OVER the course of this weekend, football will pay its respects to the 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster 25 years ago.
The Football Association have delayed the kick-offs of all the games by seven minutes to respect the people who died in April 1989 when the FA cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest had to be abandoned.
The tributes started last night when Rotherham’s League One match with Bradford kicked off at 7.52pm rather than the originally scheduled 7.45pm. All Premier League, Football League, FA Cup and Conference games will be the same, with today’s 3pm kick-offs starting at 3.07pm.
So Sunderland, Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool United’s fixtures form part of the tributes, while Darlington’s Evo-Stik First Division North game with Padiham and all Northern League games will start at the same time.
Sheffield Wednesday, who play at Hillsborough against Blackburn today, have dedicated the front page of their match-day programme to the Liverpool fans who lost their lives at the Leppings Lane End.
The FA have also left 96 seats empty for both the FA cup semi-finals this weekend, while black armbands with No 96 will be worn by the players of Wigan, Arsenal, Hull and Sheffield United involved at Wembley.
There will be a minute’s silence held across the country at all of this weekend’s matches.
MIDDLESBROUGH FOOTBALL CLUB have led the tributes to one of the club’s greatest ever players, Rolando Ugolini, who has died at the age of 89.
Flags at the Riverside Stadium have been lowered as a mark of respect for Ugolini, who died suddenly at his home in Edinburgh on Thursday morning, having suffered suspected heart failure.
Renowned as a colourful character on and off the pitch, Ugolini joined Boro from Celtic for £7,000 in 1948.
The son of Italians, who moved to Glasgow when he was one, Ugolini quickly established himself as a popular goalkeeper with both players and fans.
Nicknamed ‘the cat’ or simply ‘Ugo’, he made his debut against Chelsea in the 1948-49 season and was Boro’s regular goalkeeper over the next nine years.
Agile, fit and a talented shot-stopper, his theatrical style was the talk of Ayresome Park. A noted dressing-room prankster, team-mate Brian Clough remembered him as "the sort of character that every club needs".
Ugolini played a total of 335 games for Boro, making the goalkeeper’s jersey his own for eight seasons.
Former England international Alan Peacock played alongside him as his Boro career started and Rolando’s came to an end, and the chairman of the Middlesbrough Former Players’ Association (MFPA) said: “He was one of the nicest men I ever met in the game and this has come as a real shock to me.
“I played with him in my first few games and he seemed to like me. He really looked after me when I came into the side.
“Over the years he always kept in touch and I was planning to go and see him in the next few weeks.”
MFPA secretary Jim Platt added: “You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer man than Rolando. I didn’t meet him until we set up the Former Players’ Association, so I didn’t see him play, but he used to come to a game every year. I was going to call him to invite him to the last game of the season.
“He was a true gentleman who was extremely popular with the fans and who loved football and loved coming to Middlesbrough.”
SHERBURN LEISURE CENTRE hosts the National Boxing England Elite Championship Pre Quarter-Final Tournament next Saturday.
There will be two pre quarter-final tournaments, with the Sherburn event representing the northern qualifier for the National Elite quarter-finals.
Boxers representing Tyne Tees and Wear, Yorkshire, Merseyside and Cheshire, North West, Midlands and East Midlands will be in action.
There will also be a separate tournament which will see a number of England Schoolboy champions fighting for a place in the 2014 Three Nations squad.
Doors open at midday, and the boxing starts at 12.30pm. Entry is £10 for adults and £5 for under-12s.