Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Gerrard: We're all one off the pitch

The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
Debbie Routledge, a survivor in the Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Fans on the pitch at Hillsborough. FA Cup semi final April 1989 between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. 96 football fans lost their lives in Britain's worst stadium disaster
Fans receiving attention on the pitch. Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield will always bear the scar of England's worst football tragedy. On April 15th 1989, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives having gone to watch their side contest an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest
Gill and Brian Caldwell being crushed against the fence in the Liverpool enclosure at Hillsborough
Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, trying to escape severe overcrowding
Fans crushed against the perimeter fence at Hillsborough
An injured fan receiveing attention on the pitch
An injured fan sits against the goalpost with his leg in a splint
Fans recieving medical attention on the pitch
Hillsborough disaster policeman looks at a pile of police helmets lying on pitch amongst debris
Police shielding injured fans at Hillsborough
Kevin Williams stretchered off on the Hillsborough pitch during the Hillsborough disaster
Injured fans lie on advertising boards which were used as makeshift stretchers
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Bent and twisted fencing at Hillsborough in the aftermath of the tragedy
A distraught young Liverpool fan in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, his wife Marina and daughter Kelly during the memorial service for the victims of the Hillsborough Tragedy.
Scarves and floral tributes laid at Anfield
Scarves and floral tributes at Hillsborough
A young boy adding to the floral tributes at Anfield's Shankly gates
A message written on a wall remebering the Hillsborough disaster victims
Andrew Devine, coma victim of the Hillsborough football disaster
Hillsborough disaster victim Andrew Devine who is now communicating by pressing a micro switch
Margaret Thatcher at Hillsborough
Anfield fans leave flowers in the nets
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
A sea of flowers at Hillsborough stadium, in memory of the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough
Hillsborough Memorial
A Liverpool supporter holding a banner
Fans and players observe a minutes silence at Hillsborough
Liverpool's Xabi Alonso wearing a black armband in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster

Liverpool FC star Steven Gerrard and manager Rafa Benitez have spoken publicly about the strength demonstrated by the victims’ families since the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989.

The two men feature in a collection of special interviews to mark the 20th anniversary of the disaster, which feature on the Belfast Telegraph website.

The Liverpool skipper discusses how he felt while watching the tragedy unfold.

He said he was left “really, really shocked and saddened” to see the scenes live on television.

He said as a little boy he lay in bed that night thinking and “praying” for the people caught up in the disaster.

But Gerrard reveals how they got the “dreaded knock” at their door the next day to tell them a member of the family had been one of the victims.

And he explains how the memory of his 10 year-old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley — the youngest victim — has spurred him on to be the top footballer he is today.

He added that Liverpool Football Club is a family, on and off the pitch.

“It is not just about what happens on the pitch. We are all one off the pitch,” he said.

“The memory of Hillsborough is very central and very important to this club and the 96 will never be forgotten, as well as the people that got hurt.

“It is important these people get remembered individually and not just as a number of 96.”

He said the victims’ families, who this year will receive the Freedom of the City, have acted “with dignity”.

“I think they should be proud of themselves,” he said.

“I know how horrific it has been for them. They should be proud of themselves,” he added.

Rafa Benitez said he wasn’t aware of the seriousness of Hillsborough until he saw the news that day in 1989.

And when he joined the club he said he was “amazed” by the people who attended the annual memorial services.

“(Every year) It is similar but different, you can feel what it means for everyone,” he said.

He added that he was “really impressed by the families”.

“They are doing a good job to keep the memory of the people (alive).

“I think they are doing really well.

“They have to keep going because it the best thing for the rest of the family.”

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