SINCE meeting with Hillsborough families in the wake of Wednesday’s historic revelations, a simple fact has resonated strongest in the mind of Brendan Rodgers.
“One thing I have taken from the last few days is that perseverance and persistence are the biggest things you can have in life,” said the Liverpool manager.
“These are a group of people who fought for 23 years. Can you imagine their journey, the good and bad days? But they kept fighting.”
It would be wholly insensitive to compare the continued efforts to find justice for the 96 with anything that transpires within the confines of a football field.
But, at the end of a traumatic and emotional week for the club, Liverpool’s players demonstrated at the Stadium of Light the core values that have embodied the fight to uncover the truth.
They weren’t enough to ensure Rodgers avoided attaining another unenviable statistic of the Anfield outfit having not won any of their opening four league games of a season for the first time since 1911.
This, though, was at least a step in the right direction following the dismal, dire effort in their last outing against Arsenal a fortnight earlier.
There has been much subsequent navel-gazing following that defeat, the introspection heightened by the enforced international break.
Rodgers’ philosophy, of which so much was spoken before a ball had even been kicked this season, has come under intense scrutiny, not least with Liverpool’s deadline-day disappointment leaving the manager
short on strikers for a team that, until the weekend, had yet to score a goal from open play in the Premier League.
And while no doubt concerned by some worryingly familiar shortcomings, those away supporters that travelled to Wearside at least saw evidence of what the Northern Irishman is striving to achieve.
For the fans, of course, Saturday wasn’t just about the match. This was their first opportunity as a collective to give their response to the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel that revealed the
cover-up and smear campaign that followed that fateful day on 15 April 1989.
The banners said it all. “South Yorkshire Mass Murderers Guilty” and “Duckenfield Mass Murderer – Justice Is Coming RIP 96” were just two of many, while defiant chants included those concerning their delight come the imminent demise of Maggie Thatcher.
Liverpool’s players paid their own tribute by walking out wearing black tracksuit tops with the number 96 emblazoned on the back, while Sunderland flew flags at half-mast and posted a message of support on the in-stadium television screens during the opening moments of the match.