Let us be absolutely clear: Alan Davies has the right, within certain boundaries set out by the law of the land, to say what he wants. He was totally within his rights to question whether or not Liverpool Football Club should play games on April 15th.
That said, Liverpool fans - equally - have the right to defend their club's position, to rubbish and rebut his views and to tell the world he is wrong.
The beauty of living in a country where (relatively) free speech is prized means that people can say things that they feel. They can say things that we do not like. They can say things that are upsetting. They can say things that are offensive. We can rebut all of those things. I have enough faith in the people of this country to know an idiot when they see one and to know the lilting sound of idiocy when they hear it.
That is not to say that I agree with Davies. Far from it. I thought his comments were, at best, unhelpful and ill-informed and, at worst, distasteful and deeply upsetting. They were the words of a man who has not considered what he is saying or the ramifications of those words. In a country where free speech is prized and where our words and thoughts are increasingly broadcast via various media sometimes when we say things we wish we hadn't, or haven't considered, end up out there forever more.
The Telegraph today published a disingenuous article. They say that, as part of a wider trend of collective mourning running out of control, Davies has committed a ''thought-crime against the post-Hillsborough cult of emotional correctness''. The article is disingenuous because it says he ''merely'' asked why Liverpool don't play on April 15th. That isn't quite true. He said ''Liverpool and the 15th - that gets on my tits, that shit. What are you talking about ''We won't play on the day''? Why can't they?''.
As Christopher Hitchens said, his majestic ''Unfarenheit 9/11'' and I quote in full here (my underline. That is the critical part):
''So I know, thanks, before you tell me, that a documentary must have a ''POV'' or point of view and that it must also impose a narrative line. But if you leave out absolutely everything that might give your ''narrative'' a problem and throw in any old rubbish that might support it, and you don't even care that one bit of that rubbish flatly contradicts the next bit, and you give no chance to those who might differ, then you have betrayed your craft. If you flatter and fawn your audience, I might add, you are patronising them and insulting them. By the same token, if I write an article and I quote somebody and for space reasons put in an ellipsis like this (...), I swear on my children that I am not leaving out anyhting that, if quoted in full, would alter the original meaning or its signifcance. Those who violate this pact with readers or viewers are to be despised'').
The fact that the Telegraph piece does not quote the ''that gets on my tits, that shit' was telling and, bluntly, very poor journalism. Davies *probably* didn't mean to be so flippant (indeed, the man has apologised for offence caused and offered the Hillsborough Justice Campaign £1,000 as way of penance whilst all the while dressing up as a comedy Scouser. My view is that this was PR advice that he chose to follow to diffuse the row) but I don't think it is a useful contribution to the debate to talk about Hillsborough as ''Liverpool and the 15th - that gets on my tits, that shit''.
All that said, the behaviour of some Liverpool fans has been repugnant, disgraceful and abhorrent. Debate the man on his arguments, explain why we refuse to play on April 15th and explain why we would rather be booted out of the FA Cup than play any game on that day (but especially an FA Cup Semi-Final. Rather than call him an idiot why not prove that he is one?
It seems odd to me to complain about a man's lack of sensitivity and then decide to delve far below his level. Revelling in his mother's death? Sending him death threats? We are better than that. Or, at least, we should be. That behaviour is beneath contempt whatever replica shirt you wear. We should not be afraid to say so.
Away from that, I did want to clear up another few matters. Lots of commentators have said things such as ''But what about Munich? What about Heysel? What about Ibrox? What about Bradford?''.
Each and every one of those was a profoundly sad day in football history. I would respect absolutely Manchester United if they said that they would not play on February 6th. I would respect Rangers, Juventus or Bradford City honouring their own dead as they saw fit - and if that included a request to their respective football associations not to play on the anniversary of the tragedy I believe that is a reasonable request.
I do not know enough about any of those tragedies to comment in depth. What I will say is that to many Liverpool fans Hillsborough feels so much worse because of the cover-ups, the lies, the untruths, the mistruths and the slanders. I do not wish to go into too much depth on that here. All I will say is that no football fan should go to a football game and come back in a bodybag. Liverpool fans may genuinely feel that Hillsborough is different. I can assure you that it will not feel like that if you lost your son at the Ibrox disaster. I cannot even imagine what that feels like and, I'd guess, very few of my readers will either.
Some fans - unsurprisingly and maddeningly - begin to focus particularly on Heysel. This is not, usually, out of a concern for those thirty nine fans that died and the many who were injured but to rear inter-club politics to play. That said, If Hillsborough was the darkest day in my club's history, Heysel was the blackest. My understanding is that Liverpool have never played on May 29th and - again - it is my understanding that they would not do so in future.
Two final points: First, what motivated Davies' rant?
It was that he felt that it was unfair on Chelsea that they had to play three days before a Champions League semi-final against Barcelona? I think most people can agree that it would be preferable for Chelsea not to have to play three days before their Champions League Semi. That does not, however, mean that Liverpool should have to be forced to play on April 15th.
Rather than turning his ire on Liverpool perhaps he should have turned his ire against the Football Association.
Why do they insist that the games had to take place on that weekend - and not the weekend before or after? Why do they insist that the games must be spread across the weekend? Why do they insist that the game on the Sunday must be at 6pm rather than 12.30pm (as the Saturday game is)? Why do they insist that both games must take place on Wembley? Why do they insist that Liverpool fans and Everton fans - regardless of the date - have to travel to Wembley to play a semi-final when there are two large stadia in Manchester where the game could be played?
The answer, of course, is the FA have to pay off their stadium but that is not Liverpool's fault.
Second, more importantly, and counter to almost everything I've written above: We shouldn't focus on these comparatively minor issues about who said what and why. We should be focusing our energies on helping those affected most deeply by the disaster to gain closure and to help their wounds heals as best they can. We can only do this by continuing the fight for justice for those who died, and those who were injured and scarred, that afternoon. Why, in a country that prides itself - apparently - on due process - are we still waiting for justice to be done? That's the issue here and it has always been the issue.
That day in April 96 fans went to watch a football game and didn't come back. They didn't see us win an FA Cup against Everton a few weeks later. They didn't see Davies' beloved Arsenal steal the league title in the embers of the season. They didn't hear the slanders against their name. And still we await disclosure of all the facts about that bleak day and we still await justice for them.
And before I sign off. Let us not forget our brethren across the city. This has been dressed up as a Liverpool Football Club matter. That misunderstands the nature of the Hillsborough disaster. It underestimates the pernicious ramifications of media coverage afterwards (and how that coverage affected the city as a whole). It even doesn't get the nature of Liverpool as a city - that red and blue can live in the same house, be from the same family and drink in the same pubs.
Many Everton fans were profoundly affected by Hillsborough. Many Everton fans lost family members and friends that afternoon. Many Everton fans have suffered just as much as Liverpool fans have. I guess that many Everton fans did not want the FA Cup Semi-Final to be played on 15th April because, they too, want to attend a memorial service for their friends and family. Even those that do not understand why Liverpool will not play on that date.
As the derby seems to get ever more poisonous, it is important for all on the red side of Merseyside that ever since that dark day we haven't walked alone.