- BBC, original station unknown
- unknown, early 1990s
- Rebroadcast as part of the Purely Peel tribute, an interview from an unknown date in the early 1990s in which Peel discusses Liverpool football team and the disasters of Heysel (1985) and Hillsborough (1989), which both involved fans of the club.
My affection for Liverpool – if you’re a real supporter it extends beyond the players and the ground to the city itself, and I was always very, very proud of being associated, in my own mind at least, with Liverpool. I mean, people in Liverpool didn’t think of me as being a Liverpool person at all, but I thought of myself as being a Liverpool person because that’s where I like to be and that’s where I worked and that’s where my father worked, and my mother and father both came from there, and so on. So I thought of myself as a Liverpudlian.
And the people of Liverpool have always I think thought of Liverpool in rather the way that people living in Italian city states did sort of a couple of hundred years ago – as being whether they liked it or not part of a greater whole but actually really not being, not because they were compelled to be. And so there was this incredible independence about Liverpool where it was obviously geographically part of England, but everybody knew that really in their heart of hearts that it wasn’t at all.
When I first met Sheila she was a Leeds United supporter, and Leeds at that time were actually the only team that actually posed any kind of threat to Liverpool’s domination. So there was quite clearly a bit of potential here for disaster. Sheila realized what she was up against when I went and sat in the middle of Regent’s Park when Liverpool lost and just cried and cried and cried – for about an hour, you know. And she suddenly thought obviously, “Here’s a greater force at work here than I first recognized.”
And so she became a sort of Liverpool supporter as well and put up with the fact that we had to have red cars and that all of our kitchen fittings had to be red as well and that all of the curtains and lampshades – the lampshades are all Liverpool lampshades. She put up with this over the years, and the fact that the children all had Liverpool associations in their names and so on.
And [she] came with me – because I had been to two European Cup finals that Liverpool had won – and we went over and spent the night in Amsterdam, actually with mates, and then drove down to Brussels in the morning, and spent a really nice day just pottering around Brussels. Obviously a lot of Liverpool supporters around and things, but good-natured, you know. Drunk but good-natured. And the atmosphere outside the ground was wonderful. We got lost and surrounded by Juventus supporters and they helped us find where we were supposed to go, and there was no animosity at all.
And Scousers just being sort of loud really, you know. And the security of course was hopeless, and the inside of the ground everything was sort of crumbling, which obviously was part of the reason the trouble developed so quickly. But I mean, you know, Liverpool supporters being Liverpool supporters – there was no security fences and things. If they’d got tickets, they’d go over the fence, you know, just to show that it could be done, you know what I mean. And just, because that’s the way they are, you know. If you can get in for nothing, even if you’ve got a ticket, you get in.
But then obviously we saw the trouble. And we were in a grandstand overlooking where all of the people died. And although I had seen people dead, you know, in sort of funerals and so on, I’d never seen people dying before. And it was an incredibly traumatic moment. Obviously it would be in anybody’s life, I think.
And we expected to be at the very least badly beaten ourselves, because there were only six of us who were identifiably Liverpool supporters in the corner of this grandstand, and people who escaped injury and death were clambering up into the grandstand and kind of standing around us, and obviously getting very animated and so on. We thought it was only a matter of time before they turned on us, and I say, “If they don’t kill us, they’ll beat us very badly.”
But we managed to get out of the ground, which was very frightening, because there was a glass door at the bottom of the grandstand - you know, a rather conventional glass door with opaque glass in it. And I sort of opened that and looked though and they were sort of piling up bodies outside and things. And it was the noise really – the noise was utterly horrendous. And I said to Sheila, “We’ll have to go out of this door and walk back to the car” – which is about a mile away. I said, “Look, don’t speak English until we are, you know, well clear of the ground.”
So we walked very slowly through all of this utter mayhem and horrors around us. And the noise, as I say, was absolutely stupefying. I mean, the different kind of sirens, people screaming, people chanting, in the ground people still singing – they didn’t know what was going on – people sobbing, obviously. I mean, you just thought, “This is how hell must be actually.”
And got back into the car and came home, you know, very much chastened. And I have not been to a football match since, actually. And I’ve tried. And it sounds, unless somebody has been in a situation like that – and of course I think nowadays people are increasingly – the number of disasters we have had in this country recently, people are coming to the realization that there is a kind of … there are traumas associated with it, even if you appear to have got off scot-free.
And I had, used to have, unbelievable nightmares. I mean, nightmares you couldn’t believe your subconscious was capable of generating such apparently perverse images, you know. And you thought this is how madness must be. I mean, really staring into the pit. It was really very frightening indeed. I was able to return – I mean, obviously they diminish with the passage of time.
But I was able to go back to the Heysel Stadium a couple of years later. I was in Brussels for the Eurovision Song Contest of all things – which is one of my favourite events. But I went on a sort of afternoon off to the Heysel Stadium, which was near where the contest was taking place, and went to the ground. And there were no piles of bodies, there was nobody screaming, it was a sunny day, it was quiet. And I went to the glass door and kind of touched it, because it was that glass door that sort of loomed very large in these nightmares. So I suppose – it’s cheap psychology and I don’t know what I’m talking about – but I was able to replace the former image with a more recent one.
But then of course with the events in Sheffield, the first night, the nightmares after that, the nightmares just came back. I mean, really worse than ever. I had I think the most terrible night of my life, you know, that night. And nothing that has ever, ever happened in my life upset me as much as the Hillsborough thing.
And I said on the radio - because I can talk about it now, for reasons that I will be able to explain in a minute – but I just simply couldn’t talk about it at all. I mean, if I saw anything on television or anything I just burst into floods of tears, just cried uncontrollably the whole time. And I said on Radio 1, because I did a programme here on the Sunday night, which was very, very difficult, really difficult to do, but I got through that. And then on the Monday I had to go to Radio 1 and started to do the programme and just broke down, you know, my sort of opening remarks. But I was able to say at the end of the programme, which was true, that I never imagined it would be possible to be as upset as I was over the deaths of people I didn’t know.
And Sheila was actually getting quite worried about it, because I just simply could not stop crying. And anything about it on television… I was hugely impressed by – and that made me cry as well, you know – the kind of dignity of the people of Liverpool really, and members of the team and Kenny Dalglish and so. It all affected me very much indeed.
And then the day… I kept wanting to go up to Anfield and it just seemed like a silly thing to do. I’d got so much work to do that I didn’t think I could. But then on the last day when the ground was open I got up on Sunday morning and we had a friend of mine from Poland staying, which was helpful I think, because he obviously didn’t understand really how I felt about it. At least he didn’t – he did when he came back again. But Pyotr and I got up at quarter to four on the Sunday morning and we drove up to Anfield. We queued for an hour and a half. It was… I can’t really tell you quite why, but it was an incredibly cleansing sort of experience. Just because …
I’ve always said that supporting Liverpool was like a substitute for religion, because I’m not a religious man – and it has been really, with the extra bonus that you see the truth of your beliefs demonstrated on the football pitch every Saturday afternoon, you know. And of course Liverpool’s domination has rather proved, you know, that I’m right.
But going around the ground and seeing what people had done, and that in a sense, that other people felt, people would say they were as mad in their beliefs as I was – but was terribly affecting. And I came away much calmed by having been there. So I was very, very glad that I had gone there, because I think otherwise I should have been in a bit of a state still.
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