Former Rangers striker Colin Stein admits he still struggles to deal with the pain caused by the Ibrox disaster 50 years on.
The frontman sparked scenes of jubilation among the Light Blues legions back on January 2 1971, as he scored a stoppage-time equaliser to seal a 1-1 draw.
But within minutes of the final whistle, tragedy had struck as 66 fans were killed following a crush on Stairway 13.
Stein had met one of the victims – Margaret Ferguson, the only woman to lose her life – only days before when she dropped off a gift for his young daughter at his home.
And the 73-year-old says the anguish caused that day has barely faded in the five decades since.
Covid-19 means there will be a scaled-back memorial ahead of this weekend’s derby clash with Celtic – with Steven Gerrard’s team set to lay wreaths on the pitch before kick-off – while club bosses have vowed to hold a more fitting tribute to mark the anniversary once the pandemic is over.
But Stein could not hide his disappointment that he will not be there to pay his own respects.
He told the PA news agency: “It’s a sad time for me and still brings back a lot of bad memories.
“A young girl who was killed that day, Margaret Ferguson, had been along at my house the week before the game to give my daughter a teddy bear. These things live with you.
“It’s still in my heart after all these years.
“I think John Grieg will be laying a wreath at the memorial on Saturday but it will certainly be hard not being there myself to pay my respects.
“It’s 50 years on but it doesn’t get any better. It lives with my every day, of course it does.
“You can’t really shake those memories. It’s one of those things. It never leaves you – 66 people went to a game and never came home. It’s a hard time when this comes round every year.”
The tragedy remains the worst sporting accident in Scottish history.
In the days before mobile communications, fear and dread spread throughout the country as people waited for their loved ones to return safely from the match.
There are countless stories of people queueing up at public telephone boxes in towns and villages as they desperately sought news, while others gathered at train stations and bus stops in the hope that partners and relatives would appear unscathed.
David Duff, 72, of Paisley, was at the match with three friends and recalled how he was inundated with calls from worried family members and friends when the list of the dead published in the following day’s newspapers revealed one of the victims was also called David Duff.
“I can still remember where I stood that day,” he told PA. “We were standing in line with the 18-yard box where the Govan Stand is these days. It was a right horrible, misty, foggy day.
“Celtic had scored late on through Jimmy Johnstone but then Colin Stein equalised in injury time. We were all jumping about mad for a few minutes before making our way for the exit.
“We didn’t use Stairway 13 but another big slope that took you out of the stand towards Copland Road. It wasn’t anywhere near as crowded as the stairway so we made it out quite freely.
“But we ended up walking past Stairway 13 on our way out and it was rammed. The crush must have already started but I didn’t see anyone fall. Looking back, we must have missed the actual worst of the crush by mere seconds.
“As it was, we knew nothing about what had happened. We popped into the Bellahouston Hotel, had a few drinks then got a red bus back to Paisley.
“My wife and I were due to be going to a party so I popped home to get changed. I was only in the house for an hour and must have had about five phone calls from people checking I was OK.
“The next morning I picked up a paper, which had the list of the dead. I couldn’t believe it when David Duff was the very first they had printed. Then the calls started again. The chap was from somewhere in Glasgow but was the same age as me.
“I was working at Rolls Royce and when I went back into work at least 20 guys came up to me and said, ‘Jesus we thought you were dead’.
“It was a black day for everyone in Scotland. Thankfully we’ve never seen anything like that occur again.”
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1