Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Kevin Sampson: Why every football fan should back Anne Williams' Hillsborough petition

Social networking is often the domain of the inane. People posting pictures of their lunch, re-tweeting tired old jokes or celebrities keeping everyone updated on their daily goings on in the mistaken belief that any of us give a shit.

However, every now and again, websites like Twitter are put to good use. This week has been one of those times.

Anne Williams, whose son Kevin was among the 96 people who died at Hillsborough, is one of the people who have campaigned tirelessly for justice but, just as it seemed the truth was in her grasp, she was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

It now looks increasingly unlikely that she will live to see a re-opened inquest into Kevin’s untimely and unnecessary death deliver its new verdict.

The attorney general hinted this week that the inquests of all 96 victims will most likely be held at the same time. That means that requests to have 15-year-old Kevin’s death dealt with as a matter of priority appear destined to fall on deaf ears.

But, for the inspirational woman who fought long and hard for the truth, there could still be hope.

If ever proof was needed that Anne and her fellow campaigners will never walk alone it came in the form of an online petition and Twitter campaign.

Word of her plight soon spread and by this morning 52,610 people had backed a Number 10 petition calling for her story to be debated in Parliament. If it reaches 100,000 it will be almost impossible for the powers that be to ignore.

She might not get her wish, but her voice will certainly be heard.

One of the people who has been notable in his support of Anne’s campaign is author and Liverpool fan Kevin Sampson. And, as I found out when I caught up with him earlier this week, he - like many other Liverpool fans - has particular cause to back the petition.

Mr Sampson, you see, was in the crowd that terrible, terrible day in South Yorkshire.

He remembers it like it was yesterday and for him and those fans he was with, the truth could not come soon enough. “I was with my brother and our mates Hobo and Mauro,” he revealed. “My brother Neil was one of the first to start pulling the advertising hoardings down to use as stretchers.

“Everyone who was at that end of the ground that day knew exactly what had happened, so it was a complete and utter shock to get home and find out that the disaster had been reported as a football riot.

“Personally, having been going to away games since the early 70s, I was used to the police making up whatever they wanted and doing whatever they wanted.

“So when the Independent Panel was first announced nearly two years ago I just thought, “Oh aye, as if they’re going to find anything incriminating after all these years...” It was a combination of shock and complete and utter exhilaration when I found myself listening to Cameron, live from the House of Commons, lambasting the smear campaign and the wholesale cover-up that had taken place from top to bottom.

“It was one of those rare moments where you’re aware that what is happening is history in the making - that’s how it felt, standing in my Ma’s kitchen, listening to her radio. So, finally, the truth is out there...just a matter of justice being done, now.

“My young brother saw the crushing and the deaths up close. He was traumatised, no two ways about it. He never went to a game again for years. I told him repeatedly he should seek counselling but he didn’t want to know. Just locked it all up inside and never ever referred to it.

“It’s been a massive release for him, emotionally, being given the hope that all his efforts that day might not have been in vain.”

So, with the truth came the relief. But, as the Awaydays author admits, it will not necessarily bring forgiveness for either those who were at fault or the many involved in the subsequent and shameful cover up.

“I despise the top brass in all walks of the Establishment who kept a lid on what happened,” explains Sampson, “but I reserve special contempt for the weasley gobshites at the FA who allowed the game to go ahead at that ground, in those circumstances.

“Somehow, Graham Kelly has escaped censure for his role in the disaster - so far.”

Justice, you feel, is coming. Perhaps not quickly, but eventually. Sadly though, that may not come soon enough for Anne Williams, which is why Sampson is so quick to back her campaign.

He said, “Anyone with a conscience anywhere, no matter what team they support, should give up a minute of their time to sign Anne’s petition.

“Anne Williams has cancer. It is heartbreaking to think she might die without seeing justice finally served for her son, Kevin, who died at Hillsborough.

“All Anne is asking for is that his case be re-opened. For 23 years she has been lied to about the time her boy died. All that time, she has suspected that he could have been saved - now she knows so.

“Sign her petition and force the issue before Anne dies.”

Much of Sampson’s life pre-Awaydays was spent in and around the music industry – not least in tandem with The Farm. And later this year he is hoping the band can bring yet more attention to the Justice campaign with, of all things, a Christmas number one.

A host of acts have been coming together to back The Farm’s single and, as Sampson explained, “Hooto (Peter Hooton from The Farm) is the driving force behind it.

“It’s a re-recording of The Hollies classic He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother). Terrifically poignant in the context of the Hillsborough tragedy.

“There are various names coming together to record the track, and the hope is that it will vie for the Christmas number one slot.”

So the message from Merseyside’s top scribe? Sign the petition, support Anne and buy the single. After everything the Justice campaign team have been through, it does not seem a lot to ask of the rest of us.

Add your name to Anne's petition by CLICKING HERE

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