Ex-Liverpool defender Daniel Agger retires at 31

Former Liverpool centre-back Daniel Agger takes to Twitter to confirm he is calling time on his playing career.

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Sad news from Daniel Agger as the ex-Reds defender today announced his retirement from football at just 31 years of age.

Agger’s career has been plagued with injury setbacks and although the Dane admitted it was “sad” to accept his playing days were over he said he was “proud” of the career he had.

Daniel used Twitter to confirm the news: “Thank you for your support,” he tweeted. “A great experience,” he added, in a tweet that also included a photo of a selection of his shirts, including a Liverpool one.

“It’s sad, but it is the right decision to stop. I’m proud of my career,” he wrote.

 

The centre-back was signed for Liverpool by Rafa Benitez in 2006 from boyhood club Brondby and left Anfield eight years later having established himself as a favourite for many fans, especially when he responded to transfer rumours linking him with a move away from Anfield one summer by getting “YNWA” tattooed on his knuckles.

Those injuries restricted his appearances in a Liverpool shirt but he still managed to turn out 232 times in his eight years and won a League Cup Winners’ medal in 2012 under Kenny Dalglish.

Perhaps one of the lowest points of his time at Anfield was when current England manager Roy Hodgson was boss for an ill-fated six-months. Responding to stories in the Danish media Hodgson said of Agger:

“I don’t give them mass media training. I would give mass media training to young players, but people like Agger who is knocking on 30 years of age… I wouldn’t want to pull him aside and say, ‘be careful what you say,’ because he understands those things.” Agger was actually 25 at the time.

“You’re going to get caught out,” Roy added, “But to be quoted, as he was on Sky, he doesn’t like our long ball approach, I think that’s not only tough on the boy that he’s been caught out but to be made to look a complete fool, because I think probably the one thing, at the moment, nobody in this room for one minute suggest, was that Liverpool are a long ball team.

“In fact there might be people who would suggest we should play a bit longer because we win the passing statistics every match but even our goalkeeper rarely kicks the ball beyond the halfway line so I think they’ve made him look a bit of a fool with that.”

In the same interview Hodgson also explained why Agger wasn’t playing – it was because Roy’s new signing had taken his place. “To play regularly you’ve got to be fit [which Agger was at the time]. I think most of last year he wasn’t fit.”

That was before Hodgson arrived, so why wasn’t he playing under the former Fulham boss? “He was fit at the start of this year but he had to play at left back until we signed Konchesky. Now of course Carragher and Skrtel have been playing in the centre of defence and doing well and he’s got to get into the team in the place of one of those.”

Agger’s appearances were few and far between and a few months later Hodgson was sacked, much to the delight of the vast majority of Liverpool supporters, and Agger was quoted later on how things were under Roy.

“Look at the team – we played awful, we were s**t,”  he said.

“When you look now every single player is better. Confidence can win you games and Kenny [Dalglish] and Steve [Clarke, his assistant] have put the confidence back in the players and we have shown that definitely in the last four games.”

Better still, the football was now of a style Agger – and most fans – would prefer to see from the Reds: “Kenny likes to play positive football, going forward, and keeping the ball on the ground and he is good among the players. The training sessions have been really good and everything starts at the training ground. If you get that right you have a big advantage in the games.”

Of course those good times under Kenny didn’t last as FSG sacked him just after that League Cup winning season. In his place came Brendan Rodgers and soon, as it had been under Roy, Agger found himself making limited appearances. In 2014 he moved back to Brondby, a year after rejecting reported advances from Barcelona to stay at Anfield.

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He told Danish TV what had led to him making that big decision to leave Anfield, pointing to his relationship with Rodgers. “There was much [distance] between us, and for me it was just enough,” he said.

“I felt that he didn’t appreciate the things I could do or contributed. When I feel that, then it’s time to move on.

“When you are a part of the starting eleven for several games in a row and the team have performed well, and you feel that you have played well, then you are left out of the team and don’t feel appreciated, it starts to get pray on your mind and you wonder.
“Then, at the same time, you see the statistics from your game – which are so important all around the world of football – and you don’t understand why you weren’t used more often.”

The defender did have some praise for Rodgers, but suggested he felt let down by a lack of openness from his former manager: “He’s an extremely, extremely competent coach. The things that went wrong between us is that I say things the way they are and I expect others to treat me the same way. Maybe it is wrong to always expect this.”

