Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers and Everton counterpart Roberto Martinez gave heartfelt speeches at Tuesday’s Hillsborough memorial service.
The ceremony marked the 25th anniversary of the disaster which claimed the lives of 96 fans during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.
After the names of the victims had been read out by religious leaders from across the city in front of a new permanent memorial, the managers of Merseyside’s two Premier League clubs took to the lectern to address those who had gathered inside Anfield for the service.
Martinez, who began by reading a passage from the Bible, spoke of being a 15-year-old “football-mad kid” from a “football-mad family” when he first heard the news 25 years ago.
“As a family, we couldn’t believe the pain and horror,” he recalled.
“How can anyone die watching the game you love? That isn’t right, that isn’t fair.”
The Spaniard – speaking without any form of script – also moved to reassure Liverpool fans that they would always find support across Stanley Park at Goodison.
“I don’t have to tell you Everton are with you, you know that,” he added. “Everton remembers, we always will.”
Liverpool boss Rodgers was next to take his place in front of the Kop, again reading initially from the Bible before speaking of the inspiration that he finds every day as manager of the club that he has led to the top of the Premier League this season.
But the Northern Irishman stressed: “The single biggest source of inspiration for me is when I arrive each match day and see the Hillsborough memorial.
“You’ve all stood for 25 years together… the love for the people you lost inspires me every day as manager of Liverpool football club.”
Rodgers also paid tribute to Kenny Dalglish – manager at the time of the disaster – saying that the club had been “blessed” to have the Scot at a time of “darkness”.
He closed his speech by reciting a poignant line from the club’s anthem: “You’ll never walk alone.”
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