LEEDS United fans who attended an FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough two years before 96 Liverpool supporters were killed at the stadium are being urged to come forward by the author of a new book on the tragedy.
Mike Nicholson is hoping to speak to Leeds supporters who were stood on the terraces behind the goal at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday’s home ground in April 1987.
The 41-year-old from London hopes they can shed light on what it was like for supporters in the central pens of the stand two years before the country’s biggest sporting disaster took place.
Mr Nicholson said prior to 1987 the ground had not been used for an FA Cup semi-final since 1981, when Spurs fans suffered crushing injuries during the game.
Lateral fences were introduced on the Leppings Lane stand in the six years, splitting it into individual pens.
He said the result of this change was that the tunnel marked ‘STANDING’ only fed two central pens and not the entire terrace as before, meaning the most obvious entrance to the terraces could only cope with 20 per cent of their capacity.
The author said: “If it wasn’t managed, it was obvious that too many people would end up in the central pens.
“For Leeds in ’87 the situation was extremely uncomfortable. One Liverpool fan in ’88 wrote to the FA to say that ‘an umbrella I was holding snapped against a crush barrier’ and in 1989, 96 supporters were killed.”
He added: “The media lies afterwards, which now appear to have been driven by the police, have cast the opinion of a generation.
“Drunken, ticket-less fans is a story that people could believe. The truth was however far different, and the fans who are best placed to tell that truth, other than the Liverpool fans, is those Leeds fans who struggled in the Leppings Lane end in 1987.”
The book, which has a working title ‘Hillsborough In Their Own Words’, will be published by Amberley Publishing in April. To share your experiences email email@example.com.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission revealed on Monday that they were expecting to “identify and interview people as suspects” over the Hillsborough disaster in the coming weeks.
New inquests into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool fans are due to start on March 31 in Warrington, while two investigations are going on into the disaster led by police and the IPCC.