TWENTY-five years ago Blackburn Rovers boss Gary Bowyer was standing with his fellow Nottingham Forest fans as the Hillsborough disaster unfolded directly in front of him.
This afternoon he goes back to Hillsborough, for Rovers’ Championship clash with Sheffield Wednesday, and back to the scene where 96 innocent Liverpool supporters lost their lives on that fateful day on April 15, 1989.
It will no doubt be a poignant occasion for Bowyer.
Before the 3.07pm kick-off he and Owls counterpart Stuart Gray will lay wreaths in the centre circle before joining their players for a minute’s silence.
Once the minute’s silence is over the two managers will gather the wreaths and lay them in front of the Leppings Lane end – where the 96 died and hundreds of others were injured – before making their way to the technical areas for the start of the match.
Bowyer was 17 at the time of the disaster and, on its 25th anniversary, he does not want to reflect on his own experiences of Britain’s worst sporting tragedy.
Instead he insists all the focus should be on those who lost their lives and the families affected.
“It’s really important our fans and our club show the support to the families of Liverpool Football Club who sadly lost loved ones at a football match," said Bowyer.
“When you put it like that it really does hit you – that those people left their homes to go to a football match and never returned.
“That’s the great sadness, so we have to go and show our support and love to the families.
“I was a 17-year-old lad who had gone to follow Nottingham Forest with my mates.
“We were stood in the opposite end but it would be wrong of me talk to about my personal experiences (of Hillsborough) because I was able to go home that night.
“Everybody who was at the game and was part of it has always followed what has happened since and I’m glad the families are getting their answers met and, once they get them fully, I’m sure they will get their justice.
“But out of respect to the families it’s not up to me to talk about it, all I and we want to do is offer our support and respect to them.”
To mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster every match this weekend, in the FA Cup, Premier League, Football League and Football Conference, will kick-off seven minutes late.
It was six minutes into the FA Cup semi-final tie between Liverpool and Forest at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989 that play was halted.
At 3.06pm at Hillsborough today – and grounds around the country – a minute’s silence will be held to remember those who were killed.
The players will wear black armbands while the home club have dedicated the front cover of its matchday programme to the 96.
Owls chairman Milan Mandaric said: “It is very important that our club, our supporters and the whole football family show their respects for the tragic events of 25 years ago.
“This weekend is a fitting time for everyone in the world of football to join together and give full support to all the families and friends affected by the tragedy.”