.

United fans will never openly display banners or chant in support of justice for Hillsborough, which Liverpool fans still rightly chase, because of the years of Munich abuse we endured from them. But that doesn’t mean we have to revel in their own disaster to ‘get our own back’. Munich is not an excuse to abuse others about their own tragedies. We should rise above it as we always used to.

It could have been me or you that died at Hillsborough, had United not been controversially knocked out in the sixth round by Liverpool’s opponents Nottingham Forest.

It is worth thinking about that before you indulge in silly songs aimed at upsetting people whose children have died doing what you also love doing. Watching football.

One Comment »

  • Milt says:

    People who sing that shite shame no-one but themselves. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because they’re Man United fans, they’re bringing shame on you. We’re all accountable for our actions as individuals. Just because it happens at a match, doesn’t make it a “football event”. It just means knobs are more confident of being knobs when they’re surrounded by a shroud of relative anonymity.

    Pure conjecture and not meant to cause a row, but – if the boot was on the other foot, and Munich had happened to Liverpool and Hillsborough to United, do you think it would have played out the same, with you goading them and then them taking the higher ground? I do, because people are people regardless of who they support, and there’s no fans of one given club that are more puritanical and decent than the next.

    Being a twat has nothing to do with your football affiliations. We can all differentiate between right and wrong.

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