DCSIMG

Award-winning Star writer

Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds Utd....Trouble in the second half with Leeds fans ripping down adverstising boards,invading the pitch,and one fan attacking Owls keeper Chris Kirkland

Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds Utd....Trouble in the second half with Leeds fans ripping down adverstising boards,invading the pitch,and one fan attacking Owls keeper Chris Kirkland

No-one would dare make up a story so cruelly haunting.

The Leppings Lane end at Hillsborough, forever tainted by the terrible events of April 15 1989, witnesses the return of the type of behaviour that saw fans caged in the first place.

On roughly the same spot where 96 lost their lives because of incompetence, misfortune and the structural brutality of fences that made terracing a death trap, a Leeds hooligan brings back the bad old days with chilling ease.

Aaron Cawley was jailed for four months by Sheffield Magistrates after pleading guilty to attacking Wednesday keeper Chris Kirkland when he ran on the pitch and pushed him in the face on Friday night.

The incident was caught on camera by Sky Sports and by the end of the game his name, age and details of previous banning orders were public knowledge via Twitter and Facebook - a case of social media trapping the anti-social moron.

The court has had its say, but how will football respond this time?

The Taylor report into Hillsborough changed English football beyond recognition. All-seater stadiums meant that an incident like that could not happen again.

The game was cleansed of many of its bad elements and families came back to support their local teams. Football, led by the moneybags Premier League, went from strength to strength, the dark days just a tragic memory.

But now we have a generation of young hotheads who weren’t alive in 1989, to some of them the Hillsborough Disaster is just a story told by old people.

Even as we prepare for fresh inquests into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool supporters we see the return of some of the behaviour that led to the fences that helped to kill them.

Racism too was thought to be in retreat. Beaten back by generations of black heroes, increased tolerance in society and legislation.

But racism and how to combat it are again at the top of football’s agenda after high profile black players rejected the game’s established structures set up to fight bigotry.

Football is still a tribal focus for many fractured lives and the violence and intolerance that that minority brings has been simmering and occasionally boiling over for a long time.

No-one wants to see fences back at grounds but if someone wants to get on a pitch there is in reality little anyone can do. It is ridulous to expect football ground stewards armed only with enthusiasm and a high-vis jacket to eject trouble makers that police need riot gear to tackle.

We had no right to be smug about our past successes in these areas and we shouldn’t be discouraged by these failures. These are long and ongoing battles facing football and society and we all have a part to play.

But no-one is yet certain exactly what we should do next.

n Last week this column referred to the Sheffield United ballboy on the wrong end of Oldham’s Lee Croft’s ire when the boy threw a dead ball to a United player rather than to Croft. I mistakenly said the lad was ‘misguidedly delaying the opposition taking a throw-in’. He wasn’t. The throw-in was Sheffield United’s. I would like to apologise to the club and the ball boy for the mistake, the lad was entirely right in what he did and the player was out of order. As was I.

 

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