Hillsborough remembered: Liverpool unite at Anfield as JFT96 hit out at Davies
18:33 GMT, 15 April 2012
The annual memorial service to mark the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool FC supporters died has been held at Anfield with a guest speaker using the platform to hit out against the recent comments by TV personality Alan Davies.
In a speech at the service, Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, addressed Davies' assertion that the club should be made to play on April 15.
She said: 'When certain people made
certain comments about Liverpool Football Club should be playing on the
15th of April, I am afraid that person wants to learn to keep his
comments to himself and his opinions to himself.
Liverpool united: The first-team squad joined 1000s of fans inside Anfield to remember the 96 victims of the Hillsborough tragedy, which happened 23 years ago on Sunday
'Because when comments like that
offend and hurt so many thousands of people it's quite obvious he has
got nothing else to worry about in his life as what we have had for 23
Her criticism was greeted with loud
cheers and applause. Following the furore that greeted the remarks on
his weekly football podcast, Davies made a 1,000 donation to the
campaign group – which it refused – and apologised for the tone.
Families of the victims and thousands
of fans were joined by club manager Kenny Dalglish and his first team
squad for the sombre occasion at the stadium.
They came to remember the fans who
died in the crush at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday's
ground at the beginning of an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham
Forest on April 15, 1989.
Tributes: 96 candles were lit at the stadium, and some players performed readings in front of the crowd
Candles were lit in front of the
watching crowd in The Kop end for each of the victims whose names were
read out, while the hymn Abide With Me was sang.
A minute's silence was staged up to
3.06pm – the exact time when the referee blew the whistle to abandon the
game as the disaster unfolded.
Shortly after the 20th anniversary of
the tragedy, the Government, with emergency services in South Yorkshire
and Sheffield City Council, agreed to open up previously unseen
documents relating to the tragedy.
The public disclosure is being
overseen by an independent panel chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool, the
Rt Rev James Jones, and is due to report back this autumn.
Paying respects: Even outside the stadium, fans laid floral tributes to those who died
Aspinall said that the parliamentary debate on Hillsborough last October would 'stay in my memory'.
'It made the families, and I am sure
the survivors and the fans, for the first time that the mud that was
being flung at us for 23 years was actually getting taken away,' she
Ms Aspinall thanked all the MPs who
were present at the debate including local MPs Steve Rotheram who read
out each of the victims' names in the House of Commons, Andy Burnham,
Derek Twigg and Maria Eagle.
She also gave special praise to the current Home Secretary.
'I would also like to thank Theresa
May who sat there on that evening and did not move and listened to what
everyone had to say,' she said.
Campaign: Fans chanted to justice for those who died, with guests speakers also calling for full disclosure
The chairwoman continued: 'Over the
past 23 years we as families, you as fans and also the survivors, more
importantly, who had the mud slung at them for them 23 years was an
absolute disgrace and I think it's about time now that we stood our
ground and let them know we were all innocent victims that day. We done
nothing wrong. We all went to watch a football match. That's it.'
She thanked everyone at Liverpool
Football Club for the support they had given to the Hillsborough
families over the years and also everyone who attended today's service
which was organised by the support group.
'Twenty-three years today and you
have never let us down,' she said to the crowd, some wearing Everton
shirts. 'You make us all feel proud and the 96 so proud of you for
supporting us all these years.'
On Saturday, Liverpool captain Steven
Gerrard and Everton skipper Phil Neville each presented a bouquet of
flowers to members of the support group on the pitch before the teams'
FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Old and young: Club legends like Ian Rush walked side by side with the new generation of Liverpool players
An impeccable silence was marked by
both sets of supporters in honour of those who lost their lives 23 years
ago and players from both teams wore black armbands during the match
which Liverpool won 2-1.
Ms Aspinall, whose son, James, 18, died at Hillsborough, praised both sets of supporters for their conduct at Wembley.
'Our two clubs, Everton Football Club
and Liverpool Football Club, they made our city proud and I was proud
to be a Merseysider yesterday,' she said.
'We have many times discussed over
the years, it's not just about football it's about respect.Yesterday
both Everton and Liverpool showed a great deal of respect to the 96 who
died at Hillsborough and for that we are truly grateful.'
Never forget: Speakers defended their right for the club not to play on the anniversary of the tragedy
Among those present today were former Liverpool players Phil Thompson and Ian Rush, and ex-manager Roy Evans.
The service was officiated by the Rev
Kelvin Bolton, of Walton Breck Christ Church and Holy Church, the Rev
Keith Parr, of Oakfield Methodist Church, and Fr Stephen Moloney, of All
Saints Catholic Church, Anfield, who all took turns to read out the
names of the 96.
The Reds' popular Dutch striker Dirk
Kuyt read Psalm 23, while the club's managing director, Ian Ayre, read
The Gospel according to St John, Chapter 14, Verses 1 to 3.
Jonathan Aasgaard, principal cellist
with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, played JS Bach's Sarabande from
Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor.
Other hymns sang by the Liverpool-based The Love and Joy Gospel Choir were I Watch The Sunrise and Amazing Grace.
Not just in Liverpool: A minute of silence was also taken at Wembley before the FA Cup semi-final
Lee Roy James sang The Hillsborough Anthem – a specially composed song about the disaster – and received a standing ovation.
Neil McHale sang the club's anthem, You'll Never Walk Alone, and 96 red balloons were let out into the sky.
The service drew to a close with many in the congregation singing another popular terrace anthem on The Kop – Justice For The 96.