STEPHEN FRY’S QI sidekick, former star of Jonathan Creek, Arsenal fan. Alan Davies is probably known for more than that but without getting Wikipedia out that’s enough to introduce him. The reason he’s getting mentioned on here in the first place is because of comments he made on a podcast he does, “The Tuesday Club”.
The podcast is by – and aimed at – Arsenal fans and consists mostly of cackling about lots of clubs that aren’t Arsenal – as well as passing comment about lots of people unconnected to the podcast. It’s a bit like being stuck near a few lads sitting round a table on the train with a row of empty cans and a fit of the giggles at their own in-jokes. If you’re an Arsenal fan you’ll probably be joining in with the tittering and maybe even emptying a few cans of your own. If you’re not it’ll probably get on your tits – at which point you need to ask yourself why you’re listening to it in the first place.
This could be a completely unfair assessment of the podcast because it’s only based on listening to the large part of two episodes. And the reason for listening was to hear first-hand the comments made by Alan Davies about Hillsborough.
The podcast turned to Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final game against Spurs being played on the Sunday evening before Chelsea play their midweek semi-final first leg against Barcelona in the Champions League. It was pointed out that Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final, against Everton, was to be played on the Saturday to avoid it clashing with the anniversary of Hillsborough on the Sunday.
Davies launched himself into a rant about this: “Liverpool and the 15th – that gets on my tits that sh*t. What are you talking about, ‘We won’t play on the day,’ why can’t they?”
Another voice on the podcast said “Because it’s too sad a memory.”
Davies still wasn’t happy and continued his outburst: “Do they play on the date of the Heysel Stadium disaster? How many dates do they not play on?
“Do Man United play on the date of Munich? Do Rangers play on the date when all their fans died in that disaster… whatever year that was… 1971?”
The two episodes listened to were pretty much wall-to-wall bitching about everyone but Arsenal, accompanied by the giggles of whoever wasn’t speaking at the time. Kenny Dalglish was one of the targets on both episodes – but he was far from being the only target on a podcast that basically tries to be satirical but, to an outsider at least, isn’t really funny enough to sound anything but bitter.
Had he started his rant about Liverpool by complaining about something other than a situation related to Hillsborough the chances are the audience for the podcast would remain restricted to the type of Arsenal fan that finds it enjoyable. If he was just talking about Andy Carroll’s booking at Newcastle or Luis Suárez’s against Villa he’d be able to launch into his little bit about his hatred for Dalglish without it really going any further than the walls of the studio and the headphones of its listeners.
But his rant started with a heartfelt moan about Liverpool’s long-standing determination not to play on April 15th. It made it sound, perhaps, far worse than it was: “Every interview [Dalglish] has given this season he looks like he wants to head-butt the interviewer. This tight-mouthed, furious, frowning, leaning forward, bitter Glaswegian ranting, ‘Liverpool FC do not play on April 15th.’”
He’d tried to do that bit in a Glaswegian accent but failed miserably admitting it was “terrible because I hate him.”
There are lots of reasons why Davies could hate Dalglish and Liverpool. The way Kenny responded to an angry Arsene Wenger at The Emirates last season is one of the most recent examples – and back in the eighties Liverpool and Arsenal were regular title rivals, Liverpool never finishing outside the top two when Kenny was in charge. In between times we’ve had that comeback in 2001 at Cardiff which saw Liverpool lift the FA Cup at Arsenal’s expense and Jamie Carragher’s red card for returning a £1 donation to the general area of the Arsenal fan who’d thrown it at him. Even so, Arsenal have had their fair share of joy at Liverpool’s expense and it seems odd that Davies would be so bitter.
Whatever the cause of his bitterness towards Liverpool – and It’s always possible, of course, that it’s part of an act – it became a problem for him when he basically linked Hillsborough with that hatred.
He’s since apologised on Twitter for the outburst and whilst the Hillsborough Justice Campaign have accepted his apology they’ve not accepted the £1000 donation that he made at the same time:
“The HJC has not accepted the £1,000 paid into its paypal account by Alan Davies. Whilst we accept his apology, we would prefer that he genuinely tried to understand why the decision never to play on the anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster is so important.”
In addition to the apology and the donation Davies tried to explain what he’d really meant: “I’m getting tweets from Liverpool fans who have been given the impression that I was disrespectful to those who lost their lives on 15/4/89.
“Many disagree but I feel that the Liverpool v Everton semi-final could be played on Apr 15. Apologies to those upset by that suggestion.
“I said the Hillsborough disaster was the worst event in modern peacetime history. I was on a terrace listening to a radio as it happened.
“I agree that there must be a full enquiry into Hillsborough but not playing on the 15th doesn’t change anything. It’s not fair on Chelsea.”
