Everton manager David Moyes today paid tribute to the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough as a city prepared to unite in grief.
Liverpool are expecting a large attendance at Anfield tomorrow for the memorial service to mark the 20th anniversary of the tragedy.
But it is not just the Reds and their fans who will mourn the loss of 96 fans in Sheffield at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
Followers of Everton held up a banner at Villa Park on Sunday during the 3-3 draw with Aston Villa demanding ’Justice for the 96’ – emphasising the ongoing battle waged by the families of the victims in search of accountability for the tragedy.
Everton fans have always supported that fight, and Moyes said: “I do not think it only unites this city, it unites the whole country because everybody felt the disaster.
“It could have been any football club, it just turned out to be Liverpool. That situation then could have happened to anyone at that time.
“It is something that hopefully we will never see again.”
Liverpool are expecting such a large turn-out tomorrow that they have plans to open the lower tier of the Centenary Stand to accommodate fans wishing to attend the service.
Usually the Kop, which holds 12,000 people, is used, but it is anticipated that many more will wish to attend the 20th anniversary service.
The club recall that 10,000 marked the 10th anniversary, but tomorrow there could be substantially more, including many Everton fans.
Moyes was playing for Shrewsbury at the time and has his own memories of the day.
He said: “Hillsborough has had a great impact on me since I arrived on Merseyside as Everton manager seven years ago, as it did when it happened and I was still a player.
“I remember the day it happened – word was filtering through and I heard about it at half-time.
“Nobody initially understood it at the time. I was brought up in Glasgow where we had the Ibrox disaster where lots of Rangers supporters were killed on that day in something similar.
“But now I am reading about it, listening on the radio and watching TV and you realise that people went to a football match and never came back.
“And for all the rivalry we have got between each other, blue and red in this city, it is only a game we play and you go to matches wearing your colours.
“I remember doing that with my dad as a young boy, a lot of parents take their children to games. But that time they did not come home, and that is something that should never have been allowed to happen.
“Let’s just hope that it never does again. And in some way I hope for the people who have lost loved ones and had their time grieving, that the memorial service at Anfield this week will make it a little bit easier for them.”
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, his staff and all the players will, as usual, attend the service, having flown straight back from the Champions League clash with Chelsea in London.
The service will start at 2.45pm. At 3.06pm – the time that the match was abandoned at Hillsborough – there will be a two-minute silence across the city.
Public transport will come to a halt in memory of the 96 victims, while the bells of the Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, as well as civic buildings, will ring out.
During the service a reading will be made by Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool’s manager at the time, and relatives of the victims will receive the freedom of Liverpool from civic leaders.
Ian Rush, who was in the Liverpool side that played at Hillsborough, insists that the fight for justice must continue.
He said: “I will be at Anfield to pay my respects to the 96 Liverpool fans who went to support their team and never came home, and I will also be there to show my support for the families and survivors of this terrible tragedy.
“The build up to this anniversary has brought back some really bad memories which have made my conviction even stronger that the fight for justice must go on.
“The families deserve justice and I hope that one day they will finally get it.
“My thoughts and prayers will be with them and with the 96. We will never forget what happened that terrible day.”