Hillsborough survivor - Thank you to the people of Sheffield

The Hillsborough Memorial in Sheffield on the day that an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing. Picture Scott Merrylees
The Hillsborough Memorial in Sheffield on the day that an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing. Picture Scott Merrylees
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A survivor of the Hillsborough disaster has expressed his thanks to the people of Sheffield who helped distraught Liverpool fans.

Many Sheffielders living close to Sheffield Wednesday’s ground opened their homes to Liverpool supporters immediately after the disaster to allow them to call their loved ones and let them know they had survived.

Among those at the ground on the day was Charlie Cooper, a Liverpool supporter who is now aged 44.

He contacted The Star to say he wanted to thank the people of Sheffield for the help they had shown fans on the day.

“At this difficult time for us all after the verdicts were announced yesterday, there has been a lot of blame and raw wounds reopened,” he said.

“As a survivor from that sad day, I would like to say thank you to the lovely people of Sheffield and Penistone Road who opened their doors to help on the darkest day in both of our cities’ history.

“There are no winners and losers. It could have been any team from anywhere in the country caught up in the horror of Hillsborough and sadly it was ours.

“We will never forget the 96 but we should also remember what the citizens of your city did as well on that beautiful yet tragic afternoon.”

Frank Donnelly, from Totley, Sheffield, said he was delighted the Liverpool supporters he met on the day of the 1989 FA Cup semi-final had finally got justice after years of being ‘totally vilified’ by the police and other organisations.

He said: “What a gloriously sunny day the 15th April 1989 was.

“I was only in Hillsborough to get my car serviced at DC Cook’s on the corner of Penistone and Herries Road.

“The car had to be in before 9am and collected before 1pm.

“So I walked slowly into Hillsborough, meeting lots of families from Liverpool who had come early to get good places on the terraces or in the stands to watch the game. I chatted to many of them in the shops and later picnicking and feeding the ducks and sunning themselves in Hillsborough Park.

“They were all in a jubilant, happy mood, anticipating the great game in the afternoon.

“It is quite likely that most of those happy Liverpudlian families I had met and chatted with were the first to get into the ground, and make their way down to the goal line at the front of the terraces. For 27 years I have stood up for all those happy Liverpool families that I met that morning.

“I saw no drinking of alcohol or bad behaviour at all from anyone.

“Only laughter and sunshine.

“Yet, they have all been totally vilified by the police and other authorities for all those years – until now. God bless them all. RIP at last.”

Another Liverpudlian June Woolfall contacted The Star to say: “Could you please pass on thanks from myself and all the people of Liverpool, for all the support they have given over all these years and to the many people who opened their doors to let people phone home to let relatives know they were safe, including my brother.

“The lady who let him use her phone had a line of people down the street waiting to use her phone. Also those that welcomed people in for a cuppa. Their kindness and support will never be forgotten.”

Trevor Jackson, from Gleadless, said questions also need to be asked of decisions made by Margaret Thatcher’s Government regarding policing football matches.

“One body that seems to have escaped criticism or blame is the Government at that time,” he said.

“As I remember, after a riot by Millwall fans at Luton Town, it was decided that fences should be erected at the standing areas of all Football League grounds. I suppose that the Football Association was involved in this decision too. These fences were dangerous. In France they had fences too but if there was any trouble with crushing then at a press of a button the fences would collapse allowing people to escape on to the pitch.

“If this type of fence had been installed at Hillsborough and other football grounds then this disaster wouldn’t have happened. Unfortunately at that time, football supporters were all looked on as potential hooligans so they had to be fenced in.”