Fifty-Six: The Story of the Bradford Fire by Martin Fletcher
It was August 2011 and the opening home match of the 20th season of the English Premier League. Sitting back in my comfortable red padded seat, with legroom aplenty, I was one block off the halfway line at Arsenalâ€™s resplendent Emirates Stadium. Two teams full of adored multimillionaires marched out for a once unheard of but now simply untraditional 12.45 Saturday lunchtime kick-off.
The players lined up, but my attention was immediately captured by the banner a few Liverpool fans furled out, before the away end started to demand â€˜Justice for the 96!â€™ It so struck me that I immediately texted my Tory mum in rural, middle-class middle England: â€˜â€œExpose the lies, before Thatcher diesâ€ says the banner in the Liverpool end â€“ Indeed.â€™ A few minutes later came her reply: â€˜I agree!â€™
Arsenal lost 2â€“0 that afternoon, undone by the trickery of Liverpoolâ€™s elusive second-half substitute, Luis SuÃ¡rez. Afterwards I met two old Warwick University friends and their dads for a beers-and-football chat in the affluent north London streets of Highbury. The night ended, as it so often did, with the last train out of London. As my friends headed back to their families in the Home Counties, I went home to an empty flat on a moonlit Wandsworth Common. Our odd bout of early season pessimism would be borne out the following week when Arsenal lost 8â€“2 at Old Trafford, their heaviest defeat in a century. Yet though it was a crisis, some of us whoâ€™d watched football since before the English Premier League party kicked into gear knew much better than to ever use the word â€˜disasterâ€™.
Walking home that evening it struck me that it was thirty years since my own dad had started taking me to watch football. I was unsure what such a proud Yorkshireman would have made of his son supporting Arsenal, but I knew heâ€™d always told me, â€˜Son, youâ€™ve got to play whatever cards youâ€™re dealt in life as best you can.â€™
At the Arsenal Iâ€™d reforged a bond that Iâ€™d been robbed of: there had never been a chance of beers and football with my own dad. As I looked up at the stars on that clear night, I smiled wryly. The moon cast its dark shadow: as with those Liverpool fans earlier, I was also in the shadow of English footballâ€™s unresolved past â€“ a whole generation on.
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|Epub||May 30, 2020|
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