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Hillsborough: A final tribute to one of our own

Mon 09 May 2016, 10:30|Tottenham Hotspur

In Sunday's official matchday programme, we paid tribute to Andrew Sefton, one of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Disaster, and a Spurs fan. For those who haven't seen the story, we now run it in full below...

Twenty-seven years on, a light finally shines on the families and friends of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster.

The Hillsborough inquests delivered a verdict of 'unlawful killing' on April 26 and exonerated fans of all blame for the tragic events that unfolded that day.

One of the 96 supporters who perished was one of our own.

Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton was just 23 on April 15, 1989.hillsborough_andrew_sefton500x500

Born in Skelmersdale, 15 miles outside Liverpool, Andrew, as he was known to family and friends, worked as a security officer for Pontin's at Weston-Super-Mare on the south-west coast.

That weekend, he travelled home to visit family and friends. His friends had a spare ticket for the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough. Andrew drove his friends to Sheffield.

It's a day Andrew's sister, Julie Fallon, remembers all too well.

"Andrew had just come home," Julie told us this week. "His friends had a spare ticket, he had a car. They said 'we've got the ticket, you drive! It was an FA Cup semi-final, two good teams, the sun was out, it was a beautiful day. Why wouldn't you go?"

He would not return.

Two days after the tragedy, the club received a call from Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool manager, to tell us that one of the fans who had passed away was indeed a Spurs fan, whose favourite player was Gary Mabbutt.

Signed in 1982, Gary was already captain of the club in 1989, a post he would hold with distinction until retiring in 1998. Typical of the man, Gary travelled to Andrew's funeral in Skelmersdale and got to know Andrew's family.

Here are Gary's memories of that sad time...

"I spoke to Kenny, he explained that Andrew had gone to the semi-final with friends but was a massive Spurs fan and I was his favourite player. The family had requested if they could have one of my number six shirts. The funeral was nine days after the tragedy and the family asked if I would be able to attend.

"I travelled to Skelmersdale. There were thousands of people at the funeral. Phil Thompson and Terry McDermott were there representing Liverpool. I met the family and his fiance, he was only recently engaged at the time, and read the bidding-prayers.

"The family later came down to my 'This Is Your Life' programme. I spoke to them a lot at that time.

"It was terribly sad. Even if there wasn't a Spurs fan involved, Hillsborough was something none of us will ever forget. None of us could believe it had happened. I later talked to the players who played in that game and they spoke of their utter disbelief. The fact there was a Spurs fan there touched us even more.

"I remember we played Everton at home afterwards. The gates at White Hart Lane were full of red Liverpool scarves by then. It was a poignant time.

"I must say the dignity the families of the victims have shown over these last 27 years with the anguish they must have felt has been quite extraordinary. Liverpool FC have also been exemplary in the whole process, illustrated by the fact that it was Kenny making the call to us just two days after it happened."

Below: Andrew's name on the Hillsborough Memorial at Anfield


So why did this young man from Skelmersdale - a small town over 200 miles from White Hart Lane - support Spurs?

Julie takes up the story. "I remember once asking Andrew why he supported Tottenham and he told me 'it's just because they are a better team than any up in the north-west'.

"Of course, there was also Gary Mabbutt's legs! Gary was his favourite player. It was a standing joke with his girlfriend at the time. He would say 'okay, I'm going out with you but if Gary Mabbutt walked in, he's got such fantastic legs it would have to be a tie!'

"My dad (Colin) actually died on the day the original inquests were quashed (December, 2012) and we finally cleared the house out. I threw away the clothes Andrew actually died in that day. My mum (Teri) and dad had kept them. I threw them away, finally.

"Andrew also had a lot of Tottenham memorabilia. He had a pennant that he always had hanging over his bed when he was younger. He was a football-goer as well and as far as I'm aware he managed to get to White Hart Lane."

The Hillsborough inquests began on March 31, 2014 and Julie paid a moving tribute to her brother on April 9, 2014.

Here are excerpts from that tribute, as read out in court in Warrington...

"This is a very difficult thing to write about and share with strangers, partly because, after 25 years, I fear I won't be able to fully describe or capture the essence of my brother, and partly because, the older I get, the more I realise how ridiculously young he was when he died.

"Indeed, he was younger than my daughter Maria is now, and he has been dead longer than he was alive.

"I can tell you about his personality, his hobbies and all the facts of his life, but essentially, all I will be doing is painting a picture of the vast majority of well-loved and well-brought-up young men at the end of the 1980s.

"Ironically, given the nature of his death, it will also be hard to distinguish him from the crowd, but I will try.

"He was christened Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton, named after just about every male family member, and this was a source of embarrassment to him his whole life.

"He was a beautiful toddler, blonde curly hair, blue eyes with a turn in one of them from a difficult birth. Little blue NHS glasses tied with string, shy and quiet. But as he grew, he developed a dry and understated sense of observational humour.

"With only three years between us, he was my only sibling, and we were close, the kind of close that doesn't need dissection or declaration, but just is. Our family of four was like a child's jigsaw puzzle with four individual pieces, all different interlocking shapes making up the whole picture. When he died, not only was the picture then incomplete, but nothing else would ever fill the space that he left.

"My brother's life was like a book that had a title, an introduction, described the characters, set the scene and then someone ripped out the rest of the pages. An incompleteness that was, for my deceased parents, and continues to be for my own family, the central, longest, most overriding topic of the last 25 years of our lives.

"We no longer have an inkling of what life without Hillsborough looks like, and ironically neither did my brother - who knows?"

Over two years later, and the inquest delivered the verdicts and truth the families of the 96 had waited so long for.

"It's a weight off everyone's shoulders," said Julie. "The initial feeling was of course elation at the time but as the days have gone by, there's just a feeling of sadness, sadness that it took 27 years to get to that point."