Sunday’s Back Pages: Infighting destroying club

It’s the Merseyside Derby today. A day where the city comes together with only one thing on its mind ‘“ football. Families are divided, the Reds and the Blues. The only thing that matters is what happens on the pitch in those 90 minutes. However, for the second winter in a row, it looks as if trouble behind-the-scenes at Anfield is distracting the occasion.

This morning’s Daily Mail says the disagreements and uncertainty over Liverpool Football Club’s future is putting their title quest in jeopardy. That’s right, we’ve waited 19 years for a chance to win the title as good as this to come along, and the incompetent club owners and chief executive look to be throwing it all away.

Jonathan Northcroft writes in today’s The Times that the issues with Rick Parry’s job as chief executive of the club will again be discussed today. Co-owner Tom Hicks and manager Rafa Benitez seem to be united in their frustrations with him. Hicks of course called for his head last summer, whilst Benitez refuses to sign a new contract with the club until he gets more say over completing transfers, something they suggest Parry struggles to do. Northcroft writes:

Parry has been able to survive because of support from George Gillett, who, like Hicks, owns 50% of Liverpool, but Gillett is believed to be eager to sell his stake, whereas Hicks would like to stay on the board with a reduced shareholding. That would be disastrous for Parry but welcomed by Benitez, whose relations with Hicks are cordial.

And it doesn’t look like the boardroom problems are set to finish anytime soon. It is thought the potential new investors in the club will ‘œmake Liverpool sweat’ to get a cheaper price. Hicks and Gillett recently were given six more months to pay back the £350million loan they used to purchase the club to the Royal Bank of Scotland, and they continue to ask for £500million. But, Rory Smith of the Sunday Telegraph writes:

Should the American duo fail to strike a deal with one of “fewer than five” possible investors, the troubled banks could seize the asset or even call in an administrator to try to sell the club.

City sources suggest the chances of the loan being refinanced are close to zero, given the current plight of both banks. Other investment giants are believed to offer little hope of redemption unless there is a massive upward turn in the state of the market before the summer.

On another, also not-so-cheery note, Rory Smith writes a good article in today’s Sunday Telegraph of how far the fans have changed since the last time there was an FA Cup Merseyside Derby. It was the Cup Final of 1989, a month on from the Hillsborough Disaster and Wembley Stadium was a mosaic of Red and Blue.

Many of the same fans who sang together at Wembley will attend Sunday afternoon’s FA Cup clash and hear spite, vitriol and bile pour from the rickety old stands of Anfield. Merseyside police have joined both clubs in appealing for an end to the vile taunts directed at opposing players and supporters alike. If Monday night’s game is anything to go by, that call is likely to go unheeded.

And finally, to put a little bit of light on the situation, here’s what Andrew Baker of the Sunday Telegraph believes Newcastle Utd owner Mike Ashley would say on the recent rumours that a Kuwait based investment group are ready to buy Liverpool:

“Wrong club, guys, wrong club. Why go into the Reds when you could go into the black (and white)? Newcastle United: Big club, big opportunities.

Bigg Market too, if you’re into a bit of fun of a Saturday night. Which you’re probably not. Sorry. Where were we? £500 million. £300 million? £100 million? Guys? Guys?”

Whatever the hell’s going on behind the scenes, let’s make today about the football, sing up in the Kop this afternoon and show who, despite backroom squabbles and uncertainty, is the pride of Merseyside.