Remembering the 56

I named my blog ‘the Stacey West’ after the stand I effectively grew up in, but I am always consciously aware that it has a far wider and more poignant meaning. Therefore today I not only bear the name of a stand, but I bear the name of the two Lincoln fans who passed away in the tragic Bradford Fire in 1985.

I can’t begin to comprehend someone going to a football match and not coming home, but for such a day to end in such tragedy is beyond unthinkable. I’m not going to talk about what happened that day, we all know all-too well and it sends shivers down my spine whenever I think about it.

I was seven at the time, and as yet I hadn’t been blessed to visit Sincil Bank. My Dad had though, we’d dropped him and Granddad off for a home match a couple of weeks earlier. We were a young family and he wasn’t one to travel away, so nobody from the Hutchinson clan was there on that fateful day.

That’s not to say it wasn’t in our lives. One of my earliest memories is watching the horror unfold on the news. I didn’t relate it to anything close to me, I didn’t fully understand, but my fathers sombre attitude over the next week helped me understand. We didn’t personally know the two Lincoln victims, and we had no friends in Bradford either. That didn’t mean it wasn’t relevant because in 1985, like today, we are the Imps family. The song we sing today goes ‘We are Imps’, and we is each and every one of us. We were Imps in 1985 and two of us didn’t return from the game, just like 54 of the Bantams family didn’t return from it either.

Over the years the relationship between the two clubs has been a good one, a friendship born of tragedy, two teams brought together by grief, loss and ultimately respect. It is 32 years since those awful events, many current supporters were not even born when they occurred and yet even the young fans remember those we lost. Football is maligned in so many ways for the behaviour of its players and supporters, but few acknowledge the deep respect and empathy that the football supporter is capable of. I’ve seen posts from 17 year old lads this morning paying respects not just to the two Lincoln fans we lost, but also the 54 Bradford City fans. That is the true face of football.

With the greatest of respect to the families of Bill Stacey and Jim West, I always intended the name of this blog to be taken from the stand but unintentionally I represent them as well. As I bear their name I have a duty and responsibility, for this day, to pay my own respects. Not only that, I want to. Lincoln City is in me and the loss of all of those fans from both teams is something that will always affect us deeply.

Therefore my blog is going to remain quiet for 12 hours whilst we remember those who passed away. As a mark of respect I will not post again today as we fall silent to remember those we lost, and to remember the heroes of that day, those who saved lives both in the ground and at the Burns Unit at Bradford Hospital. Some things are more important than football.

56 stars are shining bright,
54 claret and amber, 2 red and white.
The tragic events that took you away,
Will be remembered always on the 11th of May.
Fans packed the ground, some young some old,
All unaware of what was too unfold.
To see the champions was the only aim,
56 lives lost at a football game.
The pain hasn’t eased after all the years,
Generations of fans all shedding tears.
The last home game is always sombre,
But heavens awash with claret and amber.
Your presence we’ll miss and the memories we’ll treasure,
We’ll love you always and forget you never.
So take a look at the sky tonight,
They’ll be 56 stars that are shining bright.