When promise is silenced

By Ron Wain, Joint Managing Director, Deep South Media

Eyes well up, unexpected.

A reaction triggered by the reading of a small story in The Times, of the secret football match reports typed up by Victoria Hicks, 15.

Match reports of her beloved club, Liverpool FC, ones she compiled, squirreled away, nurturing the dream of becoming a sports reporter.

Victoria – Vicki to her parents – did what many of us did as aspiring journalists in our early, awkward, teenage years.

She practised the writing craft, away from the uncertain scrutiny of grown-ups, growing quietly in confidence, ready for the right opportunity to reveal her gifted hand.

Quieten your mind and you can hear Victoria now, typing away, the flowing joy of words: “The Fulham team were totally humiliated by a fantastic Liverpool line-up and really, after a bright first few minutes, they were never really in the game.” Liverpool had thrashed Fulham 10-0 in the Milk Cup on September 23, 1986.

Victoria’s typewriter – her passport to the world you and I inhabit as communication professionals – was silenced less than three years later.

She was among 96 Liverpool fans, including Sarah, Victoria’s 19-year-old sister, who died of crush injuries on or after April 15, 1989. They had been watching Liverpool play Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough, the neutral venue in Sheffield, in an FA Cup semi-final. A further 766 people were injured. The mental anguish does not bear scrutiny.

The 25th anniversary of this unbearable stadium tragedy took place this month, the memorial service held at Anfield, colourful scarves from clubs around the world laid out in the centre circle to form two stark numbers: 96.

Victoria’s match reports, filed in a red Liverpool FC match folder, were a physical manifestation of her love of journalism, of the Beautiful Game.

I did something similar in adolescence, penning reports for publication in the Richmond & Twickenham Times on the latest matches involving Isleworth Penguins’ water polo club, of which I was a proud player.

Because that’s how you start, with a blank page, thinking with your fingers, creating insight, knowledge, facts, figures, life, bringing the space to life, however insignificant the subject.

Any newspaper editor would have been impressed with Victoria’s copy, her commitment, her attitude, her passion in conveying the excitement and details of the game, down to the attendance figures and team line-up.

These qualities will stand any aspiring news professional in good stead. They are among the fundamentals.

The Times did not stop with the small story about Victoria. A longer piece, comprising verbatim sections from her entertaining articles, was subsequently published under the powerful photograph of the ’96’ display at Anfield. Poignantly, her report was given that all-important byline: By Vicky Hicks.

Another snippet, on Liverpool v Manchester City on August 25, 1986: “Man City were pretty useless. They could only be congratulated for one thing…being able to fit all eleven men in the penalty box.”

Victoria’s parents, Trevor and Jenni, must have been profoundly moved when they read their daughter’s reports in a national newspaper, brought out of the darkness into the Easter sunshine.

If only – if only – there had been no need to publish them posthumously.