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Rodgers hails Hillsborough families

Brendan Rodgers has paid tribute to the courage of the Hillsborough victims' families and hailed the city of Liverpool as "unique".

Liverpool manager Rodgers attended Wednesday night's vigil in memory of the 96 people who died when they went to watch their team play Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's ground in the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

The vigil followed the publication of an independent report that cleared Liverpool fans of any blame for Britain's worst sporting disaster and revealed a vast and orchestrated cover-up by police and emergency services.

"I was a 16-year-old boy in Northern Ireland at the time [of the disaster], and I sit here today as a 39-year-old - and the families have only just had justice," Rodgers said. "It is absolutely incredible it has taken all that time.

"My respect goes out to everyone involved in that process over 23 long, hard, arduous years, and hopefully they found some sort of justice yesterday."

Rodgers attacked what he called the "propaganda campaign" waged against the supporters in the aftermath of the tragedy, saying: "There is no doubt the propaganda at the time, if you were outside the city of Liverpool and its people, planted seeds throughout the country and the world.

"It is the people who have suffered over all the years who have had to contend with that and fight against that sort of relentless campaigning at the time."

And he urged an end to the tasteless chants about Hillsborough and the Munich air crash that have been heard from some supporters at games between Liverpool and Manchester United, saying: "Unfortunately, you have a very small percentage of idiots at any club who will always try to smear another club's reputation.

"Of course, it is obvious these are chants that no-one wants to hear about any club. Unfortunately, there is that minority of supporters who will maybe disappoint, but let's hope we can all move on.''

Rodgers told the Liverpool Echo he drew inspiration from "the fight and the desire and the will" demonstrated by the relatives.

"This [the publication of the report] was the start of the process for them in terms of getting some sort of justice," he said. "They are halfway there, and they will go on and fight the next stage."

He said attending the vigil had been "an obligation", adding: "I needed to be here and show that solidarity and support that is all-important in times of grief.

"Having lost both my parents in the last 18 months, I understand the grief that goes with losing someone. But to have lost a son or a daughter, or a brother or sister - I can never begin to imagine what that must be like.

"So, for me, it was just a case of showing my support as the leader of the football club."

He said the Hillsborough victims, their families and those who survived the crush on the Leppings Lane terraces "will always play a part in this club, an integral part".

And he paid tribute to fans of city rivals Everton, who - as they have ever since the disaster - stood with their Anfield neighbours to remember the victims.

"There are not too many cities that have supporters like Liverpool and Everton," he said. "They very much come together when there's grief and show that strength and resolve as a city. It was great to see Everton supporters there as well.

"It's a very unique city, with some wonderful people, and the fight that has gone on for the last 23 years has been rewarded."