From Hillsborough to Heysel, from Ibrox to Burnden Park, football has known too many dark days. But rarely have we been confronted with multiple episodes of tragedy and awfulness within hours on the same date.
It was a few hours before our game with Leicester that news filtered through of former England manager Glenn Hoddle’s collapse at the BT Sport studios – just round the corner from London Stadium. Everyone at Blowing Bubbles wishes him a speedy recovery.
But that was just the start. Anyone who has loitered at the King Power long after the final whistle in recent seasons will be familiar with the whirr of Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s helicopter landing on the pitch. Nothing on earth – absolutely nothing – could have prepared me for the news that it had crashed, engulfed in flames, in a club car park an hour after our 1-1 draw.
Just two-and-a-half years ago, Leicester fans were giddy with the euphoria of the Foxes’ 5,000-1 shots winning the title. Contrast those emotions with the tears of Leicester players, including goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, barely able to comprehend the inferno visited upon their fortress on that Saturday night.
What it means for Leicester City’s long-term security can wait. Too often, in football, we hear words like ‘disaster’ and ‘tragedy’ used to describe relegation, the consequences of last-minute goals, players or managers jilting one club for another. But helicopters falling out of the sky and exploding, with passengers and crew on board, are real tragedies – scenes you might see cheapened in a Hollywood action movie but you never expect to see on your own doorstep in the Premier League.
One of football’s sacred assumptions is that going to the match is a return ticket: As fans, players, coaches, directors, retail staff and media personnel, we expect to come home again. On the darkest of days, let us not forget the elderly Brighton fan who went to support his team’s 1-0 win against Wolves and never got home. And as we unite in respect for the victims of the King Power crash, for Glenn Hoddle’s restoration to good health and for relatives of the gentleman died at the Amex, there has never been a more pertinent time to remind ourselves of the adage.