A short account, Robert Lynch felt he simply had to tell his story. A Liverpool FC season ticket holder he attended the ill-fated FA Cup semi-final in 1989 along with his father. Like so many others the journey across the Pennines was uneventful, filled with anticipation, no reason for alarm. When they reached the Leppings Lane end of the ground at Hillsborough Stadium, his realisation that the match might be an uncomfortable one due to “how packed the crowd was … jostled in every possible direction”, could never have forewarned him that discomfort was the last thing to worry about on that bright sunny afternoon.
Once in the stadium, with the central pen packed, Lynch senior pointed out that the two adjacent pens were practically empty and suggested that they reposition themselves there. Robert wanted to stay and soak up the mood music from the crowd singing but, after a heated argument, his dad won the day. Robert reluctantly trudged along with him unknowingly to safety. He reflects in the book that had he gone to the game with someone his own age rather than his dad, he would have stayed in the central pen.
Even in his roomier pen the comfort zone was soon to shrink as the crowd numbers mushroomed to the point of congestion just ten minutes prior to the kick-off. While finding it vicelike he had experienced worse. There was no sway in the crowd, no give due to the it being so rigidly compact, no space really for its undulations to find expression. Shortly after Peter Beardsley had hit the bar, he noticed a young person trying to climb out of the central pen. What made him think it was a pitch invasion was the sight of some cop using his baton to beat fans back into what was fast becoming their death chamber. When he observed a child being given the kiss of life on the pitch, he knew this was no pitch invasion. The crowd cheered when the child seemed to come around. It was a false dawn. A coat was soon placed over its face. Along with his father Robert Lynch had gone to watch a soccer game and instead found himself “in the midst of a disaster”.
By now some cops rather than swing their batons began trying to rescue the fans: “Without question a number of police officers acted heroically and tried desperately to save people.” Others did nothing, other than form a useless thin blue line across the centre circle. Too shocked, too unprepared, too disorganised, the infectious chaos radiated from match commander Duckenfield down. The rescue effort was left to the fans. They rallied, like a reserve army stepping into the breach, and organised the ferrying of the dead and injured, tearing down advertising hoarding to be used as improvised stretchers, desperately trying mouth to mouth resuscitation. They alone left Hillsborough with heads held high.
By 3.40 Robert was back alongside his dad but now feeling guilt that he could do nothing to help and at the same time lucky for having escaped their fate. As they made their way out in their car, both could see plenty of fire engines but no ambulances. The chaos continued to reign.
When they heard that 17 had died, it seemed it couldn’t be true. 17 people don’t die in a modern sporting arena. By the time it reached 72 they were astounded. There was worse to come. Another 24 would die, with all 96 becoming immortalised in the culture and collective memory of the city of Liverpool due to the injustice done. Robert Lynch claims:
I swear that had the police hierarchy held up their hands in the first instance and said “we’re so sorry, we screwed up and regret our mistakes” this whole saga wouldn’t have dragged on for quarter of a century.
The Sun soon began its hate crime against the fans. The general public might have temporarily fallen for it but not the city of Liverpool or the Anfield club. Under pressure, the paper’s editor Kelvin MacKenzie rang Kenny Dalglish, the team manager:
"'How can we correct the situation?" he said.
"'You know that big headline - 'The Truth',' I replied. 'All you have to do is put 'We lied' in the same size. Then you might be all right.'
"Mackenzie said: 'I cannot do that.'
"'Well,' I replied, 'I cannot help you then.'
As one of the travelling fans Robert Lynch felt vindicated when the Hillsborough Independent Panel published its findings. He received dozens of text messages from friends and families acknowledging the blamelessness of the fans.
The remainder of the book deals with the various inquires, trials, reviews, disappointments over the years.
I read this book immediately after I had finished Phil Scraton’s Hillsborough The Truth. I wanted to read something by some of the fans who were there on the day. It is not the work of forensic rigour that Scraton’s is, but doesn’t set out to be. It was still enough to startle me out of a sleep. Why Me? is the simple personal reflection of someone who was there on the day and was deeply affected by it, putting on the record the awfulness of the day from a survivor. Neither Robert Lynch nor his dad would attend a football match again. That day saw them “done” with football. They put soccer behind them but never forgot the fans.