The first news story I remember was from 1966, and I was six years old. The World Cup? No it wasn't, it was Aberfan, and what made it stick for me was not the fact that 144 people died, but that 116 of them were my age or close to it - six years old. For the first time in my young life I understood that I was mortal. It was a realisation that in 1971 was reinforced by the Ibrox disaster, albeit I didn't realise the enormity of it at the time. I witnessed it.
It was the first game of football I had ever attended. My father was a press photographer for the Scottish Daily Express, and he did his job. At 10 all I saw was a stairwell collapse, and lot's of people panicking in slow motion. I didn't even realise that 66 people had died. All I knew was that my father was taking far more photographs in what seemed like no time at all than he had done during the rest of a match that was nearly finished. It will be the 40th anniversary of that disaster next year.
Twenty five years ago this very day, half my lifetime ago, 56 Bradford City supporters died at Valley Parade on what was supposed to be a day of celebration for them; indeed supporters were celebrating on the pitch dull to any realisation that the stand behind them was claiming 56 of their own. I wasn't as shaken by it as I was four years later by 96 Liverpool fans dying at Hillsborough. Why did that effect me when Valley Parade and even Ibrox had not? Well, I was a football supporter by then; the refugees at Selhurst Park had claimed me for their own, as unloved by even many of their own as they were. A part of football was in pain, and I felt it as sharply as I had Aberfan 23 years previously. I had something in common you see.
Aberfan, Ibrox, Valley Parade, Hillsborough.
Good luck to Charlton for the play offs, but do you know what. in the grand scheme of things it really doesn't matter does it?