Having listened to Davies on his podcast it’s hard not read that “it’s not fair” comment without thinking of Harry Enfield’s spoiled teenage brat character. Enfield didn’t just do Scousers.
The comments show how ignorant Davies is to the reasons behind the club’s long-term decision to resist playing on that date.
For one thing it’s hardly a great hardship for football to make these kinds of considerations. It’s the first time Liverpool have been involved in an FA Cup semi-final since The FA put the ties into hock for thirty years to help pay for their stadium. Liverpool and Everton shouldn’t really be travelling all the way down to London, fans getting on their coaches at 4am, for a semi-final that could have been played at Old Trafford.
And maybe, just maybe, it would have shown more sensitivity if the FA didn’t schedule any semi-finals for that date. Would it hurt to move them to the weekend before or after if the 15th fell on a weekend?
Even UEFA made it clear they would do all they could to accommodate Liverpool’s request not to play a Champions League tie on that date, even though it may have messed up agreements with the TV companies that make the tournament so lucrative.
Part of the complaint from Davies was that the Chelsea-Spurs game was kicking off at 6pm. Liverpool’s game kicks off the day before at lunchtime. Was it Liverpool’s fault that the Chelsea game kicks off so late in the day? Should he not be livid with The FA for allowing ITV to dictate the kick-off time? Should he not be ranting at ITV?
One point he seems to gloss over is that Chelsea’s Champions League match is at home, not in Barcelona, and their FA Cup semi-final is in their home city too.
He also doesn’t really mention that this Champions League semi-final is being played on the Wednesday, not the Tuesday.
Luck gave Chelsea their first leg on the Wednesday rather than the Tuesday and at home rather than away.
Who would everyone be complaining about if Chelsea’s two semis were set for 6pm Saturday (at the behest of TV) and 8pm Tuesday?
It was “not fair” in 1989 when The FA decided how to allocate ends of the stadium, giving the side with the far larger average home gate far less tickets than the other. It was “not fair” in 1989 when the authorities ignored the fact that many fans were delayed getting to the stadium because of problems on the motorways. It was “not fair” that 96 football fans never went back home to their mums and dads and sons and daughters because people who were supposed to look after them treated them like scum.
And those bereaved mums, dads, sons and daughters remember that day every minute of every day. All they ask is that one day out of every year they can remember it with everybody else who wants to remember it with them.
If we’d given each victim one day, one victim every year, we’d still have 63 years to go before they’d all had that day.
Every year we do remember them there’s a good chance it’s the last time individual mums or dads will be there to do so. Twenty-three years is a long time and many of those parents will never see justice done in their own lifetimes, although we’ll carry the fight on until it’s won.
A service is held at Anfield. It’s attended by Liverpool players, by Liverpool staff of all levels, by families, by survivors, by fans, by fans of other clubs, by people who have no connection to football whatsoever but feel a connection to what happened.
Why would anyone want to stop them from being able to remember what happened for that one day every year?
On the 20th anniversary maybe 30,000 people went to the service. This year might be the same – not everyone can make it on the 15th if it falls on a working day.
As well as the service at Anfield there are services held elsewhere, including Sheffield. People have their own ways of remembering, their own places to go to.
It’s for the families and the survivors to decide, one day, if there is no longer a need to avoid playing on the 15th.
Liverpool always ask not to play on that day and so far have always been granted that request. It’s difficult to imagine a situation where that couldn’t possibly be accommodated.
As for the question about Liverpool playing on the anniversary of Heysel, Liverpool FC has only played on that day once in all of its 120 year history. And that was the day the disaster happened.
Other clubs who have suffered tragedies have their own ways of dealing with their loss and take their own amount of time to come to terms with it – if they ever do. But isn’t that the same for all of us when we’re hit by tragedy? We deal with it in our own way – and it takes a real lowlife to interfere with that just because it might spoil their fun a bit.
For Liverpool April 15th isn’t about football, it’s about remembering 96 people no longer with us and thinking about the hundreds of survivors who still suffer the after-effects of what they went through.
It’s also about reminding football what happens when priorities are wrong.
Alan Davies has had plenty of time to reflect on what he said and the response he got. He should know better than to give the Twitter trolls any attention and to focus on what the more reasonable people have said to him.
He has something more powerful and helpful to the campaign for justice than that £1000 the HJC turned down. He’s a well-known public figure. He can help spread the word, help to get the truth out there. He doesn’t have to be an ‘enemy’ and his apology has been accepted.
Maybe he should try and arrange a quiet meeting with the HJC so they can help him to help them.
It doesn’t have to be on Sunday. Any day will do.
But is one day too much to ask?