Finally time for the real truth about Hillsborough

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IT won’t just be the people of Liverpool who will be eagerly awaiting next Wednesday morning. There’ll be plenty in Sheffield interested too.

The conclusions of the inquiry by the Hillsborough Independent Panel into the 1989 semi-final disaster when 96 died will be revealed.

This inquiry was set up more than two and a half years ago and has involved going through an estimated 400,000 documents relating to that awful day - documents made available by the Government, including Cabinet papers, and various organisations among them South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield City Council and the emergency services.

The Hillsborough Family Support Group, set up on Merseyside, has long campaigned for such an inquiry and for what they say is to “find out the truth”.

One of the things which always niggled me was talk of ‘drunken fans’ which seemed to imply those who lost their lives. They were the innocent ones, not drunken ones at all.

But I have always wondered what was the state of many of the latecomers crushing around outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles before the fateful police decision to open a gate and let those fans rush in - a decision that Lord Justice Taylor’s official inquiry concluded was the reason why those innocents died on the terraces.

Those people of Merseyside have never forgotten or forgiven The Sun’s follow-up story, false allegations infamously headlined “The Truth” - and the paper is not welcome in the city to this day.

This season, one local player - Merseyside-born - was asked for an after-match interview. He agreed but just checked who he was speaking to and which paper it was for.

On being told ,he said: “I’m sorry, I don’t do interviews for The Sun.”

Let’s hope all will be revealed next Wednesday.

The consequences of that Hillsborough day also serves to remind us all that Bill Shankly’s “Football’s not life or death - it’s more important than that” wasn’t right then and never will be.

Jermain Defoe has been talking, ahead of England’s World Cup qualifier in Moldova tonight, of how three deaths within his family have really put football and life into perspective for him.

He lost his dad, a half-brother and then a cousin was electrocuted on holiday all within three years, his dad as recently as June.

“When you’re young, nothing is more important than football but then you get married, have kids and lose people,” he said.

“Then you realise your family is more important. Life is short. While you are here, it is important to enjoy the good times.”

Defoe should figure tonight. If he doesn’t, it won’t be the end of the world.

England should win. If not, it won’t be the end of the world.

So, what price Tahiti against Brazil or Spain? Well, it could happen.

Tahiti will be in Brazil next summer for the Confederations Cup (a mini-tournament World Cup hosts stage a year before the finals themselves) and they could play either of those two giants of the game.

No, I didn’t know Tahiti were any good at football either. Associated them with grass skirts and idyllic Pacific islands.

But they won the Oceania Nations Cup for the first time, a competition that is always the preserve of Australia or New Zealand and so they go to Brazil next summer.

Away game in Tahiti one day for England anybody?