Agger, who also won 71 caps for Denmark, was recently linked with a reunion with the man who brought him to Anfield, Benitez, who is now Newcastle boss, but today’s news confirms that won’t be happening.

The willingness Agger showed to put his body on the line for Liverpool – despite all those injuries – showed an attitude that many Reds players have lacked in recent times. An excellent defender, his abilities going forward and his desire to turn defence into attack are qualities Jurgen Klopp needs to look for as he rebuilds his Liverpool side.

At £6m Agger, despite the injuries, turned out to be something of a bargain.

He’ll be missed from the game but left us with plenty happy memories. Good luck in whatever comes next for you Daniel.

John Barnes is Deezer’s most-streamed footballer

When footballers try their hand at music…

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On the eve of Euro 2016 someone at music streaming service Deezer has a good look at their streaming data to find out if any footballers have managed to do well in the music industry – and found enough of them to pick a full team, with one still a current player.

Sadly it’s not the best selection of songs, on the whole, with former Liverpool, Hamburg and Newcastle forward Kevin Keegan giving everyone the opportunity to tell him they’d “love it” if he stayed well away from any recording studios. His effort, ‘Head Over Heels in Love’ is at No.4 in Deezer’s chart. Somehow.

Top of the chart is another ex-Red and this time it’s probably the best of the lot by some distance. No, not his efforts on Craig Johnston’s ‘Anfield Rap’ with the rest of the LFC squad from 1988 but his well-loved rap along with New Order on ‘World in Motion’, England’s World Cup song for Italia ’90. The difference ‘Digger’ made was enough for it to be New Order’s only UK No.1 and it’s now Deezer’s most streamed song by a footballer.

Although John has now retired from playing he is still rapping and can often be heard doing so on tour with 5Times, the Liverpool Former Players Association, although more often than not it tends to be ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by the Sugar Hill Gang and it’s well worth a listen if you ever get chance to go to one of his shows.

Real Madrid’s Jesé Rodríguez is the current player who’s had a dabble in the music industry and the Deezer list also includes actor Vinnie Jones, who used to dabble in the football industry.

Explaining their chart, Deezer say: “By examining the long-standing relationship between football and music – from renowned chants to rousing championship raps – the line-up is composed of European players past and present who have tackled the music industry, and have been ranked according to the frequency of their music streams on the platform over the last 12 months.”

Of Barnes and New Order’s efforts Deezer say: “It comes as no surprise that England midfielder John Barnes takes the coveted title of the most streamed footballer in the ‘Deezer 11’ with his 90s smash hit and team up with New Order, World In Motion – perhaps the only thing England will win this year.

“Receiving almost five times as many streams as his closest rival Jesé Rodríguez, World in Motion is almost as synonymous with John Barnes as his powerful left foot.”

The Rodríguez number is Spanish hit, ‘Yo Sabía’, which pips the effort by the sadly recently departed Dutch soccer maestro Johan Cruyff. His hit was ‘Oei, Oei, Oei (Dat Was Me Weer Een Loei)’, one we’re sure everyone reading this is familiar with.

The ‘Starting 11’, ranked in order of streams, is:

John Barnes – World In Motion
Jesé Rodriguez (Jey M) – Yo Sabía
Johan Cruyff – Oei, Oei, Oei (Dat Was Me Weer Een Loei)
Kevin Keegan – Head Over Heels in Love
Vinnie Jones – Big Bad Leroy Brown
Andy Cole – Outstanding
Slaven Bilic – Vatreno ludilo
Franz Beckenbauer – Gute Freunde Kann Niemand Trennen
Ruud Gullit – Not The Dancing Kid
Peter Schmeichel – We Can Do It**
Youri Djorkaeff – Vivre Dans ta Lumière**

*For this activity Deezer analysed songs from 30th May 2015 to 30th May 2016

**Note: Peter Schmeichel’s and Youri Djorkaeff’s hits are not listed on Deezer

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Christian Harris, Deezer UK & Ireland Managing Director says: “While the odds on England winning Euro 2016 may be slim, we know with certainty that England would definitely take home the trophy for the most iconic football song. Who doesn’t remember John Barnes’ World In Motion summing up the 1990 World Cup?”

Deezer don’t just stream music they also stream sport and this summer that includes Euro 2016 coverage. Harris said: “With more live football on Deezer than ever before including all of Euro 2016, we wanted to celebrate some of our favourite football songs from across Europe through the ages with our ‘Deezer 11’.”

