I think of an image and an emotion that has stayed with me for over 24 years.
I make no apology for being what is often described as a ” people person”. I like people. I find different individuals interesting and am often left in awe at what some “ordinary” and “unknown” people do with their time. I like meeting new people and hearing of their experiences and talents.
I love to hear of people doing well, achieving things and generally making a right good fist of life and family.
The flip side of that is that I can’t help feel a sympathy and an empathy with people who are going through a hard time for whatever reason, especially when their troubles are the kind of troubles that I cannot come close to imagining.
So back to the image in my head. It is February 1991 and my television is filled with the drawn, gaunt and haunted face of Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish, who is explaining why he has decided to resign as manager of Liverpool Football Club.
His team are top of the league and it is only two days after the famous 4-4 draw with neighbours Everton in the FA cup. Liverpool are chasing their 4th title in 6 years. In Football terms, Dalglish is a Merseyside God. In personal terms, he is burnt out and a mere shadow of the man that so often boasted a huge wide smile when scoring a goal.
Kenny explains that for the first time, he has had to make a decision which puts Kenny Dalglish and the Dalglish family before club…. and before football. He is clearly in trouble.
To this day, the overwhelming emotion that runs through me when I think of that image is…. Pride.
I was SO proud of Kenny Dalglish that night. He bared his soul, spoke with honesty and honour, revealed his pain, his failings and his difficulties… and made it obvious to all that his anguish and stress had had a knock on effect on his wife and family that he “didn’y like,” and so it was time to walk away from a club and a game that he loved dearly.
It was a dignified, honourable and brave decision and performance.
The reason for Dalglish’s dramatic and unexpected action can be summed up in one word.
Kenny Dalglish was the manager of the Liverpool team that tragic day – but he was the leader of a community – possibly a whole city and beyond in the days after.
A motion was placed before Parliament suggesting that he be knighted for his services to football way back then– and the services concerned were his playing skills, his management, and his immense presence off the field in those dark days. Had he and the club really lobbied to have the motion passed then I have no doubt that the king would have become a knight.
He went to funeral after funeral – famously going to 4 services in the one day – and took on an emotional routine and committment that could not have failed to have a long lasting effect on the most hardened of men.
It is for that reason – as well as his playing skills – that Kenny Dalglish will always be ” King Kenny” on Mersyside – and no football results or unsuccessful transfers will ever change that.
Yet Dalglish’s anguish and stress compares as nothing to what was suffered by the families and friends of the dead, and the survivors who managed to scramble out only to leave friends and relatives behind. That anguish was made all the greater when both the dead and the living were publicly demonised and unjustly damned for being the drunken and unruly cause of so many deaths.
Now, 24 years on we discover that not only was that demonisation unjust, but that there was a considered, deliberate, and specific plan on the part of officers of the South Yorkshire Police force to falsify evidence, doctor documents, alter statements and commit perjury – all in an attempt to villify the dead and the innocent — for their own self interest.
Think on this for a moment.
41 of those who ultimately died could in fact have been saved, and could be alive today. In each and every one of those cases the coroner’s report was hopelessly and factually wrong.
Virtually all of the evidence given by the police to – and therefore many of the conclusions made by — the Taylor enquiry– lacks accuracy and foundation and so cannot be relied upon.
The Police force deliberately and calculatedly fed false evidence and downright lies to the Sun Newspaper and so used that newspaper for the purpose of propogating not just a spin on events, but a wholly false story designed to cover up their own failings and misdemeanors, and to wholly mislead the public at large.
Further, the Football authorities, swallowed those lies line hook line and sinker with the result that the then supremo (Graham Kelly) amplified and broadcast the same story – and others like Boris Johnson, as editor of the spectator, were able to repeat the calumny as if it were absolute fact several years later.
ALL SHOULD APOLOGISE WHOLEHEARTEDLY FOR GETTING THINGS SO WRONG.
The lies and the cover up engineered by the police that day changed football forever. I am not saying that grounds did not need improving and refurbishment, but remember that the same testimony that is now being demolished in this latest report, played a large part in Lord Justice Taylor recommending that grounds become all seated, causing clubs to spend fortunes in refurbishment, health and safety, risk assessment and so on.
Capacities were reduced, income was reduced, expenditure was increased, bank loans were undertaken, interest incurred and costs rocketed. In some cases, hitherto successful clubs had to sacrifice on field success to finance the steps necessay for compliance. Some have never recovered in the footballing sense.
Now of course all of that pales into insignificance against the loss of 96 lives and the grief that has endured ever since that fateful day. Further, many of the stadia that have now been upgraded were in dire need of demolition or refurbishment, and there can be no doubt that the modern stadia that we have today offer far greater safety and improved facilities for the spectator.
However, the fact remains that the report that brought all of that about was based on lies, damned lies and yes false statistics and reports prepared by South Yorkshire Police Force.
The point here is that lies have consequences – consequences which go way beyond the purposes envisaged by those who do the lying.
Now that the truth is out, there are calls for prosecutions, there are calls for justice, there are calls for retribution, all of which will make some people sleep very uneasy in their beds tonight. Yet the truth is that no one can undo the consequences of the lies and the cover up, because there is no system in place to take back time and undo what flowed naturally and consequentially from those untruths.
And there is the point – truth. Truth is not a negotiable instrument. It can’t be cashed in for a few bits of truth, a lie or two and a compromise. No, Truth is absolute.
Whatsmore, when the police or some other colective body of individuals seek to suppress the truth – by way of cover up, lies, obfuscation and deception – someone, somewhere will smell it and recognise it for what it is… eventually.
Those who have control or in authority are entrusted with those positions and that power, on the basis that they will act with honour. That word, honour, is a kind of old fashioned word and is perhaps a bit out of use. That is to be regretted, because without honour a police force, a football club, an official body, an individual has lost its way in society and serves no purpose whatsoever unless it can regain that honour, and the honour concerned cannot be awarded by any third party – it has to come from within.
According to many, including a former home secretary and a former Chief Constable, the only way that the “system” under which we live can regain its honour with regard to Hillsborough is to seek out, discipline and prosecute the wrongdoers who were responsible for the lies and the cover up.
They are calling for the application of society’s rules without fear or favour, without deviation or compromise. That is how you act, and are seen to act, honourably.
That principle applies to any situation where there has been wrongdoing and an attempt to cover it up.
Further, hopefully the newspaper industry will take a good look at itself and consider how one of the most popular publications in the land was deliberately and cynically used to peddle what turned out to be innacurate, self serving criminal propaganda, and how it did so in an attempt at sensationalism and ever larger copy sales.
Kenny Dalglish might no longer be employed in football or by Liverpool FC, but amidst the family that he holds so dear, and among the people of Liverpool (both Red and Blue) he will always be King Kenny purely because he acted with honour— even when it was very very tough to do so.
Brogan, Rogan, Trevino and Hogan