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Sunday 25 September 2016

Memories of 1989 will always haunt players

Liverpool captain Martin Skrtel presents a wreath to Brian Devonside, father of Hillsborough victim Christopher Devonside, in memory of the 96 victims of the 1989 Hillsborough Distaster. Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images
Liverpool captain Martin Skrtel presents a wreath to Brian Devonside, father of Hillsborough victim Christopher Devonside, in memory of the 96 victims of the 1989 Hillsborough Distaster. Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images

Could there be a twist? Could they yet trip up? Leicester City are inching towards the line but I have a memory of my own of how things sometimes are not meant to be.

I remember vividly a warm night in late May at Anfield in 1989 when we had to play Arsenal in a game which was scheduled to be played in the week after Hillsborough but was postponed.

We were going for the Double after beating Everton 3-2 in that unforgettable all-Merseyside FA Cup final.

Four Irishman on the pitch - Ray Houghton, Steve Staunton, John Aldridge and myself. I was captain.

We lost the game 2-0 and the title on goals scored of all things but I know that for the players, the memory of that season was completely centred on Hillsborough and always will be.

Even that night. Sure, we have regrets about losing but mainly because we couldn't do it for the people who died and their families.

I watched the verdict and the response to it last week and I felt the same sadness and anger I've always felt over the years.

The corruption and dishonesty which caused 96 families to live their lives through Hillsborough and forced them to fight for truth and justice is a stain on England and will be forever.

I want to see those responsible dragged out into the light of day now and take the consequences of what they did.

Evidence

I want to see how high this went and who sanctioned the destruction of key evidence and the alteration of records to suit a story which tried to turn the victims into criminals.

I want to see all of that but I'm not sure that I will and that could yet be the greatest sin committed against the families.

There will be many people still trying to suppress the truth, even after this verdict and I hope I'm wrong but they did it for 27 years and I believe will keep doing it if they are not flushed out into the open.

So it was all those memories and thoughts stirring in my head that I watched Leicester try to climb that last few yards to the summit.

The dynamic is very different for them now. All the plucky underdog stuff is gone and they are expected to win the title. It is amazing the difference that can make to a player's mind.

Look at Manchester City yesterday. They have Real Madrid on their minds and four points to spare over United in the battle for fourth place which isn't a big enough gap.

They should be able to put out two teams that would beat Southampton but they were absolutely hammered at St Mary's and concentration levels were awful

Pep Guardiola has a job and half on his hands to fix that club.

He won't thank Pellegrini if Man United find a way into the Champions League preliminary round because his players were asleep at the wheel for the last few games of the season.

Louis van Gaal is still bullish about United's chances and indeed his future at Old Trafford.

I have to say, the flood of rumours and stories about José Mourinho has become ridiculous now but I don't really blame him as some do.

Sure, he could have stopped it in its tracks a long time ago if he wanted to and I've no doubt he is behind at least some of the stuff which is filtering through to the more reputable newspapers. That's the game and anyone who thinks differently needs a reality check.

You watch the area with the good seats at any football ground when a manager is under pressure and you'll see a half dozen unemployed lads, putting their face into the picture.

It even happened me at Southend and I didn't really have any problem with it.

We work in a sport which is all about competition and although you hear many say it, all is fair in love and management.

Van Gaal may be irritated with the media but he knows the game too. I don't think he has ever had to tout for a job and his attitude to any club he lands in is that they are lucky to have him.

The main reason I can't see fault in Mourinho's approach to getting the job he clearly wants is because it is what Manchester United supporters want.

That's unavoidable now for the Old Trafford hierarchy.

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