Our story starts in America. It’s a world and a time far removed from that which we know now. January of 1986 to be precise. The Boston Red Sox would still have another eighteen years to wait before they would emerge victorious in the World Series, while Liverpool were well on their way to championship number sixteen of eighteen.
John W Henry had founded a stock trading company and was yet to reach the height of success that would see him as a major shareholder in two of the worlds most famous sports teams. Just a year later Micheal Douglas and the film Wall Street would introduce the phrase “greed is good” into common usage, summing up a decade in which money meant everything. In the charts at the time was a song that perfectly summed up how Liverpool fans the world over these past few days. John W Henry; what have you done for me lately?
Not so long ago Brendan Rodgers – instead of getting down to work with the biggest rebuilding job in the club’s history – was forced to take his squad to America. Pre-season tours aren’t the biggest evil in the world of modern football as it’s the only way some fans will ever be able to connect with the club but there’s no doubting it added to what was already, with Euro 2012 and the Olympics as well as Europa League qualifiers to prepare for, a hectic schedule.
Nevertheless we were flown half way across the world for what FSG were dubbing as a homecoming of sorts. Liverpool against Roma in Fenway Park was a spectacle no doubt, but it did come off a little as if we were being shown off. Paraded by our owners like a trophy wife.
Then again that’s not entirely right; they usually get bought expensive things.
It’s at this point Andy Carroll springs to mind. Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing aren’t far behind him. If it’s worth pointing out that Kenny Dalglish, Damien Comolli or whomever spent too much money last year then the first person who should have been notified was Brendan Rodgers.
It’s unfair to punish a man for the mistakes made by a previous regime, especially given everything else he has been charged with. That applies to both what has transpired under Hicks & Gillett as well as last summer. Perhaps we should be less concerned with making up for the mistakes in the past and more concerned with not making any more.
It’s a sign of the times that fans of teams have to become familiar with the ins and outs of the balance sheet rather than simply turning up to the games and registering their support vocally. For others – read Arsenal – it appears to be the basis of their entire philosophy. In terms of spending power we are so far behind teams like Manchester City and Chelsea it’s impossible to hear their expensively remodelled cars. Trying to use money cleverly in the absence of having a real financial might sounds like a good idea but there are going to be exceptions.
Failing to add a striker to a squad that has shown it has trouble scoring doesn’t sound particularly clever, does it?
Would it be fair to say that Liverpool fans don’t entirely trust FSG?
If that were indeed the case neither party would be completely at fault. The militant nature of any football fan that exists in an era where under certain ownership a team can go from the Premier League and FA Cup winners to League one and the brink of non-existence in four years, coupled with the fact that the club has already been stung once mean that it’s difficult for John W Henry and company to maintain a healthy relationship with all those who have Liverpool close to their heart.
There will be those who want the club to be open and clear with everything that they do, while others would prefer we do our business the way Liverpool did it for years behind closed doors. Brendan Rodgers said himself that you can’t please everyone.
So much of the recent history of this great football club has been used up as headlines for tabloids and the appointment of Rodgers was supposed to put a halt to all that. It’s slowed down, but it certainly hasn’t stopped – even before the events of the last few days. They employed a new PR man, while at the same time Ian Ayre was doing the unthinkable in giving Dave Whelan the moral high ground. Nearly eleven months have passed and still there is no direct replacement for Christian Purslow, which begs the question as to who exactly is in charge behind the scenes at Anfield.
Nobody is asking John W. Henry or Tom Werner to give up their lives and move to Merseyside, but they need someone who can deal with everything on a daily basis (Ian Ayre proved he was that man when Kenny Dalglish was being hung out to dry last winter). Had there been someone like that here last week, perhaps the lack of communication that led to Carroll leaving without a replacement could have been avoided.
Over twenty months has passed since the purchase of Liverpool Football Club by Fenway Sports Group and an issue that was as pertinent then as it is now has not been properly spoken about. The new stadium – which had something to the tune of fifty plus million sunken into it before they even took over – shows no signs of progression, nor even addressing. This was something they must have had some information about prior to buying the club; were they grossly misinformed? Almost two years on and nothing definitive has been said; while it’s understandable their need to carefully consider the options certainly something should have been at least ruled out by now?
It took just over one thousand days between Liverpool beating Real Madrid and losing to Northampton.
Things happen fast in football. While you wait, the risk of going backward looms large.
When the window closed on Brendan Rodgers and LFC, it also cut off whatever patience that lingered between supporters and FSG. Nobody is asking for Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to be delivered on a plate – people would find a way to complain about their fee or wages even if they did – but they should know now that the clock is ticking.
January will be the true test of their custodianship, to borrow a platitude from a previous administration. There should be no scrambling around in the final hours of deadline day this time, they have four months to line up certain targets and make sure that we get them. After all, it’s not going to be hard task in trying to work out which areas will need reinforcing.
It’s worth pointing out however, where all this anger and unrest comes from. Players were missed out on, people who could have potentially made the team better and that’s frustrating indeed. However the disappointment on missing out on players is a world away from the fear of having to lose some. Andy Carroll and the circumstances surrounding both his arrival and departure aside, there remains a strong core of a football team together there – one that other teams would looked to have picked apart were things different.
Trying to escape a bid from Manchester City for Agger or Skrtel under Hicks & Gillett would have been like the scene in Jurassic Park where they try to evade the Tyrannosaurus by staying as still as possible and hoping it goes away. It’s easy to forget that for almost every transfer window we went into for the last couple of years, not only would we fail to get stronger but another one of our assets would go out.
Undoubtedly, FSG and John W Henry have done some good for the club. The question of whether they are good for the club, remains to be seen.
Their honeymoon period is well and truly over but there is still time to make this relationship a success. Brendan Rodgers is no Roy Hodgson. Whatever depths the club was plummeting to has been halted. If it can get back up to the same heights it was before – and beyond – is uncertain.
Rodgers himself said that one day he’d like to take Liverpool there and win that elusive nineteenth league championship.
It’s a romantic idea. There’s no romance without finance.