Liverpool News: Have The Fates of Liverpool Football Club and The Hillsborough 'cover up' been Inextricably Linked For 23 Years?

By Kevin Morley.

When the outcome of the Hillsborough panel review was announced, almost a week ago, nobody in Liverpool was to be found rejoicing.  There was an air of respectful gratitude for the diligent work of the review team, and a sense of relief that the truth had finally been uncovered.  There was, however, no joy, and there is, as yet, no retribution for those who perpetrated what has been described as the biggest cover up in English legal history.  It is hoped that this justice will come later and, until those responsible are brought to account for their most heinous actions following the tragedy, there will be no justice.

The panel report, and the enormity of the findings have rocked the football establishment.  They also set the tone for what was always destined to be a difficult week for anybody connected with Liverpool Football Club.  Those that represent the foundations of the club, Kenny Dalglish, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, and the legends of the past, were once again ready to offer unbridled support to those who suffered the most - the families of the victims.  Brendan Rodgers also showed an increasingly prevalent human side.  It was a difficult position for Rodgers to be in, he has only been at the club for 3 months but here he was, the manager of Liverpool FC, on a day that was monumental in their history.  For his part, Brendan handled the situation immaculately.

The events of Hillsborough and the subsequent suffering of those at the match on that day, and their families, made football seem of little significance.  What footballer could even think about the game in the same way after witnessing those tragic events?  What team could forget the suffering on that day and consider winning to be of the same level of importance it once seemed? 

While we consider the 23 years that have passed since that awful day, it is interesting to reflect on how the fates of the club have changed since that period.  Hillsborough was the darkest of days for English football, and, barring a single league title the following year, it was also the start of the least successful period in Liverpool football history since before Bill Shankly arrived. Liverpool won their last League championship in 1990 and have not looked like repeating it since.  In a footballing sense, the last 22 years was not what anybody had been expecting.  The injustice that took place off the field has been accompanied by an unusually poor performance on the footballing side at LFC.

Fans of other teams cannot begin to imagine the pain and sense of injustice that has been felt at Anfield since that dreadful day in 1989.  The fans at Liverpool knew the truth all along, true football fans, no matter where their allegiances lay, knew the truth all along...even those that perpetrated the lie knew the truth all along.  Struggling with this injustice, and striving for success at the same time has been something that many will feel has proven too much for Liverpool Football Club to cope with.

In 1991, less than two years after the Hillsborough disaster, Kenny Dalglish resigned as Liverpool manager.  Kenny said at the time that he had given Liverpool Football Club everything he had to give, and nobody could say that was not true.  Kenny had offered his personal support to every single family who lost a loved one, he had attended every single funeral, and carried the club during its darkest moment. Immediately after the tragedy Kenny had said that football was no longer important, and he was right.  Many felt that Hillsborough took its toll on Kenny, who was still a very young manager at only 41 years of age.  That assessment was an accurate one, he was back at Blackburn within months of his resignation and was successful once more.  Anybody who had not suffered in Kenny's position would have to be inhumane for the loss and grief to have not affected them in the same way.

When it comes to the football club, perhaps it was not just Kenny that suffered.  As people up and down the country chose to believe the lies that were spread about what happened on that day in 1989, Liverpool Football Club, its fans, even the people of the City, have suffered as a result of that collective ignorance.  Liverpool fans will never be found wanting when it comes to supporting their club, or publicly showing their faith.  As Brendan Rodgers says, it is more than a club, it is a way of life.  But Liverpool, and all connected with it, faced a fight against injustice and a media that at its worst perpetuated the lie, and at best cast doubt on both sides of the story.

The football struggle faced by Liverpool Football Club over the last 22 years pales into insignificance when we consider what the families of the 96 victims of Hillsborough have been through.  But, perhaps now the truth is out, and those culpable for the events of that day have been held to account, without any escape from their responsibility, the club can now begin its own healing process.  On Saturday against Sunderland, the Liverpool team put in arguably their best performance of the season.  This was at a time when every player can not have failed to feel the emotion of the occasion and the responsibility they placed on themselves for getting a win in the first game since the review panel's report was produced.

After last week, everybody knows what we all knew, the fans were the victims that day, plain and simple.  Liverpool FC was damaged by the lies, the reputation of the club once again at stake.  Whether there is a link between the disaster, the lies spread about the best fans in the world, and the fate of Liverpool on the footballing field, nobody will ever be able to prove.  There are many other factors including ownership, management and finances that have resulted in Liverpool suffering a lack of consistent success in the last twenty years.  The only thing we do know is that those who suffered on that day will be watching and hoping the next 23 years are more successful than the last 23.

Nobody inside or outside of football will ever forget the tragic events of Hillsborough, and neither should they.  Nobody at Liverpool Football Club will ever allow those who went to enjoy a football match and never came home to be forgotten.  Hillsborough changed football, and changed it forever.  Perhaps the events of last Wednesday, and the work of the review panel, will also go some way to changing the fates of Liverpool Football Club over the next 23 years.