AT times being a Liverpool fan can be painful. In recent years we’ve all been affected by the horror show that became Hicks & Gillett. The season 09/10 was heart breaking for all to watch, Rafa seemingly burned out, frustrated on and off the pitch, fighting battles inside Melwood on a daily basis, the club free falling from 2nd in the League the previous season to 7th.
Not to mention a poor run of results in all cup competitions, and the team no doubt affected by two major stars in Xabi Alonso & Sammi Hyypia leaving at the end in 08/09.
When FSG bought the club, ousted Roy Hodgson and brought the King back there was a sense amongst the fans that these owners understood the Liverpool way. Unfortunately, what was to follow can be described in two ways depending on your views: 1) a complete farce 2) a necessary painful operation and a period of difficult healing and recuperation.
The new owners have found owning a football team difficult. This should be no surprise; they have no experience in the business. They initially tried to buy Champions League football, unfortunately sanctioning singings which have proved to be somewhat farcical. Seeing this hasn’t worked, they’ve now moved to the moneyball/soccernomic approach. Austerity, value buys, longevity and sustainability are the new buzzwords in the corridors of Melwood.
Yet the lack of presence from FSG in Liverpool or indeed even the UK is a worrying fact; the owners viewing results from afar, leaving the running of the club to Ian Ayre. He said recently, ‘they set the budget, I run the club’.
So the question is can we trust FSG or indeed Ian Ayre to run Liverpool as a football club? They do have their credentials in business of which there can be no denying. Yet the feeling the club is being run like a hedge funded operation, rather than a football business is very worrying.
To analyse them further, we should look at what FSG and Liverpool say regarding transfers.
Back in November, the Chairman of Liverpool, Tom Werner, said: “Our intention is to strengthen but actions will speak louder than words”.
He went on to say: “We’re playing better each week. Obviously we have made some mistakes in the past but our intention is to deliver, strengthen the squad and move forward”.
At the time, most of us reading the statement felt relieved that we’d put the disaster of the summer transfer window behind us. FSG, without saying it, directly held up their hands and were crying ‘mea culpa’.
Daniel Sturridge’s arrival has massively lifted the squad and the fans. With Fabio Borini coming back to training next week, it’s hoped that within a few weeks Liverpool will have three recognised senior strikers. Borini has a record as a 1-in-3, similar to Sturridge, with Luis Suarez in the form of his life. Things are definitely looking up for the club and the fans. Goals should hopefully no longer prove to be too much of an issue. Andy Carroll is for many now a distant memory.
Yet at the pre Mansfield press conference Rodgers said: “We’re not going to have a lot of money to do anything else in the window…we won’t have that in January. There might be another but there is not much more business to be done”.
So it seems then consistency from the club then still far from sight; the chairman saying one thing, the manager another. As much as I have faith in the business model, I feel there’s a worrying breakdown in communications from board to the boot-room; something that is a serious issue for the club.
The owners need to realise quality in football is rarely cheap; the longer the delay in the investment, the harder player retention and acquisition become. The global brand of Liverpool also suffers; you run the risk of becoming a mid-table side that was once a great club. Liverpool have been here before in the pre-Houllier years and it feels like we’re here again. This is an urgent problem for FSG. Without success domestically in the league and qualification in Europe, the business model does not make sense.
As for me, I’m a believer in the ‘model’. I think we’re in a position of healing both on and off the pitch. Time will tell whether the skill of the surgeon both in the management at board level and on the pitch will be good enough to reverse the decline.
However without getting the basics of communication right and having almost no presence in the UK, the fan-base will start to feel like the old days all over again and that leaves the board walking on a tight rope. Win and we’ll all be happy, fail and we’ll ask them to go.
Follow me on twitter @JohnRitchie84
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