Quite why they ignored ‘Liverpool (We’re Never Gonna Stop)’ by the Liverpool FC 1983 Squad is something we’ve not asked them, but it’s track nine on this album of, er, masterpieces.

At least they didn’t mention ‘Diamond Lights’ by Hoddle and Waddle.

New feature length documentary tells LFC’s 1986 double winning story

Documentary tells the story of an amazing season for Liverpool as Kenny Dalglish stepped up from player to player-manager – 30 years on.

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30 years after Liverpool’s historic League and FA Cup double in Kenny Dalglish’s first season as player manager, a new feature-length documentary has been produced and will air exclusively on the club’s LFCTV GO service.

With a running time close to 90 minutes, the programme features in-depth interviews with the men who played such an important role in that special season, including Kenny of course, his captain Alan Hansen and many more including Jan Molby, Jim Beglin, Ronnie Whelan and Craig Johnston.

The season began after the darkness of what happened in Heysel on May 29th 1985, 39 supporters dying after crowd violence before Liverpool’s European Cup final with Juventus. Liverpool, along with all other English clubs, were now banned from Europe.

Joe Fagan, who had taken the reigns from Bob Paisley, himself taking over from Bill Shankly, had retired and for once Liverpool had broken with tradition by not handing the job onto another member of the famous ‘Boot Room’. Sort of.

As Kenny explains in the documentary, he had the continued support of the Boot Room with the likes of Tom Saunders, Ronnie Moran and Roy Evans a part of his backroom staff, just as they had been for his predecessors. He also had one of those illustrious predecessors on hand as an advisor – a certain Mr Paisley.

“I had fantastic knowledge, help, support,” Kenny says.

“Tom Saunders was there, Ronnie and Roy stayed, old Bob came in to help me.

“If you’re given a managerial job and you’ve got arguably the most successful manager in football history beside you, who’s totally humble, supportive, appreciative and a fantastic help, then you’ve given yourself a bit of a chance.”

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The documentary is narrated by ITV Sport’s Clive Tyldesley, at the time a familiar voice to any Liverpool fan who had to get their LFC fix through the radio, in his case the local commercial station Radio City. For many a young Reds fan he was the voice that described the scenes over what sounded like a telephone line from distant places across Europe as the Reds marched through the continent picking up their first four European Cups. As this documentary explains, those days were now gone and would be for quite some time to come.

Entitled ‘Double Winners ’86 – On The March With Kenny’s Army’, the show is to be released exclusively to LFCTV GO subscribers today, Tuesday 31st May, reliving what still remains one of Liverpool FC’s greatest ever achievements.

The dramatic story of the Reds “forgotten season” is told with the help of extensive archive footage, some of which has rarely been seen due to the 1985 television dispute that kept all Football League and FA Cup matches from television screens until the start of January 1986.

“It was a fairy-tale season for us,” said Dalglish. “It’s unbelievable to consider the amount of success that the football club had enjoyed but they had never won the double.

“It was a fantastic achievement. It doesn’t get any better.”

The documentary will be available to view for current LFCTV GO subscribers from 31st May 2016 at 2pm BST.

Fans can access exclusive official LFC content on LFCTV GO, whether that’s the latest interview from a first team player, the manager or behind-the-scenes access to the Club’s backroom activities, plus full match replays and exclusive live coverage of U21, U18 and Ladies matches through. For details and to subscribe to LFCTV GO, visit: www.liverpoolfc.com/watch.

Liverpool to play four friendlies across the north of England

Liverpool confirmed earlier this week that they will be playing in a big friendly game against Barcelona in August at Wembley and today added four more dates to the pre-season calendar for games that are certainly not going to be quite as high profile.

 

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With construction work continuing on the rebuilt Main Stand there is no chance of the club playing any home friendlies this summer.

The four UK matches are to be held across the north of England, starting very locally across the water at Tranmere Rovers on 8th July. Five days later they head north to the seaside town of Fleetwood before a game around twenty miles from Anfield against former Premier League side Wigan Athletic who have just secured promotion to the Championship after a season in League One.

The final game announced today takes place in Yorkshire, the Reds playing Huddersfield Town on July 20th.

