I named this site ‘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 the site not only bears the name of a stand but also the names 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. It is my very earliest memory of Lincoln City though; my Dad’s pain as it unfolded on television is something I’ll always remember. I’d never seen that side of him, at seven your Dad is an invincible superhero and yet that day he cried. That’s what I remembered over and above everything; the pain and anguish it caused supporters of both club.
We didn’t personally know the two Lincoln fans who lost their lives, 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 35 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 young people 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.
For those who do want to pay their respects, the lockdown provides an unusual outlet to do so. There is an online service at 11 am this morning, so you can pay your respects whereas in normal circumstances, you may not be able to get over to Bradford.
Always remember the 56 stars shining bright.