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Aldridge - the biggest victory in the history of the club

John Aldridge, who played in Liverpool's ill-fated FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest in 1989, has hailed the verdict that the Hillsborough victims were unlawfully killed as "the biggest victory in the history of the club".

Ninety-six fans lost their lives on the Leppings Lane terrace at the home of Sheffield Wednesday and it has taken 27 years for those who died to be absolved of any blame.

A jury in Warrington instead pointed the finger at South Yorkshire Police, who have subsequently apologised, Sheffield Wednesday, stadium engineers and the ambulance service.

The verdict represents vindication for the bereaved families' tireless pursuit of the truth.

Aldridge wrote in his column in the Liverpool Echo: "I’m a diehard Scouser. I may have played for the Republic of Ireland, but Liverpool is my home, my city, my blood. It always has been, always will be.

"It's hurt me over the years, having people tell me to 'give it a rest' over Hillsborough. Telling me they know what happened that day, or that people need to move on or get over it.

"I've lost count of the number of arguments I've had in my life on the issue. I've told that many ignorant people where to go.

"Those people never understood the reality of Hillsborough, but we did. The people of Liverpool did.

"We always knew what really happened. We always knew what the story was. We always knew the truth.

"And now the whole world knows it too.

"Today's verdicts are a complete, and absolutely deserved, vindication for the victims, for the survivors, the families, and for Liverpool fans and the city as a whole.

"This, for me, is the biggest victory in the history of the club. And it's got nothing to do with football."

Aldridge also made clear his admiration for those who had campaigned for justice for so long.

He added: "The way the families have conducted themselves throughout, with such dignity, such class, such passion for what was right - no praise is too high for those people.

"The only sadness for me is that some people who deserved to see this day weren't here. The likes of Anne Williams, who fought so hard, didn't get to see this day. That hurts, and my heart goes out.

"There is still anger in there, of course. How could there not be, after the lies and the cover-up that has been going on? Twenty-seven years! It's a disgrace, and I hope that now the truth is out, those whose culpability has been proven will get what they deserve.

"I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I wish Margaret Thatcher was still alive today. I'd like to see the fingers being pointed in her direction today, I tell you. What happened at Hillsborough and then in the aftermath is nothing short of a scandal.

"The overriding emotion today, though, is one of pride. Pride for the families, pride for the survivors, pride for the city of Liverpool.

"I'll raise a glass to the 96 tonight. Never forgotten, and now, after 27 tortuous years, finally the truth has been told.

"You'll Never Walk Alone."