The full fixture list is:

 

  • Tranmere Rovers v LFC, Friday 8 July, Kick-off 7pm BST
  • Fleetwood Town v LFC, Wednesday 13 July, Kick-off 7pm BST
  • Wigan Athletic v LFC, Sunday 17 July, Kick-off 4pm BST
  • Huddersfield Town v LFC, Wednesday 20 July, Kick-off 7.45pm BST

The club will then continue their pre-season preparations Stateside with two International Champions Cup games on the West Coast of the US against Chelsea (July 28th) and AC Milan (July 31st), before rounding it all off with that game against Barcelona in London on August 6th.

The new Premier League season begins a week later.

The club say that tickets for the pre-season friendlies in the UK will soon be on sale and asks fans to keep checking www.liverpoolfc.com/tickets/tickets-availability for latest news.

 

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Competition: Win a personalised Ireland shirt in time for Euro 2016

To celebrate Ireland’s involvement in this summer’s European Championships we are giving away a personalised replica Ireland shirt in a free-to-enter competition.

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The domestic season is now over and done with but fans don’t have to wait long for the return of competitive football with Euro 2016 right around the corner. One of the nations involved this summer is Ireland and memories of slightly older supporters are flooding back from the 1988 tournament when the Irish lads upset another of this summer’s qualifiers, England.

Read on for details of how to enter our competition.

Wales and Northern Ireland are also involved this summer and whether there will be any upsets this time remains to be seen, but if you think there might be one or two red faces you can always Bet on the Euros with Paddy Power, whether it’s for individual games or the tournament as a whole.

The 1988 tournament was held in what was still then West Germany with just eight teams qualifying compared to the 24 sides who are involved in the Euro 2016 finals.

The opening game in Group 2 saw Ireland take on England in a match in which both sides had Liverpool players on the pitch, five Liverpool players starting the match in all.

On the England side Reds legends John Barnes and Peter Beardsley started, with future Liverpool defender Mark Wright, then with Derby, also involved. LFC midfielder Steve McMahon was an unused England sub.

Ireland named three Liverpool players in their Euros squad and all three started the group’s curtain raiser against the English, played at the VfB Arena in Stuttgart. John Aldridge, usually seen in Liverpool colours wearing the No.8 shirt – as worn by his boyhood hero Roger Hunt – was handed the No.9 shirt for Ireland, with Reds teammate Ray Houghton wearing the 8.

Also involved for the Boys in Green was Liverpool and Ireland legend Ronnie Whelan, the midfielder wearing the No.6 shirt for the tournament.

The half a dozen Liverpool players involved in the game on and off the pitch would still have fresh memories of the upset at Wembley in the FA Cup final just a few weeks before when Wimbledon broke Reds hearts with their unlikely victory over hot favourites and league champions Liverpool.

Could Ireland pull off what would be seen, at least in England, as a similar upset?

They did.

It took just six minutes for Jack Charlton’s Ireland to take the lead and, try as England might, they were unable to break the Republic down, thanks in large part to goalkeeper Packie Bonner.

The game ended 1-0 and Ireland were in heaven.

The rest of the tournament didn’t go quite so well for Ireland and their adventure was over soon after, but that victory over England remains one of those games that fans will talk about for a long time afterwards. Also at least Ireland, unlike England, went home with some points on the board. Ireland finished third in the group with three points (it was still two points for a win in those days), Bobby Robson’s side losing all three of their games.

To enter our competition just answer the following question. Leave your answer in the comments before the closing date and we’ll pick a winner at random shortly afterwards.

Q. WHO SCORED IRELAND’S GOAL AGAINST ENGLAND IN THE 1988 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS?

As a bonus – just for fun – who got the assist?

Leave your answer in the reply/comments box below.

Please make sure you enter your email address correctly in the space provided – we won’t share this with anyone without your permission, but we will need this to contact you in the event you win the prize! Closing date: 11:59pm (UK & Ireland Time) Monday 30th May 2016. The decision of Anfield Road is final.

Sakho officially suspended, UEFA commence disciplinary proceedings

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European football’s governing body, UEFA, have today formally announced that disciplinary proceedings against Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho have begun. As was anounced by Liverpool FC just before the game against Newcastle on Saturday, the proceedings relate to a failed doping test. Sakho is now provisionally banned for 30 days but the ultimate suspension is expected to be far longer than this.

The UEFA statement reads:

Disciplinary proceedings have been instigated against Liverpool FC player Mamadou Sakho, following the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second-leg match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC (1-1), played on 17 March.

The proceedings relate to a violation of the UEFA Anti-Doping Regulations, after the player failed a doping test at the above-mentioned match.

