The Hillsborough Disaster, wherein 96 Liverpool supporters went to a match and never returned home, remains heavy in the hearts of this club. Even 30 years on, we carry the burden with solemn and heavy hearts. Many of us also know about the “97th victim,” who killed himself after decades of survivor’s guilt became too much to bear.
The horror of that day also lives on in the community, the families of the victims, and the survivors themselves. On a day when the city—and then some—celebrated Liverpool becoming European Champions for the sixth time, James Milner made sure that one survivor in particular got an up close and personal view of the biggest cup on offer in club football.
Thirty years ago, Andrew Devine went to Hillsborough on that horrible day. He sustained a crushed chest and was not expected to survive the day. After surviving that first day, the short-term prognosis wasn’t so promising either. Miraculously, he survived not only a day, or a week, or a month, but 30 years. However, the injuries he sustained would forever confine him to a wheelchair. Devine continues to require 24-hour professional help ever since.
Devine, now 53, met Liverpool’s vice captain at Melwood during one of the open training sessions last year. Milner did not forget, and asked the bus to make a special stop on the way back to Melwood. The vice captain took the trophy and dangled it over the bus for Devine to see.
“It was a very kind gesture and it made Andrew’s day” Devine’s mother said to The Echo afterward.
It was a touching gesture, and a real embodiment to the “it means more” motto of this season. Milner continues to show his value in this squad by leading by example both on and off the pitch.
In some ways, it is easier to memorialize the dead. Lay a wreath here. Have a moment of silence there. Embroider “96” on the back of our kits. It’s harder to honor the living survivors, who still struggle with the mental and physical burdens from that horrible day. As such, it was a small moment from Milner, but a meaningful one.