Overcrowding on the Leppings Lane terrace at the FA Cup semi-final the year before the Hillsborough tragedy made it ‘impossible to breathe’, the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters heard.
A fan who went to the 1988 cup tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest said he freed himself from a central pen at half-time because he feared for his safety.
Harry Whittall said he wrote to Ted Croker, then secretary of the Football Association, but never received a reply.
He said during the first-half he became ‘uncomfortable’ with the density of the crowd in the Liverpool end and left when his umbrella snapped on a barrier.
At half-time he stood to the side of the stand and listened to the match.
In his letter to the FA Mr Whittall said ‘the whole area was packed to the point where it was impossible to move’.
He told the FA at times he found it ‘impossible to breathe’, adding: “It would therefore be helpful if you could please let me know how such overcrowding, with a direct impact on crowd safety, was allowed to happen.”
Coroner Lord Justice Goldring asked him: “Given the overcrowding you have described, could you have got out before half-time?”
Mr Whittall replied: “No, it was not possible. I was jammed in the crowd and until the crowd eased it was not possible.”
Crushing took place at the same spot in the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between the same two teams which led to the disaster.
The jury also heard from former police officer William West who spoke about a briefing given to officers of F Division by Chief Supt David Duckenfield - appointed match commander three weeks before the tragedy.
Mr West said: “It was a very one-way conversation by Mr Duckenfield. He basically told us how we were useless, we were no good, we were doing it all wrong, it was going to be his way.”
“He was not a pleasant man.
“My reaction was thank goodness I am leaving in just over two weeks to go to Barnsley district. I did not want to work under him.”