The player did not request the analysis of the B sample. UEFA has now suspended the player provisionally for 30 days until a final decision is taken by the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body.

The date of the disciplinary hearing will be announced at a later stage.

Sakho had become something of a cult hero to Liverpool fans thanks to his attitude in games and perhaps also as a response to the criticism the French international would receive from time to time from those uninvolved with LFC or its support. This incident has badly damaged that status and, although some fans are waiting to see what mitigating circumstances there might be, the player’s decision not to request the B sample is enough in the eyes of many to confirm his guilt.

It is difficult to see how he could have taken the substances – yet to be officially confirmed – by accident. All players know the risks not only to their reputation but also to their livelihood, their careers and the club that is paying them decent wages. All players have a pigeonhole at Melwood where any supplements or special drinks are placed by the medical staff and the club has its own doctor who can advise on anything a player might be thinking of taking.

There is no need to take a risk – and it is not just the player’s own situation that he puts at risk if he chooses to.

Sakho has let the fans down and the news comes at what has been a momentous week due to the sacrifices of so many others off the field.

Meanwhile ex-LFC forward Steve McManaman says Sakho has “blown it” for himself and should have checked before taking anything. “I wouldn’t take a Lemsip without asking first” he said in an interview earlier today.

We await the full story but it is difficult to see a way back for Sakho at Anfield right now.

 

Hillsborough Justice Campaign Press Release following unlawful killing verdict

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Following yesterday’s momentous day, which saw the jury in the Hillsborough inquests return a verdict of unlawful killing as well as exonerating the supporters – including of course the survivors – of any blame, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign issued a press release.

Please take the time to read it and digest what it says – and remember it could say far more if there wasn’t a need to hold back for the time being until the next stage of the fight for justice – the criminal investigations – are complete. That includes the investigations into what happened after the disaster, when rather than come clean about what happened on April 15th 1989, about what had caused the unlawful deaths of 96 people and untold suffering to hundreds of others, various individuals and organisations instead went to great lengths to add to that suffering in what seems to have been a decades long attempt to hide the truth.

The truth of course being that the people who were meant to protect and care for the 96 victims and those hundreds of survivors failed completely to do so, as decided yesterday at the inquests. It wasn’t the fans’ fault, far from it, and now the truth is out there are no excuses left. It is time for justice – Justice for All.

Here is the full HJC press release.

 

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Hillsborough Justice Campaign

Press Release

26th April 2016

The Hillsborough Justice Campaign welcomes the jury’s verdict of unlawful killing. The right conclusion has finally been reached. The jury has listened and decided that the weight of evidence against South Yorkshire Police and in particular David Duckenfield, given the admissions he made in evidence, leads to this verdict.

This verdict of unlawful killing will now be considered by the DPP in respect of criminal prosecutions. There is so much more that could be said on this point, however given that there is already an ongoing criminal investigation we would not wish to prejudice any future proceedings. We would however hope that matters are dealt with swiftly.

We are also pleased that the Jury has exonerated Liverpool supporters from being in any way to blame for the disaster. We put on record our disgust that the police once again used the coroner’s court as a vehicle for reiterating lies in respect of fans behaviour. They did it at the original inquests and even though the HIP report in 2012 illustrated a web of conspiracy, cover-up and lies on the part of SYP, nevertheless they attempted at these new inquests to once more influence the jury to the detriment of supporters. Shame on them. We also wish to record our anger at the coroner for choosing to put fans behaviour to the jury to consider as a contributory factor in causing the deaths of the 96.

 

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The effects of these lies on good, honest supporters should not be underestimated. To the present day many fans remain traumatised. Others have committed suicide or attempted suicide. Too many have carried an unnecessary burden due to the lies perpetrated by those in power. Enough is enough. We applaud those fans who acted as rescuers on the day and we say to all those who continue to suffer; live your life with your heads held high. You told the truth.

These inquests have also highlighted the roles of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, Sheffield City Council and the emergency services. We have always maintained that the Hillsborough ground was not fit for purpose. Evidence has proved us right. Safety arrangements instead of being paramount were slack and shoddy illustrating a systemic problem with both the local authority and the club. Fans were treated appallingly with little consideration being given to their well being.

