The bare statistics of this semi depict a comfortable victory for Celtic, and that’s the truth. So superior were they, in fact, that most of us were dreading from a pretty early point in the game a repeat of the 1980 semi-final scoreline (5-0, as the programme’s ‘Moments to Remember’ unpleasantly reminded us – even the ancient Bobby Lennox scored against us that day, and there was nothing George Best could do about it). Tommy McIntyre, played out of position at full back by Alex Miller, was given a thorough roasting by Joe Miller, whose crosses led to the first two Celtic goals and countless other opportunities. Archibald scored what is known as a consolation goal in the second half, but it didn’t make us feel any better, really.
The Day Before
The date of this match (a Sunday) will not be remembered as often as the Saturday which preceded it. April 15 1989 was the day of the Hillsborough disaster. The news of that tragedy was still sinking in to all of us as we observed a respectful minute’s silence on the Hampden terraces.
The previous day I had been in Dundee with some Hearts supporting friends, enjoying the spectacle of another Dens Park defeat for the Jam Tarts. At half time we heard that the Liverpool-Forest tie had been abandoned because of ‘crowd trouble’ and that there had been fatalities. Left to draw our own conclusions we muttered sadly about ‘the English disease’ and how much longer the hooligan crisis could be tolerated and what could be done. It wasn’t until after the game and in the pub that the awful truth became apparent and that our assumptions had been completely wrong.
As the full details emerged over the next few days and the finger of blame was pointed at the policing of the game we could sympathise all too well with the unfortunate Liverpool fans. Plenty of times before we had all been caught in crushes in ill designed exits, but came away unhurt and thought little more of it.
Plenty of times however I had watched the police officers at matches, especially in England, standing facing the field of play, enjoying the game. On April 22 1989 The Independent published this picture of young kids at a football match to accompany an article on the Hillsborough disaster. What immediately struck me was not the children’s faces poking through the bars like prisoners, but the policeman sitting inside the fence. Just what exactly was he being paid to do, I asked.
Football clubs were being asked to pay ever increasing sums for the policing of games, when more often it seemed as though they were simply paying to admit a few hundred extra spectators wearing uniforms. The police were supposed to be there to prevent trouble and spot hooligans, but how could they do that when they spent most of the afternoon watching the action on the field?
This practice amazingly persisted for some time after Hillsborough, but is now fortunately a thing of the past, along with perimeter fences and large scale disturbances inside grounds.