Most people know that in 1989, 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives in a terrible human crush at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield during an F.A. Cup semi-final match versus Nottingham Forest. You can read more about the 1989 disaster here.
What many people don’t know however is that disaster nearly struck eight years earlier, at the same ground, in the same round, of the same cup competition. That year it was Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers who travelled to the Hillsborough stadium, and it was the Spurs fans who were allocated the smaller, problematic Leppings lane end of the ground. There were broken limbs and other injuries sustained that day in 1981, but thankfully no fatalities largely due to the fact that the police opened up pitch-side gates as the crushing became apparent. If only they had done that in 1989.
As a part of the filming of my Hillsborough Disaster documentary, I met with a Spurs fan who was at Hillsborough that day in 1981, and he told me his story, You can also see the video he put together here which shows the Spurs fans spilling onto the pitch as play continues.
Here is a short clip taken from my longer interview with Neil Irving that will appear in the documentary:
Had the South Yorkshire Police not opened the perimeter gates that day, and let over 500 Spurs fans escape onto the pitch (click to watch video) then there could well have been a Hillsborough disaster eight years before the one in 1989.
I am due to meet with other fans from other teams who also had a terrible experience of the Leppings Lane terracing, and more details on that will follow.
So why was it OK to open the gates in 1981, but not in 1989?
If you are a Spurs fan, and you were at Hillsborough for this match in 1981, please leave a reply with your recollections below.