The 96 Liverpool supporters who lost their lives at Hillsborough 23 years ago were remembered in the anniversary memorial service at Anfield on Sunday.
Thousands of Liverpool and Everton fans put their differences aside and joined the families of the victims and LFC players past and present in the Kop to pay their respects.
Kenny Dalglish, who was manager at the time of the tragedy, led his full squad out to a standing ovation from the crowd.
During the service, the names of the victims were read out and candles lit in their memory, while the hymn ‘Abide With Me’ was sung by a gospel choir.
A minute’s silence was held at 3.06pm, the exact time the game was stopped by the referee at Hillsborough in 1989, and this was followed by readings from Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt and Liverpool’s Managing Director, Ian Ayre.
Chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Margaret Aspinall, whose son James, 18, died during the tragic FA Cup semi-final, addressed the crowd to speak about the recent controversial rant by comedian Alan Davies about the significance of the anniversary.
She said: “When certain people make certain comments about Liverpool Football Club should be playing on the 15th April, I am afraid that person wants to learn to keep his comments to himself and his opinions to himself.
“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 years.”
During the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley between Liverpool and Everton on Saturday, a minute’s silence was held to honour the 96 and players from both teams wore black armbands.
Mrs Aspinall spoke of her delight at seeing the city rivals join together to fight for justice: “Our two clubs, Everton Football Club and Liverpool Football Club, they made our city proud and I was proud to be a Merseysider 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.”
The service was officiated by Reverend Kelvin Bolton of Christ Church and Holy Trinity, Rev Keith Parr of Oakfield Methodist Church and Father Stephen Maloney of All Saints Church, Anfield. As it drew to a close, Neil McHale sang LFC anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, while members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group released 96 red balloons into the sky.
As families, players and officials exited the stadium, many fans stayed in their seats to repeat the chant that has come to symbolise how they still feel about the disaster: ‘Justice for the 96.’