15 years old I had experienced a wonderful season following all the home games and had even been on my first away day to Bolton, the old Burnden Park, a few days previous to witness the win that gave Bradford City the third division championship.
And so it came that I was in the old Bradford End on Saturday 11 May, 1985, my dad elsewhere in the ground. School mates all around us bouncing, singing, sharing the 10p bag of sweets we used to get from the ramshackle old tea bar in the corner by the players’ tunnel. Proud as punch, we were champions.
I remember then the panic, the fear and the nightmarish experience of witnessing what happened that afternoon. I remember seeing things unfold in front of me that no-one, never mind a 15 year old should witness. I remember walking across the field and seeing a man badly burnt, propped up against the midland road advertising boards, looking at his own damaged hands in shock. And I remember how, as I stood waiting for the bus 20 minutes later, that the recognition came that the burned man I’d seen was my Dad.
There are a thousand other recollections of that afternoon, evening and following weeks and months that I could go into but won’t. Although my Dad recovered physically after many operations and weeks in hospital, he has never been back to a game at Valley Parade since. I remember the tears, the anguish and the pain of the weeks and months that followed and the mental scars that I’m sure he still harbours but doesn’t share. I know he saw and experienced worse than me, and mine are sometimes hard to bear.
This is a personal note to the powers that be – I’m sure this isn’t an isolated story. Leave history where it belongs, in the past. We can only look forward and recover, looking back is not going to help the hundreds like my Dad. Whatever happened, happened. Leave it alone, and let us continue to move forward.
We don’t need vengeance, we are not vindictive. We merely need to heal.