After 20 years away from live football, Mark says he has "got the bug" to keep going after visiting Anfield
Mark Hughes can remember little about being at Hillsborough. The day was unusual because it was only the second time he had stood at a match, having sat in the safety of the stands watching Liverpool “hundreds of times” before.
He recalls joking with friends in the Leppings Lane end before the game, then being stuck in the crush that claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans. His last memory of the day is being pushed against an iron bar and his glasses being snapped.
Now, almost 20 years to the day of that terrible tragedy, Mark has been back to watch a live game for the first time... and he can’t wait to go again.
Mark suffered major injuries to his brain and he was blind for four months after Hillsborough. He was in hospitals for several months and received visits from the Prince and Princess of Wales, as well as Margaret Thatcher. The day that the Prime Minister arrived at his bedside was a surreal experience. Mark recalled: “She said: ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ and I thought it was someone joking or I was dreaming, so I said: ‘Give the people of Liverpool more jobs!’… and then they cut me off the camera! Prince Charles and Princess Diana, they sat at my bed and talked to my two friends and my mum. Apparently, she was very nice but I can’t remember that.”
His wife Lynne is now his full-time carer, as his injuries have left him unable to live a normal life. Two decades ago, he worked in Sayers, having finished his education, and loved nothing more than going to watch Liverpool. His last game was that infamous FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough, but the 42-year-old decided to return to Anfield, mainly as a wedding anniversary treat for Lynne, who is as passionate for the game as he is.
The match he eventually got tickets for was Liverpool’s 4-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, just four days short of the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough. “It was the best remedy,” said Mark, at their West Derby home. “It gave me something to look forward to because I stay in bed all week until Saturday nights. I told my doctor it was the best feeling I’ve felt. I’ve got the bug and I really want to go again now. Honestly, if I could get the tickets I would go all the time… I wish I’d have gone back sooner.
“It was amazing… just like it used to be. Although things have changed through the years, it felt the same. The crowds didn’t bother me and I enjoyed the whole experience. We even went to a crowded pub afterwards.” His delighted wife Lynne said: “It was like the old Mark was back. He was different to what he is like when we are watching football at home or in the pub, it was like he used to be back then.”
Before the match, there was a two minutes’ silence to respect the 96 fans who died at Hillsborough, but Mark revealed: “I didn’t feel emotional. I don’t mean to sound horrible by saying that, it’s because of my injury. I just don’t feel emotion towards it. Obviously I feel upset for the other people but where everyone says it’s a dead emotional day, I was just thinking of my mum and what she went through with me. It made me think about my old house, but I can’t remember anything from Hillsborough because of my injuries.”
Mark is always putting the needs of others before his and he is an inspiration to those who meet him. He was even worried that going back to see Liverpool would upset the team’s good form, although the four-goal victory was a real bonus. He said: “I didn’t want to be a jinx because it was my first match back, but that was the icing on the cake. And I went out in the evening to the theatre. It was just a perfect day.”
By Louise Brophy
Hillsborough special coverage