For those of you who remember the muddy pitches of 1970s England, it was a time of footballing innocence. There were no foreign players, transfers were mainly conducted between English and Scottish teams and there were 50,000 crowds at Anfield and Old Trafford each week ‘“ most of them standing up. There were no corporate shirt sponsorships, no Sky TV, no Internet and no club television channels. For a pre-season Far East tour, you went to play Ipswich and Norwich, and there were no stadiums with names like ‘˜Reebok’ or ‘˜Emirates.’
Liverpool were signing Kevin Keegan for 30,000 pounds back then, and Kenny Dalglish for a whopping 440,000 pounds to replace him a few years later.
The two biggest clubs in terms of support were Liverpool and the mancs. The biggest in terms of winning trophies was hands down Liverpool, due to the combined genius of a certain Mr. Shankly and his sidekick & successor Mr. Paisley. These were the days when we were battling Brian Clough’s Derby and Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town for the title. (Yes kids, it’s true!) Even Leeds were good.
Man United were the big spenders even then, as they tried in vain to wrestle control from their neighbours supreme. They tried, and tried’¦. and continually failed. A conveyor belt of managers came, spent, failed and left while Liverpool collected Championships and European trophies for fun. Great managers (Shankly, Paisley, Clough, Robson etc.) were the winners back then. Money played only a tiny part in success as was proven by the Ipswich’s, Derby’s, Notts Forest’s and QPR’s challenging (and even winning) the First Division Title.
Those were the good old days, but somewhere along the line, as the game became more and more cut-throat and corporate, Liverpool simply failed to keep pace. As the world changed, Liverpool were left behind as the corporate monster that is Man United took full advantage. The result, by the mid 90s, was that Liverpool’s ‘˜family club’ image, while something to be proud of, was being left behind in the new, aggressive, corporate, money driven world of football.
While Liverpool could not (or would not?) fork out more than around 10 million for a player, the mancs were creating the future. Massive, unheard of sums of money were being spent on Ferdinand, Veron, Van Nistelrooy, Rooney and recently Carrick. These five alone cost a combined total of around 130 million pounds. Liverpool’s 15 combined ‘˜record signings’ cost less. While we were shopping at Tesco’s, the mancs had taken their shopping trolley to Harrods.
As they gradually increased their stadium capacity to close on 80,000, Anfield has been stuck on 44,000 for years. If you consider (conservatively) that the average fan spends 30 quid per game, that’s 1.1 million pounds more income in EVERY game. 30 home games a season adds up to 33 million pounds per season in additional revenue.
While the seventies relied on fantastic scouting and players readily available for purchase from any British or Irish club, today’s world relies on one thing ‘“ money! Great coaching helps of course, and Arsene Wenger should be applauded for making a fight of things for the last decade on a shoestring budget. But the mancs, pre-Abranovitch, were far, far and away the biggest spenders in the league. And thus, not surprisingly, the most successful.
Then of course came Abrinovitch. Two Chelsea titles, the first for half a century, duly followed. Why? Money! For the first time in two decades, the mancs were outspent by one of their rivals. Chelsea went from mid-table nobodies to the English powerhouse virtually overnight’¦ spending 200 million quid to do so.
So guess what? The manc dummy spitting began. Having ‘˜bought’ the title since 1991, they were now screaming from their prams how unfair it was that Chelsea had all this dosh and were outbidding them for players. ‘œIt’s just not fair. They inherited money. We had to go on tours of Asia and sell 500,000 replica shirts to the Chinese for ours,’ they cried. Prior to Abrimovitch, the mancs had outspent EVERY other English team since the mid-eighties. Now, for the first time, another club was able to compete financially and the mancs did NOT appreciate the competition.
In my book, money is money and titles are titles, no matter where the cash comes from. In no history book does it say ‘˜Chelsea ‘“ Champions of England because they spent more.’ The mancs had all the dosh for 20 years, Chelsea have had it for 4. They’re the two huge spenders of the corporate era, and the only two able to effectively challenge for the Premier League Title over the last few years.
So, all hail the year 2007!
This is the year the sleeping corporate ‘˜giant’ that is Liverpool, finally woke up. And times could not be more exciting than they are right now. A brand new stadium, (which will help make Old Toilet live up to its nickname) with a capacity rising to 80,000. Billionaire owners at Anfield, the club splashing out on 20 million pound players of world-class status, contracts of our current world-class stars all signed and sealed and our own TV channel. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!
I finished watched the Werder Bremen game on Tuesday with a mix of excitement and anticipation I haven’t had for years. After watching the cameos of Vorinin, Torres, Babel and Benayoun, I simply couldn’t contain my excitement. Time may prove me wrong, but I’m going to go out on a limb and predict the most potent Liverpool attack since the days of Barnes, Rush, Dalglish, Beardsley and Aldridge. Yes, they were THAT good! Vorinin was fabulous leading the line, Babel & Torres were both quick, strong, balanced and threatening. Benayoun’s neat interplay and eye for a pass were obvious.
Absolutely none of these players are from the school of headless chickens from where we acquired Cisse, Baros, Bellamy and Diouf. You could actually see the footballing brains of all four switched on for every minute they were on the pitch. Compare that to other ‘˜major signings’ such as Heskey (‘œhe can trap it further than I can kick it’ claims my brother-in-law), Diao, Biscan and Cheyrou. This current group of attacking players is different class to those signed over recent times.
We have been playing second fiddle to the mancs for far too long, allowing them to buy success while we shopped in the bargain basket. But for the first time, since those innocent days of the seventies, the playing field has been levelled. They are now not only competing with Madrid, Milan, Chelsea and Barcelona for the world’s best players, but with Liverpool too. Their 19th century stadium will be no match for the 80,000 capacity state-of-the-art New Anfield. Their billionaire owner now has to compete with our billionaire owners. Their TV channel is now on air next to ours.
Old demento knows the threat, and as such ‘“ as a matter of principle – is refusing to sell Heinze to us. While I for one would welcome him, his signing will not make or break our season. What’s more important is the reason the old fool refuses to sell to us. It’s not tradition or rivalry (after all, they bought Cantona and Smith from Leeds, and Rooney from the Bluenoses) – it’s fear. He knows the threat the new Liverpool era is likely to pose, and he wants no part in ‘˜helping’ us to knock him back off his perch.
Mark my words, those down the East Lancs Road are taking heed of what’s going on at Anfield, and they’re worried.. very worried. We have the funds, the backing, the stadium, the fans and now’¦ most importantly’¦ the players and manager to not only compete, but to win!
Rafa’s vision, aided in no small part by the Americans and the board, is gathering momentum and taking shape. You can almost taste the excitement. Even the players.. Riise, Alonso, Gerrard, Carra, have become wrapped up in the expectation. The fans haven’t felt this optimistic for years. Neither has Rafa.
Will we win the title this season? Who knows. It might be a step too far as the new players bed in, but I wouldn’t bet against it. We now have the players, manager and foundations laid to bring us success for years to come.
Old demento started his managerial career at the Theatre of Prawns with the goal of knocking us off our perch. With the help of pot loads of money, he managed it. But the playing field is level again now Slur Alex. You no longer have the financial advantage over your main rivals, which saw you buy league titles, while others couldn’t compete.
As you head towards retirement with your pipe and slippers, consider this’¦.
While you initially managed your ultimate goal, the new level playing field means that the perch will soon be reclaimed by its rightful owners.