Former Sheffield United player and manager relives his memories of Bradford Fire tragedy, 35 years on
May 11, 1985 was supposed to be a day of celebration for Bradford City. They had sealed promotion back to Division Two for the first time since the late 1930s, and were presented the Division Three trophy before their game against Lincoln City at Valley Parade.
Over 11,000 fans were there to see it that day, with around 3,000 packed into the main stand. Built in 1911, the stand had a wooden roof and floor, and also featured highly-flammable asphalt and bitumen.
Tragically, just two days later, the stand was due to be demolished and replaced with a newer, and safer, steel structure. But instead, on May 11, it was ravaged by fire. The commonly-held belief is that a discarded cigarette lit discarded paper below the stand, but what is known for sure is that the Bradford Fire remains one of English football's worst sporting tragedies.
Sheffield-born Thompson captained Lincoln that day.
"I went up for a header on the halfway line with Bobby Campbell and remember seeing a puff of smoke, and asking Bobby what it was," he told The Star.
"Within minutes, it had engulfed that whole stand and we could see bitumen dropping down onto people's heads.
"It was supposed to be a celebration game for them. You don't expect people to die at football matches, do you?
"I remember that many of the crowd adhered to the rules and didn't go on the pitch, instead trying to get out through the turnstiles. Some of them got stuck in the turnstiles.
"We were ushered off the pitch and players from both sides, still in our kits, ended up in a pub just across the road from the ground, watching the news on TV.
"The Bradford lads were worried sick about their relatives and two Lincoln fans who were at the game, Bill Stacey and Jim West, sadly died as well. Lincoln named one of their stands in their honour.
"Our team coach was burned so we had to wait for another, and word got around as we were waiting. 'One person dead... two people dead...'
"All the way up to 56."