Likewise the ambulance service responded in an inadequate manner to the emerging disaster in 1989. They failed to establish a proper emergency response and subsequently sought to cover up their failings. We are disgusted that so many years on and, in spite of previously apologising for their mistakes, they nevertheless used these new inquests to once again try to assert that victims had died early. By so doing they attempted yet again to absolve themselves from responsibility.

We have always known why the disaster happened. We had the witnesses who had seen, first hand, the devastation of that fateful day. Yet it has taken over twenty seven years for the dead to receive a proper verdict. The intervening years have been tortuous for families and survivors. They have seen senior police officer after senior police officer retire early and on full pensions. We have had to endure being policed by not one, but two former senior officers of South Yorkshire Police as Chief constables of Merseyside. Such was the contempt for Hillsborough families, survivors and the people of Liverpool and Merseyside.

We call for the immediate removal of the current chief constable of South Yorkshire Police. We also call for all senior officers involved on the day to lose their pension rights with immediate affect.

The HJC notes that at a time when so many people in this country are living in abject poverty, these proceedings have occurred at an enormous cost to the public purse. We wish this was not the case. Indeed it would not have been the case had David Duckenfield told the truth on the day of the Disaster and if subsequently the findings of Lord Justice Taylor had been accepted by South Yorkshire Police. The truth in this instance has come at a huge financial cost.

We would like to thank the jury members not only for reaching the correct verdict but also for their enduring commitment to these lengthy inquests. We note that they did not hear evidence from the 2012 HIP report that police deliberately lied, that statements were altered and fans were wrongly blamed. All credit therefore to the jury in reaching a verdict of unlawful killing.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge ourselves, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, for we are the people and we are many. Bereaved families, survivors, supporters of the campaign for justice. We never gave up. We persisted over many years, in the face of great adversity. First we were ignored, then we were bullied. However we never went away. Eventually we were feared – because we wouldn’t go away. We forced the establishment to listen to us by our campaigning, whilst simultaneously offering support and help to families and survivors. We know what we did, the role we have played. We lost good people along the way. We will not forget them nor will we forget those who continue to suffer the trauma of 1989. We will continue to support those affected by the disaster in whatever way we can.

Justice for All.

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96 people were unlawfully killed and now the establishment has questions to answer.

The Hillsborough Inquests jury returns its verdicts on a historic and momentous day. The 96 Liverpool supporting victims were found to have been unlawfully killed and the Liverpool fans who were there were found to have played no part in causing the deadly situation to occur.

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27 years of fighting later and the families, survivors and campaigners have finally, finally, got a legal judgement in black and white that proves that they were right all along.

On an extremely emotional day the jury in the Hillsborough inquests, over two years after it began, gave their verdicts.

96 football fans died on the 15th of April 1989 – and they died because they were unlawfully killed.

The deaths of the 96 Liverpool fans were in no way whatsoever down to the actions of any of the Liverpool fans who were at the stadium that day, despite the attempts of the establishment at the time and in years to follow to claim that it was.

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They didn’t die by accident, they didn’t die at the hands of their fellow supporters. 27 years of lies proved wrong.

The police, including its senior officers, the ambulance service and Sheffield Wednesday FC were all found by the jury to have played some part in a situation that resulted in the loss of 96 lives.

The next stage now is for the criminal investigations to continue and as a result everyone is still restricted in saying what we really think about the role of South Yorkshire Police and its senior officers that day. The force apologized today, a hollow apology in many people’s eyes.

The families now know their loved ones died not because of ‘accidental death’, as ruled by the now-quashed original inquests, but by ‘unlawful’ means. That means person or persons have been walking free without facing a criminal prosecution for 27 years despite having played a part in the unlawful deaths of 96 innocent people.

The survivors, many of whom went through unspeakable and unimaginable torture that day, coming close to losing their own lives and watching helplessly as people around them lost theirs, not to mention the sights and sounds they experienced, found themselves blamed by the establishment for what happened 27 years ago. Already severely and deeply traumatised, to be told that they were to blame – falsely – is an act of cruelty bordering on the barbaric. Numerous survivors would ultimately find the traumas of that day and the aftermath too much to bear.

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27 years is far too long to wait for justice but it is clear that the families, survivors and campaigners were not going to sit back and let the passage of time be an obstacle to their fight. In many cases the mothers and fathers that began the fight for justice for their lost son or daughter are no longer with us but in their place their children and a constantly growing army of campaigners fought in their place.

The fight was never going to stop, and it never will, until justice has been done for all 96 of the victims and all those survivors who had to endure hell.

