I used to love going to derby matches, now you couldn't get me there if you paid me and gave me a free ticket. I've been through the fantastic highs of the King and Sharp winning goals to the desperate lows of the Keeley and Clive Thomas games so it's not the results that have stopped me going, it's the atmosphere.
Although it's still called the "friendly derby" by the misinformed national media I think we all know that went out of the window in the eighties, which is exactly when I stopped going to those games.
It's hard for me now to equate the old days of going for a drink with red mates before and after the game no matter what the result, to the in ground scuffles and after match fighting following the poisonous and sometimes disgusting chanting that's been exchanged for the 90 minutes of the game which occurs so regularly now.
I'm not going to study the history of the 80's and the various reasons why attitudes have changed, I think that's been well documented elsewhere, and there's plenty of blame to be shared around, but I do believe this was the start of the phrase "bitter blues". Ironically this phrase was invented by "bitter reds" who fail to see that their continued use of this nickname perpetuates the hatred and bitterness on both sides of Stanley Park.
I'm not naïve enough to expect to see the return of the Milk Cup "Merseypride" posters, or the time when fans from both sides would turn out to watch the open top bus tour for whoever had won a trophy, (and yes, this did used to happen), but I think the forthcoming semi final clash should be a watershed in our relationship with our neighbours, where the vile songs come to an end.
There is definitely a place for chants against the opposition, although the effort put into them should be surpassed by that put into songs actually supporting your own team. However, there has to be a line drawn somewhere, and there can be no excuse or place for any chants related to the causes of or the deaths of managers, players, fans or anyone else.
I'm not trying to preach or take some moral high ground here, just simply asking for common decency.
This weekend sees the anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy. 1989 was possibly the last time reds and blues fans were really close, as everyone united in grief and bewilderment. I realise Liverpool fans were affected more than anyone else, but I believe we weren't too far behind. I remember travelling back from our semi final in stunned silence, nobody celebrating our win or even talking about football. In those pre mobile phone days we were hanging on every word from the radio news bulletins from reporters who still didn't seem to know what had gone on. A look around the coach showed faces of people thinking only of their friends and family who may have been at the game and involved in whatever had happened. We were all desperate to get home to our loved ones to try and get more information, hoping against hope that the reports of people dying at a football match were exaggerated or wrong. The following weeks and months saw a city and two football clubs united in grief, and it was quite simply the worst time in my football supporting life.
This makes it all the harder for me to understand how anyone, no matter how small a minority, can sing songs about this tragedy. Maybe it's young people who didn't live through that time that think it's acceptable but, quite simply, it's not. There can be no provocation thrown at us that merits retaliation mentioning Hillsborough. None.
I've already seen some of the Everton shirts and banners commemorating the tragedy, and showing support for the Justice for the 96 campaign which will be on show at Wembley on Saturday and I applaud these fantastic gestures from genuine fans.
Unfortunately we'll never see the return of the "friendly derby" but I beg you, no matter what the outcome of the game next weekend, please think twice before you join in a chant and let's put a stop, once and for all, to this poison.
R.I.P. the Hillsborough 96
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