It has been almost a full gestation period, 9 months ago our beloved club was taken over by another American group of “investors” and I think it is about time to take stock of what has happened in that time. The new season is almost upon us and we go in to it the same as everyone else.
They got their “franchise” for £300 million on 15th October 2010 and immediately came in and said nothing about any spade being in the ground within a certain amount of days or wearing all matter of LFC gear over their neat bespoke suits.
John W Henry’s opening gambit went along the lines of;
“I want to express how incredibly proud and humbled we are to be confirmed as the new owners of Liverpool FC. We regard our role as that of stewards for the club with a primary focus on returning the club to greatness on and off the field for the long-term. We are committed first and foremost to winning. We have a history of winning, and today we want LFC supporters to know that this approach is what we intend to bring to this great club.”
We had a right to be sceptical, we had heard this similar “schmooze” a few years earlier. Martin Broughton who had been dragged through the mill trying to get the sale through (in general and the High Court) endorsed the words. Again, we were still sceptical but as always we were willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Tom Hick’s would continue to waffle about the “Epic Swindle” for the foreseeable future.
On the pitch, the results were not too good, we were in a mess and we really could only go up! 2010 ended and a new year started and we all hoped so would our love affair with Liverpool.
There was always a need for any owners, American, Arabic, European to be honest with the fans and not in the written press alone. Somewhere, where it was quantifiable by the man in the street. It needed to be on film! Almost immediately it was. They said they were making no false promises about what was going to happen with the stadium, what would be spent on players. This was a good move. Honesty as Beavis & Butthead found out to their detriment, is just what we want.
New Owners 1 – 0 Old Owners
Whilst the fans had done something never before seen (from Liverpool fans anyway), that being the call for Roy Hodgson to go, the owners just wanted to get in and see what needed to be done. He was at least going to get a couple of months to try and save his position. Results continued to fluctuate and the fact that Kenny Dalglish was still at the club did not help Roy’s cause. However Roy was always on borrowed time. The owners saw what that fans had managed to do with Gillett and Hicks and realised were not just “a noise to be dealt with”. They were people who should be encouraged once more to be a major part of the club. NESV (who they still were at that point) realised they needed to do the same with the football club they had just bought as they did with the baseball team they had been rebuilding quite successfully.
New Owners 2 – 0 Old Owners
If there was something that Hicks and Gillett did notice, it was the fact they had a massive sporting institution, known all around the world that was not even close to maximising its revenue streams. Shirt’s would be sold all over the world but that was pretty much it. They brought in Ian Ayre, a local lad who had done extremely well in big business in Asia having left the navy. He also had a experience in the football world having been chief executive of Huddersfield Town for a few years. He was brought in as commercial director and started about changing the way business is done on a commercial level at Anfield. He started by sorting out the mess of the club shops both online and in general. Remember, we were a club who having won possibly the most memorable European Cup / Champions League final ever, left its club shop closed the day after! There were thousands of fans outside the ground alone, awaiting the parade! This was a club whose website showed no stock of all kinds when our biggest offshore fan base in the Far East was just waking up because of an “arse about face” way of doing business in the warehouse! Then there was the deal with Standard Chartered. Need I say more. Ian Ayre was promoted to the Managing Director by FSG (as NESV were now known) back in March of 2011. It shows how much he thinks of the club and how much John W. Henry and Tom Werner can see of his business acumen, but also how much he loves the club. Hicks and Gillett saw the club being ran as a corner shop and knew that it needed to be run as a Supermarket. They sorted this by bringing in Ayre. A decision I am sure as the club was slipping through their fingers, they regretted. However, they did start to increase its commercial revenue.
