This weekend’s English Premier League action has been very exciting, but the action seemed to take a back seat for the most part, because of revelations that took over 23 years to finally come to light.
The findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel were revealed on Wednesday September 12th. Thousands of documents from the disaster were being made public for the first time, and the findings confirmed that what the families of the victims, and Liverpool fans in general, had been saying about that day for over 23 years were the truth.
To sum it up in a paragraph would be incredibly disrespectful, as there’s so much more to the story that can be expressed in words. Alas, this is a football piece, and I have to try my best to do so: On 15 April 1989, 96 Liverpool fans who went to Sheffield’s Hillsborough Stadium for the FA Cup Semi-final against Nottingham Forest were killed by a crush that was the result of a lack of police control. The Independent Panel found that South Yorkshire Police changed or deleted 116 of 164 statements by officers to shift blame on to the fans in an orchestrated cover-up. To top it all off, it was found that ambulance services being allowed access into the ground could have saved 41 lives. They were lined up outside the stadium ready to go in but were denied access by South Yorkshire Police. Nobody to date has ever been held accountable for this disaster. After 23 years of fighting, the families have finally gotten the truth from their government, and can now begin the fight for justice and having those responsible finally be held accountable.
In the aftermath of this news coming to light, almost all grounds in England hosting a match this weekend held a tribute of some sort for the Hillsborough victims and the families of those who died. Reading played “You’ll Never Walk Alone” over the loudspeaker before their match against Tottenham. Everton held a particularly moving tribute prior to their match on Monday night against Newcastle, with Margaret Aspinall and and Trevor Hicks, heads of the Hillsborough Families Support Group and Hillsborough Justice Campaign, both of whom lost children on 15 April, in attendance. Sunderland showed a message on the screen showing their support for the families prior to their match at home against Liverpool. All of these acts are indicative of a rare moment of solidarity in English football, and it reminds us all of the fact that there is more to life than football, as we have all been reminded of the fact that 96 Liverpool fans went to a match 23 years ago and never came home.
With that solidarity being highlighted, it’s time for us to review the highlights of this weekend’s Premiership action:
TITLE CONTENDING: Man United’s 4-0 smashing of Wigan at home
I’m not gonna mention the shenanigans that took place at this match, as its already been beaten to death in the press. As far as what happened on the pitch, Man United took their chances at home and made it clear that they are back and hungry to reclaim the league title this season. After a scoreless first half, Paul Scholes got things started with a goal in the 50th minute, marking his 700th appearance for Man United with a goal at Old Trafford. Another usual suspect put the game to bed 12 minutes later, as Javier Hernandez scored to put United up 2-0. Then Alexander Büttner, making his debut for United, opened his account with a goal that resulted from a terrific run on his part, followed by a finish from a tight angle off the keeper and in. Late in the match, 17 year-old Nick Powell came off the bench for United to make his debut in front of the Old Trafford faithful, and capped it off with a debut goal of his own.
MID-TABLE: Everton 2-2 Newcastle
This was a phenomenal match. Everton started off much brighter and got the opening goal in the 16th minute on a truly great finish by Leighton Baines. Newcastle started to get something going at the end of the first half, and was able to get the equalizer early in the 2nd, courtesy of Demba Ba. The match became much more open as a result of that goal, and, in the 88th minute, Everton appeared to have snatched a late winner with a goal from Victor Anichebe. Alas, this was not to be as Demba Ba scored yet another equalizer two minutes later to seal a point for a very injury-depleted Newcastle United.
RELEGATION: Southampton loses 6-1 to Arsenal at The Emirates
This might be a bit cruel to put Southampton’s 6-1 loss as the worst performance of the week, seeing as it was against Arsenal. But having already played Manchester United and Manchester City tough but losing 3-2 in each match, in addition to a 2-0 home loss to Wigan, this one hurt for Saints fans. They conceded two own goals in this match, in addition to one from Podolski, two from Gervinho, and one from Walcott in a 6-1 drubbing. They’ve lost four straight matches in the Premier League since being promoted, with this one being the worst of the bunch. It’s fair to say that this is worthy of being distinguished as a team in relegation form.
Follow Greg on Twitter @njny