Everton and Liverpool unite for Hillsborough memorial

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Supporters and representatives from both clubs mark 25th anniversary.

Everton stood shoulder to shoulder with their rivals on Tuesday as the city of Liverpool marked the 25th Anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

More than 20,000 people attended a service at Anfield, including present and former members of the Liverpool first-team squad, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, Everton manager Roberto Martinez and former Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish, who was in charge of the side that fateful day when 96 Liverpool fans died after a crush at Hillsborough Stadium prior to an FA Cup semi-final in 1989.

The families of the victims were also in attendance, with the fresh inquests into their relatives’ deaths adjourned for the week in order for them to attend.

The number ‘96’ was spelt out on the pitch using donated scarves from football clubs across the world. There were also 96 seats left free and draped with scarves donated from the 91 other sides in the Premier League and Football League.

In front of a packed Kop, including fans in Liverpool and Everton shirts, stood a newly commissioned ring-shaped sculpture –- known as the 'Band of Life' - adorned with the names of each of the victims on its inside next to 96 beaming lights.

A few hundred metres away at Goodison Park, fans – again wearing shirts of both clubs - gathered to view the service on big screens.

Back at Anfield the names of the 96 victims were read aloud before Rodgers read the psalm "the Lord is my Shepherd"; later stating that one of his biggest inspirations is the Hillsborough Memorial outside the stadium.

Roberto Martinez then received a standing ovation from the Liverpool crowd as he stood to speak, symbolising the special bond between the two clubs.

Martinez said:

"I was only 15 when Hillsborough happened. I was football mad and as a family we couldn't believe the pain and horror the families would get by receiving the news that their loved ones wouldn't be coming home, wouldn't be coming home from a football match.

"How can anyone die watching the game they love? That isn't right, that isn't fair.

"What happened after wasn't right or fair either, to have to fight for the good names of the ones you lost was appalling.

"But as my chairman said a year ago, the authorities took on the wrong city if they thought they were going to get away with that.

"Everton remembers. We always will."

Martinez also confirmed that a permanent memorial would be erected at Goodison Park, something that again drew rapturous applause.

Five years ago Labour MP Andy Burnham was booed as he stood to speak at the 20th anniversary memorial service, reflecting the frustration and anger at the government’s perceived failure to fully investigate and reveal the truth behind the disaster.

Burnham, who is born in Liverpool and is an Everton fan, then made it a personal crusade to try and achieve justice.

Today, he received a standing ovation as he stood to speak, a gesture of thanks for his efforts and role in the eventual quashing of the original inquests.

Relatives of the 96 also spoke, reflecting both their continued grief as well hope that after so many years of fighting, they may soon find out the truth.

Back at Goodison the Everton fans heard speeches from Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka as well as chairman Bill Kenwright.

Kenwright ended his speech by reciting the words of Liverpool's anthem "You’ll Never Walk Alone". Those words usually spark a chorus of boos at Goodison Park, but on this poignant day it instead inspired a standing ovation, with supporters holding scarves aloft and singing along.

At 3:06pm, the exact moment the game at Hillsborough was called off, the city of Liverpool stood still. Thousands of people stopped for a minute’s silence, with 96 bells sounded from church bells across the city.

There were also services over in Sheffield where the disaster unfolded, as well as in Nottingham, with Nottingham Forest the other team involved on that fateful day.

Ninety-six school children then led a procession from Goodison to Anfield holding 96 scarves, a tribute to the ‘mile of scarves’ that formed between the two stadiums in the days after the disaster in 1989.

It was an understandably emotionally charged day and one that required everyone to put their petty differences to one side. And although the day was obviously tinged with great sadness, there were also reasons to be positive.

We can be positive that after all these years the efforts of the Hillsborough Families Support Group may finally bear fruit.

We can be positive and take pride in a city that will not take perceived injustices lying down.

We can be positive that despite Everton and Liverpool sharing one of the most fiercest rivalries in world football, when it comes to human tragedies like Hillsborough, there is simply no separating them.

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