Sorry if this appears to be mawkish – but I wanted to write a timely memorial to a boy who was at school with me.
Joe McCarthy was a year younger than me. His elder brother Jeremy was in my year and was a good friend of mine, as was Joe until something happened and things changed. I never really knew what. Joe was a tough kid and was constantly getting in to scrapes. We had some run-ins, or mostly, run-aways on my part. It was a black eye that brought my dad in to the frame and he got on the phone and hastily arranged a little family visit to Joe’s house. I was mortified that I needed parental intervention but the problem did go away and Joe and I never spoke again.
I think about Joe often now and I am constantly reminded of him because Joe died at Hillsborough on that fateful day.
Just recently, I was explaining the disaster to my young boys and they all agreed that if ever they find themselves in such a situation, then they would be able to free themselves.
This is youthful delusion of course.
Joe was 21 at the time. In the prime of his life, Joe was big and strong and determined. He would have fought like a hero to free himself and the fact that he never managed to do so, tells me that he had no chance.
I sat next to his coffin in Ealing Abbey a short time afterwards and we had the conversation that I wished that we had had years before.
I heard on the radio this morning that a memorial football match is taking place at Anfield this afternoon. Where the blame lies for the tragedy and the recriminations that unfurl – the hard facts will always remain.
Like all neutral sports fans in the country, I am excited at the prospect of Liverpool winning the league again. This was the way when I was growing up and why a London kid like Joe McCarthy supported Liverpool.
Joe loved his football and he loved his Liverpool – and Liverpool becoming champions is a poetic tribute to him and to the others who perished that day.