A smart PR machine quickly churned into action and produced John W Henry’s “open letter” to Liverpool fans, seeking to calm the disquiet amongst fans, but everywhere you go and every Red you speak to will still say that the sense of being badly let down has not gone away.
A number of people have already written articles on this website that have examined the events of deadline day, who might be to blame and what it means for FSG’s relationship with Liverpool supporters from here on in.
The really interesting angle to explore is what the dealings on deadline day – or lack of them, more to the point – have done to Rodgers’ relationship with the owners, FSG. Was Rodgers stabbed in the back? What was he told by FSG? What was he promised by Ian Ayre and those ‘working on deals’? Perhaps most significantly, what does this mean for Rodgers’ relationship with the owners moving forward?
Of course, much of this is speculation, and we may never get proper answers. However, there are some clear facts (which were famously popular with Rafa) that are established, and what we read into them may give us some insights. Let’s look at the facts as we know them:
1) Rodgers only allowed Carroll to leave because he believed beyond doubt that he would be replaced: Sources close to the club have even indicated that Rodgers himself played an active role in persuading Carroll to leave, assuring him that it was by far the best option for his career. However, a quote from Rodgers just a week before the end of the window made his position quite clear:
“I need a minimum of three strikers. Once the window shuts, that is it until January. I have got [Luis] Suarez, Fabio Borini, and Andy Carroll.
“I would need to be a nutcase even to consider at this moment to let Carroll go out, unless there are other solutions for that.”
With just a week to go to the close of the window, Rodgers had gone public to say that he was happy to keep the existing three strikers until January, unless there were ‘other solutions’. It’s very hard to believe that he would have sanctioned – or encouraged – the Carroll move without a huge degree of confidence that ‘other solutions’ were going to bear fruit. In direct support of this, since deadline day, Rodgers has directly stated that, had he known that no deals would be done on the Friday, he would not have sanctioned Carroll’s exit.
2) Even as late as 3pm on deadline day, Rodgers was very confident that new player(s) were coming in: Rodgers’ regular weekly press conference on August 31st was dominated by deadline day speculation around deals that might be happening. Rodgers was relaxed and confident in his body language all the way through the press conference, and was very clear when the assembled journalists asked him about his chances of bringing in some much needed reinforcements up front, now that Carroll had left:
“Let’s hope by the time it [the transfer window] shuts later on that we’ve got some reinforcements. If we can get recognised goalscorers to come in, that’s the objective… there’ll be hopefully one or two coming in”.
Again, after the window closed, Rodgers was asked by various journalists how confident he had been that further strikers were going to be brought in. He gave a one word answer: “Very”. Rodgers is a modern manager, very capable of dealing with the press and not someone to overstate his case. He was in front of the world on deadline day and was absolutely confident that reinforcements were coming.
“There are obviously a lot of people upstairs who are doing a lot of great work and working very, very hard [to get deals done]”.
In emphasising Ayre’s lead role, Rodgers has made it clear who bears responsibility for the failure to get any deals completed – and it’s not him.
4) Liverpool fell £1m short of Fulham’s valuation for Clint Dempsey with an offer rejected at 7pm, and he signed for Tottenham instead: this is one of the hardest facts to deal with. Why did Ian Ayre’s best and final offer only come four hours before the window closed, leaving no time for any other options to be explored? Why not 24 hours before, when the Carroll deal was sealed and done? Rodgers must have made his case absolutely clear to FSG around the need to bring goals into the team – he was publicly stating this was needed even before he let Carroll go. Why was this ignored? Why was the offer left to the last few hours of the window?
These are the facts as we know them. As mentioned earlier, we may never know for certain what conversations took place, what promises were made and what guarantees were given to Brendan Rodgers by FSG. But we know enough from the facts outlined above to understand that at best, he was given mixed messages by the owners over the last few days of the transfer window that caused him to end up short of strikers. At worst, he was told bare-faced lies by FSG around their intentions to bring in reinforcements, before they ignored his advice on the urgency of bringing in new striker(s) and sold him down the river.
The truth may lie somewhere in between. The balance of evidence though, points to Rodgers having been badly let down by the owners. He was a manager who was clearly led to believe – with some public confidence – that he was in a certain position that was then subsequently taken away underneath him. His trust in the owners has to have been seriously damaged by the shambolic events, as he reflects on a challenge – turning Liverpool’s fortunes around on and off the pitch – that has just become even more difficult.
Where Rodgers’ relationship with FSG goes from here is difficult to gauge. After speaking to Live4Liverpool.com just a few days ago, he reiterated the fact that one of the major reasons he chose to come to this club was because of the owners, and their desire for success. He is in it for the long haul, and far too intelligent to burn any bridges publicly. He will work hard with the squad that he has and will continue to try and work with the group to implement his style of play, we know this for certain. But with every goal that Andy Carroll scores for West Ham, and every goal that Clint Dempsey scores for Spurs, his sense of having been let down will get stronger. We can only hope that he finds another way to deliver the progress that he desperately wants to make, in spite of the actions of his bosses.
Find me on twitter @rossco1981