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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 August 2007, 20:20 GMT 21:20 UK
Fans are united in grief for Rhys
Mark Simpson
BBC News correspondent in Croxteth

Youngsters pay tribute to Rhys Jones
Regardless of team, youngsters paid tributes to Rhys Jones

The old prejudices were forgotten as Liverpool fans laid flowers in the spot where Everton supporter Rhys Jones was shot dead in Croxteth.

The last 48 hours prove that the legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly was talking nonsense when he once said football was not a matter of life and death, it was much more important than that.

Rhys was loved by his friends - Blues and Reds alike.

When a group of his mates were asked which one was his best friend, they said in a chorus: "We all were."

And he wasn't just loved by the younger generation on Croxteth's Crompton Drive.

Elderly neighbour Evelyn McGee used to watch him kicking a football day after day, night after night.

Asked how she felt when she heard he'd been shot dead on Wednesday night, she broke down and sobbed repeatedly: "He didn't deserve that, he didn't deserve that."

There are people who cause trouble in this part of Liverpool but Rhys wasn't one of them.

Gang problems

There are pockets of crime-ridden districts in Croxteth which have been scarred by drugs, alcohol and violence.

Yet a short distance away, it is much more upmarket.

Some parts of the neighbourhoods are reminiscent of the old Channel 4 soap Brookside, with smart red-brick detached houses and well-kept gardens.

It was in one of these areas that Rhys lived with his family.

The problems lay less than a mile away, close to the pub car park and row of shops where he was killed.

He didn't deserve that
Evelyn McGee, neighbour

Locals said gangs of youths sometimes gather in those open spaces, especially in the evenings.

Clearly, there is a problem with gangs in these parts of Croxteth. There have been shootings before and, as in other cities, it all seems part of some tawdry turf war.

There are differing opinions on the severity of the gang problem. Some youngsters said they were never bothered by anyone, other teenagers said that at night they lived in fear.

Everton fan

As for Rhys Jones, he was more interested in playing for Everton than joining a gang.

Ten years ago, another 11-year-old was growing up in Croxteth - a stocky lad called Wayne Rooney.

He too spent night and day kicking a football. He too dreamed of one day pulling on the famous blue shirt and playing for his beloved Everton.

At 16, Rooney realised his ambition and made his debut at nearby Goodison Park.

Rhys Jones didn't even live long enough to be a teenager, never mind play for his favourite football team.




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