Hillsborough Voices by Kevin Sampson – Review

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Hillsborough Voices by Kevin Sampson

Book Review

by Sarah Morgan

Hillsborough. It’s a famous name around the world – for some because of tragedy, for others because it’s the home of their favourite football team.

As a Sheffield Wednesday fan, I fall into the latter category. Hillsborough is one of my favourite places in the world; I’m a season ticket holder in the South Stand.

For me, as I will those blue and white wizards on, it’s difficult to reconcile my view of the place with the disaster that occurred there one sunny afternoon in April 1989. It’s almost surreal to think that it all unfolded in the West Stand, the infamous Leppings Lane end to my left – 95 people died there; another lost his life later in hospital.

Although that event has never been forgotten, Kevin Sampson’s book gives what happened an all-too human perspective – the 96 are now longer merely a number, they are husbands, sons, daughters, siblings, snatched away while doing something they loved.

hillsborough voices author Kevin Sampson by Kevin Cummins

Author Kevin Sampson
image: Kevin Cummins

“It’s the words of these ordinary people that really chill the soul”

Sampson has carried out interviews with those affected, primarily the Liverpool players and fans who saw what happened, as well as a token Nottingham Forest supporter and a handful of others who became involved in the fight for justice, including MP Andy Burnham.

But it’s the awful stories of those who were there that day, who lost loved ones that proves to be unbelievably moving – I found myself fighting back tears on numerous occasions, wondering how they had managed to carry on, particularly after their treatment at the hands of the authorities.

It’s the words of these ordinary people that really chill the soul.

Many of them reveal how the police refused to act to save lives they could see were slipping away before their very eyes, because they had to wait for orders from above that didn’t come. It makes you wonder how these officers of the law sleep now. Whether they wish they had had the guts to stand up to their superiors, to take responsibility themselves.

hillsborough voices book review cover“A balanced view can only be achieved by hearing from all sides”

In fact, one of the book’s failings is that nobody from the emergency services is included in the testimonies, nobody from Sheffield Wednesday, or the people living close to the ground who helped the stunned survivors wherever they could. Theirs are Hillsborough voices too, and they have every right to offer their versions of events.

Perhaps those who were involved in the inquest, which was ongoing at the time the hardback version was published, weren’t allowed to comment elsewhere. But Sampson should say that. Liverpool fans have rightly long campaigned to have their side of the story told. But a balanced view can only be achieved by hearing from all sides.

It might also have been interesting to hear from Des Walker and Brian Laws, two Forest players on the pitch that day who went on to play for or manage The Owls.

Like the emergency services and The FA, Sheffield Wednesday FC doesn’t come out of the book well. I’m glad that in the years since, it’s changed out of all recognition into a friendly, family club. However, after reading Hillsborough Voices, I probably won’t be able to look towards the Leppings Lane area of the ground again without thinking of the testimony compiled in what is basically a moving if flawed historical document.

‘Hillsborough Voices’ by Kevin Sampson in association with the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Ebury Press (£8.99). Out in paperback on the 9th February 2017

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