Never Forget The 56

Credit Graham Burrell

Standing in the box this weekend, I put my hand behind my back as you do during a minute’s silence and solemnly bowed my head to remember.

I can’t remember literally, I hadn’t attended my first game of football when the tragedy of Bradford unfolded 36 years ago. Instead, I contemplated the lost lives, those souls who attended a game of football and never came home. It is something that never fails to bring a lump to my throat, a kind of ‘close to home’ sensation that is hard to comprehend.

Courtesy Chris Wray

I came to Lincoln City just over a year after the 1985 tragedy and although the full horror and sadness of that day 36 years ago is obvious to me, I cannot for one second begin to imagine what it must have been like to be there and to live through it. I remember it, the TV images and the tears in my father’s eyes as it unfolded, but I only came to understand football and Lincoln a year later. A tragedy like that during my tenure as a fan would have broken me, whether I knew anyone connected or not. Even coming to the Imps after the event, it still gets to me every year, the Bradford Fire is a tragedy that you take on as part of being a fan. It is part of our club now, a memory which we wish we didn’t have, but one that took from us 56 football fans we must collectively remember every year. It is our duty to never forget, as Lincoln City fans, it is part of our culture to remember them, honour them and pay tribute to them.

The name ‘Stacey West’ is now ingrained into Lincoln City as much as that of players, managers and the ground itself. When I took the name for the site I took it as the end I grew up on, the place where I watched my football as a teen and through the Keith years. I wanted to express where I felt was my home, but it has a much wider meaning. As almost everyone knows, Bill Stacey and Jim West were the two Imps supporters who lost their lives that day and it’s a fitting tribute that they will forever be remembered at our ground and of course, as part of the Imps history and heritage. I confess, only a year or so after I started the site did it occur to me that I should speak to the Stacey family and check they were okay with me using their name. Stacey West is ubiquitous at Lincoln City, but we must never forget what it means, ever. Two families, torn apart by loss.

56 people lost their lives. 265 suffered injuries. On a day where our friends from Bradford City were set to lift the title, they suffered the most horrific of tragedies that has defined and characterised our relationship since. We share a bond with the Bantams, one of grief and strength in equal measure. Both clubs came back from that awful afternoon, supporters who survived the day hugged their loved ones a little tighter and approached their lives with a deeper appreciation of the things they had.

Today, wherever you are, pause for a second and remember the 56, their families and their friends. Give a moment of thanks for your own life, the wonderful things we’ve enjoyed this year and give those you love a huge hug.

56 people went to a football match 36 years ago, and they never came home.

Rest in peace