To allow 96 people to die is unforgivable – to cover those deaths up is in many ways far worse. The S*n newspaper played a part in that and for that title to still be in existence is a crime of a different type, especially when they are still able to peddle front page lies with the only deterrent the risk of having to publish a postage stamp sized apologies buried deep inside their rag.

There are also one or people celebrating victory today that might want to think again about their own part in slowing down the march to it, including some who only use the disaster when they think it will boost their own image, turning down requests from campaigners when it doesn’t suit their own needs.

However today should be as much about recognising the good as it is about highlighting the bad. The bad will get their day in court, the good have got their day now and will have it every day from now on. Tonight the bad will be losing sleep, the good can sleep easy, knowing those who have suffered can now rest in peace.

So many people have sacrificed so much in the quest for the truth and 27 years is a massive chunk of anyone’s life. Some are no longer with us and some might not be with us by the time the whole criminal process is finally over and done with, but we’ll always have them with us as inspiration because they never gave up, ever. The obstacles they faced, the monsters they fought, the contempt they had to overcome – they must have been real life super humans to get past it all. But get past it all they did and that is why today they are celebrating a victory far bigger than all of Liverpool FC’s victories put together.

Bernard Ingham, former press secretary to Conservative heroine Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister at the time and part of a government that once secretly suggested the city of Liverpool should be put into ‘managed decline’, always insisted that the fans had played a part in the 96 deaths. He refused to comment today, quite the opposite approach to the time he said: “Liverpool should shut up about Hillsborough.”

Liverpool didn’t shut up about Hillsborough and the more the rest of the country and the rest of the world heard about Hillsborough the more the people who had campaigned from day one got their voices heard. Those voices had always been right, now they were louder than ever.

The truth always comes out in the end and, despite the callous way those with power use that privilege to hurt others, there is no weapon stronger than the truth, especially when used with the kind of dignity we have witnessed for almost three decades.

Today THE TRUTH won.

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In memory of 96 football fans

The Hillsborough memorial in Liverpool city centre

27 years ago today thousands of Liverpool supporters left home and made the journey to South Yorkshire to see their club play Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.

96 of them never returned home.

With the jury now out considering the evidence at the fresh inquests into the deaths of the 96 we are limited as to what we can say about what happened that day, or about what happened in the days, months and years that followed, but we can say this:
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LFC former players set to honour more Liverpool greats

The 2016 5Times Liverpool Former Players Association Gala Awards Dinner takes place early next month in Liverpool city centre

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Reds legends past and present will be in attendance at the Hilton Hotel in Liverpool on May 9th as the 5Times Liverpool Former Players Association hold their annual Gala Dinner, raising funds for charity whilst paying tribute to some of LFC’s most decorated and celebrated players.

Every year the event sees the club’s former players select their Player of the Season as well as picking new entrants to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Much like the Association’s annual Christmas dinner, the event is well supported by players and staff from the club. Brendan Rodgers attended the dinner when he was manager and handed out awards, whilst current boss Jürgen Klopp surprised the attendees at the Christmas event when he made an unannounced appearance – despite it falling on a day where he was busy not only with training sessions ahead of a game but also his press and media duties.

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Last season’s Awards Dinner was attended by members of the first team including Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva and Simon Mignolet, with Olympic medallist Beth Tweddle and comedian John Bishop amongst the guests on previous occasions. Fans are also invited to the event, which also raises funds for charity.

Gerrard’s attendance in 2015 was one of his last public appearances whilst still officially a Liverpool player and the former players wanted to mark the end of his amazing career by presenting him with a special honour. Handed over by the chairman of the 5Times Liverpool Former Players Association, John Aldridge, the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone Award’ was in recognition of everything Gerrard did in that Red shirt over all those years. In many ways it served as a welcome gift to Steven as he joined the distinguished ranks of sportsmen who can proudly refer to themselves as former Liverpool players.

Similar thoughts were in the minds of the ex-players back in 2013 when another recent legend was about to bid farewell to the club he’d been at since childhood. Jamie Carragher was set to embark on what we now know turned out to be a very successful career working as an analyst for Sky Sports, but he must have felt quite reassured at the reception he got from the Legends he would soon be joining as a former player.

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Carragher was inducted into the Liverpool FC Hall of Fame, picked for the honour by the ex-players, and went in as a representative for the decade starting in the year 2000.

