So apparently, Liverpool Football Club is about to be taken over by New England Sports Ventures, more famously known as the owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. To Red Sox fans the world over, John W Henry, the chief executive of NESV is credited as the man who brought the glory days back to Fenway Park, the mythical home of the Red Sox after several decades in the wilderness.
Back in the early days of baseball, the Boston Red Sox were one of the most successful teams, amassing five World Series’ quicker than any other team. In those early days their side was bolstered by perhaps the greatest player and certainly one of the most famous, Babe Ruth. In 1920, the Boston Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee traded Babe Ruth (the bambino) to their arch-rivals, the New York Yankees. That transfer of Ruth changed the history of baseball in a dramatic way as the Yankees went on to become the most successful side in the sport while the Red Sox struggled for decade after decade.
The struggles of the Red Sox since that day gave birth to a legend that soon became known as the “Curse of the Bambino”. Indeed, some of their defeats over the years would lend credence to a belief that there may have been outside influences at work. In 1949, the Red Sox needed just two more wins to gain entry to the World Series but lost both games to the Yankees. In 1978, the Sox held a massive 14 game lead over the Yankees but collapsed and the sides were tied by season’s end. In a one-off play-off game, the Yankees won, to banish Boston’s hopes for another year. In 1986, the Red Sox blew a massive lead in the World Series to the New York Mets, in the game that actually coined the phrase, “curse of the bambino.” Again, in 2003, with the Red Sox and the Yankees tied at three games apiece and Boston leading 5-2, they again blew it providing more evidence that Babe Ruth had cursed his former team.
In 2004, I spent some time in Boston as once again the Red Sox (now owned by NESV) spluttered their way to the championship finals. In the finals of the American League (A World Series semi-final in effect), the Red Sox came up against their age old rivals, The Yankees. A lot of the talk around Boston centred on the need to “Reverse the Curse”. In a first to four series, the Red Sox trailed by 3-0 and trailed in the fourth before a remarkable comeback was sparked by David Ortiz who saved the Red Sox. They went on to win the series 4-3 before beating the St Louis Cardinals to win the World Series for the first time since 1918.
As we all know, Liverpool have failed to win the league title since 1990 when Kenny Dalglish was in charge. Since then, like the Red Sox, we have had several near misses, finishing second on three occasions but suffering countless FA Cup and League Cup embarrassments at the hands of clubs from lower divisions. Bristol City, Northampton Town, Burnley, Reading and Grimsby Town are just some of the clubs that have put Liverpool to the sword in the cup competitions since our last league success in 1990. So what happened in 1990 that prevented Liverpool from continuing on as the greatest club in English and perhaps world football? Not many people will know this but in October 1990, Liverpool, while at the top of the English game, sold Northern Ireland international, Jim Magilton to Oxford United. Magilton went on to have a good career with clubs such as Southampton and Ipswich Town before going on to have an extended spell as manager at Ipswich while Liverpool stumbled from crisis to crisis.
So, for all those years of hurt, pain and near misses, we have the “Curse of Jim Magilton” to blame. John W Henry has already reversed one curse, so lets hope he can repeat history when he comes to Anfield.
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