New Owners 2 – 1 Old Owners
There was a problem in the team though. The players were not as one. I am not saying they were against each other, but they were struggling still and something needed to be done. Without any messing, Hodgson was gone. No If’s and buts, GONE! It was then that the new owners had their chance to show the fans that they mattered. Dalglish had been heralded by the fans after Rafa had gone but he was told “No Way!”. They had continued to scream for him during Hodgson’s tenure. Now would it happen? Dalglish was called back from a cruise and put in charge on a short term 6 month deal. Things were looking up already! People did have their doubts about Kenny coming back in. They said he had been out of the game for so long, could he hack it. A defeat by Man United in his first game could not dampen anything. He was nobody’s mug. He knew he would need some help. In came Steve Clarke. An old friend of Kenny. More importantly, someone who had been in the game with great success alongside Jose Mourinho at Chelsea. Slowly but surely, the doubters were proved wrong. There was even a chance of getting Champions League qualification. The owners had done what the fans wanted. It was a risk on their part. However they knew that it was only short term, they had done what the supporters wanted and knew that if it failed epically that they could replace him. In fairness it was not really going to fail was it? We finished 6th and that was in no small part to the influence Kenny had re-galvanized the team as one and things going on at the club went back to the old days. When there was something to say, something would be said.
New Owners 3 – 1 Old Owners
During the January transfer window, all eyes were on Anfield to see what these new owners would do. There was a moment of will they / won’t they about the Luis Suarez deal. In the end the money was stumped up as something was stirring in the background. Ryan Babel was finally on his way out. However the fact that Fernando Torres had said he wanted the club to genuinely listen to offers for him, sort of put a dampener on things. Chelsea came in with £35 million and were politely told “NO!”. Then it was £40 million and again “NO!” This time they were told to stump up £50 million and he was theirs. Little did we know, or so it seems now that there were other things going on. We were already trying to replace Torres as it was inevitable he was going to go. When it all happened and we brought in Andy Carroll the football world was stunned. £35 million for someone injured and who was not a proper proven player. It was then that John W. Henry (if I remember rightly) had his say on the matter.
He had said that we were bringing in Suarez and that whatever we paid for Carroll, we wanted at least £15 million more for Torres. It worked and overall the outlay for Suarez and Carroll was around the £2 million mark as we had some £56 million in for Torres and Babel. Good business. Babel flattered to deceive (although I would have liked to see him play more) and Torres was a shadow of his former self (and still seems to be…..have you seen some of the photo’s from Chelsea’s pre season? If body language tells a story!)
New Owners 4 – 1 Old Owners
So we finished in 7th and no European competition next season. I do not know about you lot but I got the impression that no one at Anfield was overly bothered. The money gained from Europa League is a pittance compared to Champions League and for a hell of a lot more effort travelling ridiculous journeys days before crucial league games. It may have been a nice trophy come May 2012 but I am not too bothered either.
And here we are in the summer. We have brought in Alexander Doni as cover for Reina and Jordan Henderson for £20 million from Sunderland. Downing finally arrived after some haggling again for around £20 million. English players cost so much but it seems as though FSG have coughed up and they see it as a necessary evil to pay this much due to the new rules about home grown players. Also, some of the really young foreign players we are supposed to be looking at look like good business. If they come to fruition, when they break through to the first team (if they do) will be classed as home grown due to the length of time they have been at the club. Only time will tell how this season will go. I am no more optimistic than I am any other season.
One thing I am sure of though. In my opinion we have not got from the “frying pan to the fire”. I feel we will be in a much better state this season both on and off the field. There appear to be things in the pipeline that will push us forward. One being a new kit deal with Warrior (for those unfamiliar check out www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warrior_Sports) Just a small “Wiki” page and I am not sure if this deal has been confirmed but £25 million a year for kit sponsorship is the biggest we have ever had that even eclipses Nike’s with Man United. And speaking of Nike, Ian Ayre’s old post of commercial director has just been filled by Graham Bartlett. Another reds fan from the city that has experience in not just the sports world with Nike but also in football have been head of business affairs for UEFA in the past.
Onwards and upwards.
The 3 points go to Fenway Sports Group who comprehensively beat Hicks and Gillett in a pretty one sided affair as far as I can see. John W. Henry and Tom Werner…………DO NOT LET US DOWN.