Liverpool FC: Built by Shanks, Broke by Yanks
By Patrick McLoughlin.
The full-time whistle screeches across Anfield, the rows of seats on the terraces are filled with satisfied fans; pleased with their team’s performance and another defeated opposition the fans applaud the players and manager off the pitch, this may be a slightly nostalgic memory but not too far from the way things used to be, Liverpool FC was a undoubtedly a consistent football club. However, if there is one word that cannot be used to describe the 2009/2010 season then it is ‘consistent’, everything about this season has been the very definition of inconsistent.
The once harmonious terraces are now filled with frustrated fans, the echoes of boos and groans, punctuated with the occasional empty seat. A lonely banner now flutters above these fans, it reads, ‘Liverpool FC: Built by Shanks, Broke by Yanks.’ If ever there were a banner which summed up the mood of fans it would be this. A club of once legendary status now up for sale to the highest bidder. But where did it all go wrong?
Blame is placed squarely at the feet of two Americans. Tom Hicks and partner in crime George Gillett. Three years ago Liverpool FC was purchased between these two, each owning a 50% share of the club, Liverpool fans were understandably very excited, they had watched with envious eyes as London rivals Chelsea claimed the league for the first time in 50 years thanks to massive investment from their billionaire Russian sugar daddy Roman Abramovich and now, with the help of two franchise magnets, thought that Liverpool’s resurgence had finally come, dusting off the mediocrity of the mid-1990s Liverpool were back in the big time. However, with the news this week that Martin Broughton has been appointed as chairman and that Hicks and Gillett are seeking to sell up it looks like another false dawn for Liverpool fans across the globe.
The buy-out seemed to have started extremely well, the record signing of Fernando Torres from Atlético Madrid was bank rolled by the two Americans, an instant success Torres was to be the first in many new stars signing at Anfield; however, upstairs in the boardroom of Liverpool Hicks and Gillett were anything but a partnership and cracks soon started to appear in their relationship. Often pictured sitting rows apart from one another in the rare games they attended, a power struggle now engulfed Liverpool, disputes over transfer funds, the position of Rafa Benitez, the lack of progress on the construction of the new stadium, Liverpool FC had now been turned into a kind of Premier League soap-opera, a steady stream of constant bickering filtered out of tabloid papers and the money soon dried up.
If Hicks and Gillett, two Rhinestone cowboys thought that Liverpool would be an easy addition to their sports empire then they were sorely mistaken, perhaps it was a mixture of ignorance or arrogance or both, but merry ol’ England with its ‘soccer’ teams demanded as much cash as American sports teams, Hicks and Gillett simply didn’t have enough.
They may have entered into this deal with good intentions, then simply got cold feet when they fully understood the magnitude of the task at hand, David Moores and Rick Parry have also played their part in selected them as buyers, opting for the quick buck and short-term solution rather than the fans choice of Saudi investment in the form of DIC. Nevertheless, cash never materialised and Liverpool have been forced to bring in players at minimum cost, David Ngog, Maxi Rodriguez and Sotirios Kyrgiakos are all examples of Liverpool’s wheeler-dealer mentality, all the while Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, Liverpool’s main rivals all bring in grade A players with the cash at their disposal.
Looking further afield than England makes Liverpool eyes water, Real Madrid spending a world-record £80M on Cristiano Ronaldo, over £200M on players in one transfer window, Barcelona have also managed to assemble a squad of unbelievable talent, £45M on Zlatan Ibrahimović as well as products of a world-class academy have taken football to the next level, Liverpool are at least 10-15 years behind these present teams.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, the appointment of Christian Purslow as Managing Director has added a new dynamic business edge that Rick Parry simply didn’t offer. The signing of a new record shirt sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered as well as a new Adidas deal has increased the financial capability of Liverpool, others deals such as the partnership with the Spanish Tourism board have done Liverpool no harm and seem to be taking them in a new positive direction. Purslow’s overwhelming confidence in Benitez to remain at the helm also suggests that there is a plan in place at Liverpool if only it could be backed up with cold hard cash.
How much the behind the scenes turmoil affected on-field performances will never be known but there is no way it could have improved team morale of performance, speculation continues to surround Benitez that he will finally grow tired of all the confusion and leave, possibly for Juventus this summer, star players such as Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres are also rumored to be uneasy with the clubs falling stature and are looking for moves away all the while defeats to lesser teams are piling up and leave Liverpool outside the precious Champions League places, limping home past the finish line.
But this is where the key to Liverpool’s future lies: finishing in the top four. The Champions League places are essential, not only for the cash injections that they bring but the prestige of the tournament, all top bracket players want to play Champions League football, and if Liverpool can’t offer this then players wont join, if the best players won’t join then Liverpool won’t qualify for Champions League football. It’s a vicious cycle that is about to affect Liverpool. Think about it, if this rot sets in the Liverpool will slide into a team that will be lucky to qualify for the Europa League, let alone top four spots.
In conclusion, this summer is massive for Liverpool; it will quite literally make or break them. If a suitable investor can’t be found then another summer of penny pinching in the transfer market will be upon Anfield under the guidance of Hicks and Gillett, the gap between Liverpool and it’s rivals with increase further and Anfield will be home to grade B and C players, however, if a buyer is found then they need to be fully committed, the hopes of millions are pinned on them to build a new stadium, bring in better players and finally lead Liverpool to the elusive 19th title.
It is looking likely that a new investor will be found though, stories are circulating that there is more than one party interested and the fact that Hicks and Gillett have decided to sell up this close to the transfer window suggests that they are confident in selling before a crucial summer period, however, the fact that have now decided to sell only after failure to qualify for the Champions League looks imminent shows their true intentions along, money, plain and simple. Fans boycotting games, supporter protests and even a splinter club being set-up did nothing to influence them, only after losing money by finishing 5th or 6th have they decided they’ve had enough, a sorry end to a calamitous three years. Merseyside now holds its breath.
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