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Last Updated: Monday, 4 April, 2005, 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK
Reds tie evokes Heysel memories

By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

Supporters were actually throwing bits of the Heysel Stadium at us - the place was crumbling
Alan Hansen

Liverpool's Champions League meeting with Juventus at Anfield on Tuesday obviously evokes personal memories for me of the Heysel Stadium disaster in Brussels in 1985.

It was a very black chapter in Liverpool's history, along with Hillsborough four years later, when I was also playing - and the football was secondary, a complete irrelevance.

The one common denominator on both occasions was very poor organisation.

I would never condone the behaviour of some Liverpool fans at Heysel, that would be wrong, but equally this was a combination of circumstances that led to truly dreadful consequences.

Alarm bells rang very early on about Heysel and whether it was a suitable venue for the European Cup Final.

People at Liverpool had concerns even in the build-up to the game.

I recall speaking to the head of the Liverpool supporters' groups 10 days before the game and asking him how preparations were going.

I woke up in a ward with 24 beds in it - and I was the only one there
Mark Lawrenson
Watch BBC Two's Heysel documentary
Sunday 17 April 2100 BST

He told me that the club's chief executive Peter Robinson, who was vastly-experienced in these matters, was beside himself with worry because the two sets of supporters had been placed together in the same end.

Also, I knew from people that when I played in previous European Cup Finals, if you got to within a mile of the ground and didn't have a ticket, you didn't even get near the stadium, let alone inside.

At Heysel, there were tales of anybody just strolling up and getting in.

Things didn't get any better when we went out to see our supporters more than an hour before the game.

We had to cut across a kids' game to go to the Liverpool fans, and Juventus supporters were lobbing half-bricks at us.

Nobody takes a brick into a game, and it quickly became clear they were actually throwing bits of the Heysel Stadium at us - the place was crumbling.

The supporters were also only separated by what can best be described as the sort of chicken wire fencing you would put in your garden. It was a recipe for trouble.

All our fears were confirmed when we were in the dressing room beforehand and someone said there was big trouble - and then of course we heard there were fatalities.

I had my wife and close members of my family there, so of course you fear for their safety and think of others who had lost their lives - but I still think it was right to play the game.

It was better to get the game over with that night. As a professional, adrenalin gets you through, but the game itself, as I said, was an irrelevance after lives had been lost.

It really hit home the next day, when you wake up and realise what has happened, how people have lost loved ones, and the scale of what has gone on.

Obviously you go back to playing football because you are a professional.

At first you think about it every day, then you think about it every six weeks and then every six months and so on.

This is the difference between being a player in the match and someone who actually lost someone at Heysel.

Those people think about what happened every day, which is the awful legacy of that night.

With Hillsborough we were attending funerals, and the trauma you felt got worse with every one.

Steven Gerrard has been magnificent for Liverpool and will be their key figure against Juve
Alan Hansen

Liverpool were subsequently banned from Europe, but it could have been a lot worse had our fans not had a tremendous reputation.

If they had had a bad reputation, the fall-out would have been a lot worse.

The behaviour of Juventus as a football club in the aftermath also marked them down as a club of dignity, class and quality - one of the best there has even been.

They handled the situation brilliantly. It would have been easy for them to villify Liverpool Football Club and the people of Liverpool - not once have they ever done that in 20 years.

If anything, they ensured the bridges built between the clubs over time have been cemented.

So the game itself will be an emotional occasion - and I hope at the end of it we are talking only about football.

Juventus will be favourites, but the first leg is crucial to Liverpool and they have proved against Arsenal and Chelsea at home this season that they can compete with the best.

Yes, Juventus beat Real Madrid, but so did Bayer Leverkusen and Liverpool took care of them.

Once again much will rest on the shoulders of Steven Gerrard, and he can usually be guaranteed to rise to the occasion.

He has been getting some stick from Liverpool fans recently, which is outrageous when you think of how he has put his heart and soul into the last 18 months or so.

Fans pay their money and have their rights, but this guy deserves some leeway above all others.

If Liverpool can get something out of the first leg and put pressure on Juve who knows? Italians traditionally handle pressure well, but we will see.

As for Chelsea against Bayern Munich, I expect that to be a tougher game for Jose Mourinho's men than the Barcelona tie.

Barcelona were the best attacking team in the competition, but couldn't defend. So out they went.

Chelsea, however, are improving all the time and growing into the competition.

But one thing is certain, they won't find scoring as easy against Bayern as they did against Barcelona. And the Germans must not be underestimated.




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