Jordan Henderson leads Liverpool’s poignant tribute to ‘the 96’ on Hillsborough anniversary.

THERE were poignant scenes at Anfield as Jordan Henderson led Liverpool Football Club’s annual tribute to the 96 victims of the Hillsborough tragedy.

Jordan Henderson pays his respects at the Hillsborough memorial outside Liverpool Football Club's Anfield ground.

The club captain, who is currently on the injury sidelines, briefly removed his face mask before placing a wreath of spring flowers at the foot of the memorial to the disaster and bowing his head in sombre silence.

Visibly moved, Henderson’s personal message read: “Today we come together in spirit to remember the 96. They will always remain in our thoughts and never forgotten. YNWA – from Jordan and all the team.”

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It was the type of gesture that has so endeared Henderson to all football fans and explains why his response to the Covid crisis, in which he persuaded Premier League players to make an unprecedented donation to the NHS, saw him finish second in last year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

This was Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp leaving his wreath at the Hillsborough memorial.

There was a similar sentiment from Jurgen Klopp, the club manager, on his own wreath and tribute less than 24 hours after the former European champions were defeated in this season’s Champions League by Real Madrid.

However the disappointment of Tuesday night’s defeat seemed irrelevant as Liverpool fell silent at 3.06pm – the precise moment that the side’s 1989 FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest was halted at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground.

This was also the symbolic moment when 96 red balloons were released from Anfield’s hallowed turf. In another touch, the goal in front of the Kop – the focal point of the nation’s grief 32 years ago – was a large red and yellow banner with the words ‘We Never Walk Alone’.

Also laying floral wreaths were the club’s icon Sir Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool’s manager on the fateful day, chief executive Billy Hogan and the respective managers and captains of the women’s, U23s and U18s teams.

This annual ritual appeared even more symbolic because of a strict observance of social distancing protocols which meant only a small trickle of spectators to the ground, and just a fraction of the flowers and scarves, traditonally left the relatives of loved ones, and the club’s legion of supporters, on each anniversary.

Players and staff also observed a minute’s silence, with the first-team squad joined by club chaplain Bill Bygroves beside a Hillsborough memorial listing all 96 victims that has become a feature of the new training ground.