It has been a big week for all associated with Liverpool Football Club, and with Hicks and Gillette finally gone, optimism seems to be the new buzzword at Anfield. Simon Pilkington of Talking Sports rounds up a momentous week on the Kop.
I have supported and followed Liverpool Football Club for 20+years. There have been some fantastic times in those last 20 years and while they may not have been as consistently great as the 60s, 70s and 80s, they have been great none the less; I for one will never forget the epic battle of Istanbul or the image of Rafa sitting Buddha-like watching the penalties go in.
Other notables range from the excellent cup wins of the Houllier years to watching a young Robbie Fowler tear teams to shreds during Evans’ tenure to some excellent individual victories over Utd, Real and Everton. Not to mention being able to watch us break free of and build after the Souness years.
The trouble is that recently we have gone through some bad times and when I say bad, I really should say near-club-cripplingly bad times, the consequences of which may not play out to their full extent for a long time to come.
The last two weeks have been an absolute nightmare as the bitter ownership battle at LFC reached its crescendo, fought out between numerous buying-parties, the owners and the board. Obviously this has been going on for a lot longer than the last two weeks and the fans discontent has been widespread. Protests, organised mostly by the Spirit of Shankly and Save Liverpool FC groups, have taken centre-stage and the football being played at Anfield has not been mentioned since the boardroom warfare broke out.
The blame has been apportioned to individuals ranging from Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson, Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow and of course the owners and while all of those parties may have played a part in our on the pitch troubles, there is only one party there that has taken us to the brink of administration, lying their way through the last 5 years.
Rafa, in the end, divided opinion and certainly made a few errors along the way but which manager hasn’t. There were a few signings that didn’t quite make the grade but then no one ever focuses on the buys he made that were excellent signings – Torres, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt, Reina, Agger and Skrtel to name a handful – and it will be these signings (or those still at the club) that will ensure we climb the league soon.
He stood up and took on the owners as he knew there were massive issues. Yes, last season was poor in the end but having to compete at the top when making a net profit on transfers was never going to be a model for success; just as it isn’t now.
Roy Hodgson hasn’t had it easy at all taking on this job. He knew that when he started but I think he has only realised the full extent of the issues. He hasn’t quite clicked with the fans, a tough task considering some of his results and tactics behind them, while talk of losing the fans is nothing but premature. You can’t lose something you never really had.
Some terrible results and some poor signings but he will hopefully at least get time from both the fans and the owners to develop his own Liverpool team. That’s the least he should expect from a club looking to get back to doing things the Liverpool way.
Broughton and Purslow have been regarded as hate figures in the past, the fans unsure of their roles, their PR and their intentions.
A Chelsea fan at heart, it took Broughton much longer to find potential investors, longer than he or anyone else must have expected but in the end he stood against the owners, his employers no less and fought for the fans, for the club and for our future. That will go a long way.
Purslow, more so than Broughton, has always appeared a massive part of the Hicks and Gillett regime, bringing his own brand of PR and being onside with certain press members (no names Mr Winter) affording him more air time and column inches than any MD of a football club I can remember. A Liverpool man? Maybe. A Purslow man? Definitely.
That said, it’s easy to get on top of someone you think is part of something you dislike and the actions of the last two weeks taken by Purslow will have changed perceptions massively. You can only say fair-play to him also for fighting for the future and bringing us our club back. Whether he has a future at LFC now there are new owners in place, we will have to see.
Then there are the owners. What more can be said about them? Initial promises turned into lengthy lies. Their words deemed less reliable than Aquilani’s fitness. Their integrity was faker than Jordan’s chest.
Anyone could have bought the club the way they did. Anyone, that is, who could find a bank daft enough to lend them the money. They should never have been accepted as owners, neither by the Premier League nor by David Moores, the previous owner. Of course, as fans we wanted the change as we saw it as a way to compete at the highest level and get that Premier League win we so desperately want but we put our trust into these owners and institutions to make a decision that was right for the club. Oh how that trust was misguided.
To consider either of the two Texan buffoons fit or proper is to have demonstrated ineptitude of gargantuan proportions. David Moores, at least, has publically shown regret over not doing more homework into the prospective new owners or at least the Hicks side of it – the side that has caused the majority of ongoing problems.
Hicks and Gillett’s tenure as ‘custodians’ of the club has dragged Liverpool backwards, of that there is no doubt. All monies made went back into servicing a debt that they lumped on us and not into investing in the team, the stadium or the community. Our managers effectively having to sell to buy, making net profit in the last few years, a process that will never allow you to compete at the very top.
So, hopefully now it will be onwards and upwards. After two court victories – one more this season than we have had wins on the pitch – Liverpool are no longer owned by the greedy pair. It may not be the last we hear of Hicks with rumours of him suing for £1 billion in damages, leading everyone to believe he must watch the Austin Powers box-set on constant repeat, but it is the result that everyone involved with LFC wanted.
It should be seen as a great decision for football too, at least from an ownership perspective, as hopefully all the undesirable millionaire venture capitalists looking to bleed clubs dry for the purpose of their own bank balances will think long and hard and go elsewhere.
From all of the prospective owners and it seems there were a few in the end, LFC seem to have got one that fits the nature of the club. Of course as a fan, I would say that right? Time will always tell and the grass is always greener but right now the NESV grass is looking as lush as a rice field after monsoon season.
Jokes apart, New England Sports Ventures *appear* to be a great fit. They have conducted themselves through the process with dignity, with class and with confidence, all traits that LFC associate themselves with. They have previous with the Red Sox of taking on a club’s woes and turning them into a winning proposition, investing in the stadia, the team and the community along the way.
They haven’t made any knee-jerk promises about having a spade in the ground in 60 days a la George Gillett and have guaranteed that this is not a leveraged buy-out in their initial press conference. A good start one thinks and now optimism, in its most cautious sense, is the new buzz word de jour.
The best thing is that talk can go back to the football and issues on the pitch, because these issues still remain. There will be no quick fix or solutions and there will be more pressure on Roy Hodgson than ever before to get the team performing and doing it quickly. With one of the most important derbies against Everton as the first game under the new ownership, what a great platform Hodgson has to show what he can do.
There will be a buzz around the club and this should extend to the players but it will still be a long slog to turn things around. He HAS to though as this squad is not one that should be fighting relegation; the majority of them making up both last year’s squad and the previous season when finishing 7th and 2nd respectively.
Once the confidence in the team is rebuilt and results are going the right way, then we can sit back and see what our owners intentions are – the pressing issues are still the same; stadium, team investment and community regeneration.
In the short-term as Liverpool fans, we celebrate. We celebrate the departure of two leeches that were sucking our blood-flow dry. After the drama of the last two weeks it appears they can no longer do any damage.
More importantly, LFC fans are smiling again. Three points against the Toffees today and what a week we will have had.
Optimism, in its most cautious sense, is the new buzz word.