This year will be the fourth in succession that the Legends pick out someone who made a difference in each decade from the sixties onwards.

The Hall of Fame entrants for the 1960s so far are Ron Yeats, Ian Callaghan and Ian St John, with Phil Thompson, Phil Neal and Chris Lawler honoured to represent the 1970s.

Ian Rush, John Barnes and Alan Kennedy represent the 1980s Liverpool era with Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Jan Molby recognised for their efforts in the 1990s.

Completing the Hall of Fame are Jamie Carragher, as mentioned, along with fellow heroes of Istanbul Didi Hamann and Steven Gerrard.

The medal haul of all those legends is phenomenal.

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Next month’s dinner will see the fourth set of entrants in the Hall of Fame but the former players are keeping their identities a very closely-guarded secret, even from those they have actually picked.

As Alan Kennedy said last year, after finding himself with a place for the 1980s, the honour was a huge surprise: “I’m on the committee!” he said. “They’ve gone behind my back – I was waiting for Alan Hansen to come in!”

The event helps 5Times in its quest to raise funds for charities close to the player’s hearts and forms part of a number of initiatives involving the former players over the course of each year. 257211_109195139288452_1050469571_oBy holding events like the Gala Dinner and by taking former players all around the world the Former Players Association keeps the Legends in touch with the fans and helps numerous good causes.

5Times Liverpool Former Players Association have taken players as far away as Australia and the West Coast of the USA as well as embarking on regular trips all over the UK and Ireland. It’s not just about formal dinners, the 5Times stage shows that have toured the world have all been priced at an affordable level meaning fans who lives miles away from Liverpool and who can otherwise only dream of meeting their heroes are given a real chance to get close to the Legends who made all those great stories happen.

All the 5Times events include auctions and raffles for special, rare and often unique prizes and help boost the funds raised for good causes.

When current boss Jürgen Klopp made that unexpected appearance at the last Christmas dinner he also gave the fundraising a massive boost. When he arrived he was asked to sign a Liverpool shirt which of course he gladly did. When this went up for auction he was taken aback at the fact it attracted a very generous bid of £1000.

klopp-with-robbie-and-aldo“Why don’t I sign some more?!” he asked – and so another four shirts were quickly rounded up for the manager to sign – and every single one raised another four-figure sum.

This year’s event is being held in honour of Liverpool’s ‘three lions’, the trio that represented England in their victorious 1966 World Cup campaign 50 years ago – Roger Hunt, Ian Callaghan and the sadly recently departed Gerry Byrne.

When last year’s 1960s entrant into the Hall of Fame, Ian St John, collected his honour he humbly pointed to the quality of the teammates he had back then, not only Hunt, Callaghan and Byrne but also the likes of Tommy Lawrence, Ron Yeats, Peter Thompson and Tommy Smith. It was a squad became the blueprint for Liverpool teams for decades to come: “It was a fantastic team which set out how Liverpool would be for the next 50 years,” the Saint said.

“I was fortunate to play with some great lads,” he added.

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Some of those players from the 1960s were of course still around into the 1970s and Chris Lawler recalled the difference it made that everyone understood each other’s way of playing: “We all knew each other’s play,” said Lawler last year. “I spent my wedding night with Tommy Smith, he kept me awake with his snoring!” he laughed.

The players also select a Player of the Season each year and no explanation is needed as to why the winner of the 2013 and 2014 awards was selected, just to mention his name will suffice – Luis Suarez.

Last season was a difficult campaign for Liverpool and the former players would have had a tough job selecting a player of the season for a campaign most fans wanted to forget. They did pick one, Simon Mignolet, and although that might have surprised a few people the Legends felt they had good reason to pick him based on his turnaround – from the first half of the season where he was eventually dropped after much criticism to a second half where he kept numerous clean sheets.

One Legend said afterwards: “As former players judging these awards through a player’s eyes we appreciate how much of an achievement it is to go through some very tough times and to come back. Mignolet has been brilliant this second half of the season.”

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Like the new entrants into the Hall of Fame, the former players are keeping the identity of their Player of the Season close to their chests but as Liverpool settle into a new era under a new manager they will have no shortage of candidates. Candidates who one day might just find themselves being referred to as Legends just like their predecessors.

Join the former players and their surprise guests at this year’s Gala Awards Dinner at the Hilton in Liverpool on May 9th. Tickets can be purchased through the 5Times Liverpool Former Players Association website at 5times.co.uk/dinner.

 

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