Family in tribute to football disaster’s last victim

Tony Bland died at Hillsborough in 1989. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Tony Bland died at Hillsborough in 1989. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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THE family of a young Yorkshire man who became the 96th victim of the Hilllsborough disaster when he died almost four years later have spoken at the inquests into the tragedy.

Tony Bland, 22, from Keighley , died in March 1993 after injuries suffered in the 1989 disaster left him in a coma.

A statement from his parents Barbara and Allan Bland was read by their son-in-law Andrew Duncan at the hearing yesterday.

He said: “The young man we knew lost his life on April 15, 1989, and died in hospital four years later on March 3, 1993.”

The new inquests, being held in Warrington, have been hearing poignant “pen portraits” of each of the 96 people killed in the disaster, from their loved ones.

Yesterday the court heard Mr Bland had a happy childhood, enjoying family holidays by the seaside.

As he got older he would spend his days swimming in the river or playing with friends.

Mr Duncan said: “Tony was always at his happiest when outdoors, often only showing up for meals which weren’t very often to his liking, so he would have a Weetabix and head back out.

“His mum called him ‘the Weetabix kid’ as it was all he seemed to live off.”

The court heard he was a healthy child but was once in hospital for six weeks after being run over by a car.

His love of football and Liverpool football club started at a young age.

Mr Duncan said: “If he could gather enough money together from his paper rounds he would go to Anfield to watch them.

“His favourite players at the time were Jan Molby and Craig Johnston.

“Once he was working, his trips to see his team, both home and away, became more frequent and he sold scratch cards along with a friend to guarantee them cup match tickets.

“He made many friends in Liverpool when enjoying a pre-match pint at The Arkles pub close to the ground.”

In the statement, Mr and Mrs Bland said Tony enjoyed the active and creative side of school but wasn’t an academic pupil.

After leaving school he got a job at a paper tube mill.

Mr Duncan said: “After going regularly for weeks and asking about vacancies, he was over the moon he now had a job which he could do just as well as the next person and he had some money in his back pocket.

“He made new friends and widened his social circle.”

He also had a love of pool and snooker.

Mr Duncan said: “Tony is remembered by many and will always be loved and missed.”

Earlier this month the inquests heard from the family of the youngest victim of the disaster – who was Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s cousin.

Jon-Paul Gilhooley was just 10 when he died on the Leppings Lane terrace.

In a statement from his mother, Jacqueline Gilhooley, read to the coroner’s court, she said: “His cousin is Steven Gerrard, captain of Liverpool and England football teams. Jon-Paul would have been very proud of Steven.”

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

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