Video: Everton pay tribute to Hillsborough victims

Everton paid a moving tribute to the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster prior to their Premier League match at home to Newcastle.

The match was the first to be held on Merseyside since the Hillsborough Independent Panel published its report on the events of April 15, 1989, exonerating Liverpool fans completely and exposing a cover-up which prevented the full truth of the tragedy being known for 23 years.

The HIP report detailed how police executed a smear campaign that sought to blame Liverpool supporters for the deaths of their friends and family members - a long-held suspicion for many on Merseyside but only officially uncovered last week.

The extent of the revelations forced the Government to issue an official apology to the families who have fought so long for justice, and united football fans of all persuasions in their support of the Reds.

After a number of tributes from clubs over the weekend, Everton put local rivalry aside in wonderful fashion on Monday evening as they and Newcastle were led out by two mascots - one wearing an Everton shirt and one a Liverpool shirt, their numbers reading '96'.

Ball boys also wore tops with '96' on the back and as Goodison rose in a minute's applause, with both sets of players joining in, The Hollies' 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' played from the PA as the names of the 96 victims scrolled across the big screen.

Everton's tribute was praised by Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre, who said: "I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the staff and fans at Everton Football Club from everyone at Liverpool for the display of support you have shown the Hillsborough families tonight.

"We've always been great rivals on the pitch but off it, the two clubs have always supported each other. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, Everton Football Club was there for us and that solidarity was on display again last week when the Hillsborough Independent Panel's findings were revealed.

"At times like this, football rivalries take a back seat - something that makes this city unique and I think supporters of both clubs can be immensely proud of the way they have conducted themselves over the past days, weeks and years since the tragedy."

With Margaret Aspinall and Trevor Hicks from the Hillsborough Families Support Group attending the match as guests of Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, manager David Moyes praised the families for the strength they have shown in their fight for justice.

Moyes wrote in his programme notes: "I and everyone at Everton stands alongside the Hillsborough families. I am a football supporter and a father and I applaud the families who continued to fight for the ones they loved.

"The outcome was nothing short of disgraceful."