Grantham’s ‘Asda Andy’ recalls the horrors of Hillsborough

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‘ASDA Andy’ retired on Wednesday after nine years of welcoming people to the supermarket in Union Street.

But being a store greeter is far from the only thing Andy Widdowson, 64, has done during his life so far.

The big Nottingahm Forest Football Club fan, who spent four years as their mascot, Sherwood Bear, was supporting his team at Hillsborough in 1989 when 96 Liverpool supporters died, hundreds were injured and thousands of people were traumatised.

Overcrowding at the Liverpoool end of the stadium and the resultant crush led to the tragedy. Despite previous officials reports, families of those affected and their supporters have long campaigned for the full truth to emerge. The final one on the incident was released on Wednesday.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report sparked worldwide interest as it revealed what the Daily Express called: The most shaming account of failings and dishonesty by the civil authorities in living memory.”

The report also brought about an apology from Prime Minister David Cameron, who told Parliament on Wednesday: “This was one of the greatest peacetime tragedies of the last century.”

He continued: “On behalf of the Government - and indeed the country - I am profoundly sorry for this injustice that has been uncorrected for so long.”

Andy said: “My wife and I went to that match, we were at the opposite end. We were always there early because my wife’s not very tall so we liked to get to the front.

“If the Forest fans had been put in that end we would have been put at the front. That’s always crossed our minds. We saw the whole thing.”

But Andy said that even though they had to wait in the ground, he did not realise the extent of what was happening until afterwards.

He said: “We saw two Liverpool lads who had lost their friend, they said they were looking for him, it always stays in our mind.”

At the time, Andy, of The Belfry, Grantham, was a police officer in Nottingham.

He served in the force for 33 years before becoming an insurance investigator and, finally, a store greeter.

He said: “I thought I would do a few Christmas hours at Asda in 2002, and I enjoyed it. With the police force you are generally dealing with confrontation, with the greeter’s job you’re always talking to friendly people.

“It’s been a big chunk of my life, I feel a bit sad to have gone. I miss the customers and the people I worked with. It’s a pity that I’ve had to go.”

Although the greeters were removed from Asda last year Andy continued to work at the store until arthritis started to impact on his ability to stand for long periods of time.

He said: “I decided to hang up my uniform. At the moment I’ve got plenty to do but I’m maybe going to get involved with volunteering early next year.”

Andy’s favourite part of the job was talking to everyone.

He added: “It was the best job I’ve ever done. I’ll still be going there to do my shopping.”