Always The Victims, It’s Never Your Fault (from Feb 2012):
Kenny Dalglish has come in for criticism for his seemingly blinkered stance on the Suarez affair, what with Liverpool’s drumming-up of conspiracy theories, refusing to apologise, denying accountability and insisting they’ve done nothing wrong. But perhaps everyone’s been a bit harsh: Dalglish only did what Fergie does in defending his players, and if he’s gone a bit too far, forgotten the seriousness of the underlying issue, and sought to deflect blame onto anyone but his own side then it’s probably out of character and perhaps even understandable in the circumstances. Isn’t it? After all, it’s not like, with time to reflect, he’d wouldn’t have behaved differently, is it? To find out, we turn to ‘King’ Kenny’s My Liverpool Home, published in 2010…
“During Hillsborough, we stood shoulder to shoulder with the families of those who died, helping them as they grieved. I still share their anger towards the Football Association and particularly South Yorkshire Police, who took twenty years to admit their part in a disaster that could have been avoided. I totally understand the families’ distaste for a particular newspaper, which caused such distress with its vile allegations about Liverpool fans. Neither the newspaper nor the authorities have ever said sorry. That one word would mean so much…” Yes, it would. Remind us how long it was before Liverpool apologised to Juventus? Oh yes, 20 years! What chance does Evra have?
On Heysel: “How many mistakes were made by the authorities in a season that ended stained with so much blood? Heysel was too old and too badly configured for fans to be accommodated safely. ‘It’s not suitable,’ Peter Robinson told me … Uefa didn’t listen and nor did the Belgian authorities.” It wasn’t our fault, la!
“‘We need you and the captain to make an announcement,’ I heard somebody from Uefa telling Joe. ‘We need an appeal for calm.’ So Joe headed off, followed by Nealy. ‘Don’t go outside,’ ordered Joe on their return. The Boss was clearly distressed by what he’d seen, and the abuse he’d been subjected to by Juventus fans. For Nealy, wearing a Liverpool tracksuit guaranteed instant derision and a stream of Italian spit.” It was dem, not us!
“‘The game’s off,’ came the word. ‘The game’s on,’ came the update. Reliable information was at a premium. After a 90-minute delay, the green light came from Uefa. Oblivious to the extent of the carnage in zone Z, we headed along the tunnel. I knew there had been an incident, clearly a serious one, but the magnitude? Damage to man or property? Nealy claimed in his book that Liverpool’s players knew there had been fatalities. I didn’t.” I knew nothin’, nowt to do with me. “Sensing the fraught mood, I guessed the final would be over in 90 minutes. No extra time or shoot-out would be allowed to extend the hostility … Everybody understood that everything had to be done to avoid the tension rising higher. Juventus fans seemed to be threatening a riot…” Those violent Italians again huh?
“Even without knowing the facts, my intuition that this final was a farce, and as an event utterly bankrupt of any sporting integrity, was confirmed when Juventus were awarded a penalty 14 minutes after half-time. What a joke that was … it looked like [the ref] couldn’t wait to give the penalty to Juventus. ‘There’s no way that was a penalty,’ I remarked to a Uefa official a few years later. ‘Some of us know that,’ he replied.” The ‘conspiracy’ laid bare. After all, how else could Liverpool have lost?
“The 1985 European Cup final passed me by … It didn’t matter whose fans lost their lives because both teams were hit by Heysel. Liverpool were affected by the horrible atmosphere and nightmarish situation in which the club found themselves … I was so numb and detached I never went up for my medal.” Yes, Liverpool and Kenny - the real victims.
“[My wife] was fine, thank God, clearly distressed but not as bad as those wives who’d been threatened by Juventus supporters … The wives had attempted to leave the stadium by a back entrance but ran into ambulances and a row of dead bodies. When Marina relayed this detail to me, I was even more furious. If Uefa were going to carry on with the game, they should have protected innocent people such as our wives.
“Even now, the authorities still don’t comprehend that what happened at Heysel was a legacy of Rome a year earlier. Still fresh in the minds of Liverpool fans was how brutally they had been treated by Italian supporters outside the Olympic Stadium in 1984. The ambushes that befell Liverpool fans in Rome angered all supporters, who determined they would not fall victim to Italian venom again … Why should they again be used for target practice by Italians?
"Nothing forgives the violent reaction of a few Liverpool fans, but the whole controversy needs placing in context … Before Heysel, Liverpool had not been associated with trouble. Why are those who retaliated instantly denigrated as the bad guys? If Roma fans hadn’t attacked Liverpool in 1984, our fans wouldn’t have been so quick to retaliate in 1985. If Juventus fans hadn’t lobbed bricks, there would have been no charge by the Liverpool fans. No spark, no fire. No stones, no reaction. Juventus fans shouldn’t have been in zone Z, a neutral zone.” Good God! Where do you start?
“Uefa has always sought to dodge the finger of blame. They’ve never answered questions legitimately directed at them. If this end was supposed to be neutral, then why did the list of dead show 32 Italians, four Belgians, two French and a man from Northern Ireland, so more than three-quarters of those who died were Juventus fans? In Rome, Liverpool fans had one end and it wasn’t full because the Olympic Stadium was so vast. Why didn’t Uefa have the same arrangements in 1985?” This is a spoof, surely?
“Uefa had plenty of failings to answer for but never did. Instead, and to my eternal anger, the hurricane of questions and criticism blew towards Liverpool.” Heaven forfend!
“The only major decision Uefa got right on the night was to play the game … but they should never have held the presentation, not if they knew people had died. That was so undignified.” Well Kenny, if anyone’s in a position to judge…
“The following morning, some grieving Juventus fans made their way to Liverpool’s base in Brussels. To leave the hotel was to run the gauntlet … I couldn’t help thinking that the Italians should have vented some of their rage at Uefa and the Belgian organisers.
“Unfairly vilified from many quarters, Liverpool Football Club showed its remorse to what happened at Heysel. On the Friday, all the players and staff attended a requiem mass at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathederal. Bob Paisley read from the Book of Isaiah. ‘The Lord will destroy death forever, He will wipe away the tears from every cheek and take away the people’s shame.’ Shame? That word hit me hard. Why should Liverpool feel shame? Regret, yes. But shame? I felt no shame, just sadness for those who died, and anger at Uefa for not listening.
“Nobody cared to think Liverpool were suffering. Heysel was a horror story that Liverpool as well as the Juventus families had to live with. The bereaved were the worst affected, of course, but it was not pleasant for anybody.” Yes, it is a spoof.
“On 31 May, Margaret Thatcher called for English clubs to be banned from European competition. The Prime Minister even labelled Liverpool fans hooligans. Within 48 hours … Uefa banned English clubs. Thatcher probably got all the English clubs banned. I accept that Liverpool deserved some sanction [but] Why were Roma not punished the year before? Why was that swept under the carpet?” Next he’ll be claiming that Evra swore as well.
“Of course, it was only right that the full force of the British justice system should pursue those Liverpool fans who’d been the most aggressive. I can’t hide from the fact that a degree of malevolence motivated some of those leading that charge. When 27 people were arrested …a few had previous convictions for violent behaviour, but an analysis of any crowd would probably reveal criminal records. Did any of the 39 who so tragically died have convictions for violence? When it also became apparent that a lot of the fans arrested didn’t have Liverpool addresses, the thought crossed my mind that maybe they were supporters of other English clubs, simply using a crowded European Cup final as an opportunity for hooliganism.” It woz Chelsea!