By Sam Jones
LIVERPOOL FOOTBALL CLUB is in the midst of a crisis. Not the crisis you think I mean, not the deadline day debacle that is consuming the energy of most. This is a different sort of crisis, an enduring, ongoing crisis. Deadline day is part of it, yes, but it’s just the latest instalment, dating back for quite some time.
I’m talking about a crisis of leadership. Ever since Christian Purslow was rightly shown the door there has been a distinct lack of clarity about who was in charge. The manager has been in a position to pick the team, sure, but issues off the pitch have been far more problematic than even the mixed results on it.
John Henry, and to a lesser extent, Tom Werner are the people considered to have the final say, but if that’s the case, where are they? Where is the leadership? And if they don’t have the final say, if in fact, that rests with the man on the ground then where is Ian Ayre?
He’s at the front for photos, that we know, whether that’s collecting trophies or demonstrating his impeccable sartorial credentials during the signing of Nuri Sahin, but when it all kicks off? Where is he then?
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
When it all goes wrong Ian Ayre is nowhere to be seen. Henry likewise. The controversy surrounding Luis Suarez last year wasn’t a football problem. The issue wasn’t hitting the post, or complaining at referees, it was an allegation of racism. It was a massive PR issue for one of the world’s most famous football clubs. It threatened the “brand”. Sponsors. Revenues. It was a business problem.
And where was Ian Ayre? Kenny Dalglish was there, trying to support his player and guide the club through it, but that didn’t seem to have a strategy. It was a series of dealings with the media that weren’t joined up. But that wasn’t his job, it was Ayre’s.
There should have been a plan. We shouldn’t have presented all and sundry with such an easy target, from the widespread but incorrect reporting of the word “Negrito”, to the t shirts, to the absence of an appeal, the whole thing was mishandled. Not by Dalglish. He did what he could, but someone, someone in charge, should have sat down at the start and dictated the plan.
Maybe they did, but if that was the plan it speaks volumes for Ayre’s competence as well as his leadership. His complete absence of visibility throughout the whole saga.
I may be doing Ayre a disservice. Maybe this isn’t his remit, maybe he isn’t allowed to control these issues, but if that’s the case, who is? Henry? Werner? From Boston?
And regardless of who is in charge, where is the strategy? Managerial appointments have been either thrust upon them, with Dalglish, or handled bafflingly, in Rodgers. Not the choice, which may well prove to be right, but the process.
The public courting of so many managers, the indecision on a Director of Football. No strategy, no plan. No clue, it would seem. And throughout their tenure, the transfer strategy has been a mess. Not Ayre’s fault? Not Henry’s? If not, who appointed Comolli? The man whose statistical approach gave us Charlie Adam, and thought 35 million was a fair price to pay for Andy Carroll. More than Atletico Madrid paid for Falcao.
When you look at the value we found in the market this year, Allen at 15 million for example, what could we have done with the 55 million we spent on Carroll and Downing? One’s on loan, the other not a guaranteed starter, what would our current squad look like bolstered by 55 million?
Football decisions, yes, but football decisions made by men appointed by people who weren’t qualified to make those appointments. Men who make these decisions from the other side of the Atlantic.
And so, to this summer. Andy Carroll gets to go on loan. Brendan Rodgers says he would be “crazy” to let him go with no replacement. And yet there is no replacement. Is Rodgers crazy then, or just the latest manager to be let down by the club’s leadership, allowing their manager to take a public position that doesn’t transpire. For Rodger’s missing striker see Dalglish’s apology, for things he said and did during the Suarez saga that should have been handled by someone else. The club’s absent leaders.
And if today’s rumours are true, that Rodgers didn’t know his budget until the last day of the window, then where is the communication? Where is the leadership?
This isn’t about money, balance sheets, any of those things. It’s about the quality of leadership. It’s the thing that puts Willie Walsh in front of the cameras when British Airways have a problem, it’s the late Steve Jobs taking his business to the top with a vision that his whole organisation could buy into.
Liverpool have no one who does any of those things, and it’s costing us dear. It’s costing us opportunities, and we’re no further forward than they day they took over.
Ultimately the person who fills that role needs to be at the club. Every day. The owners are just shareholders. They aren’t in a position, unless they relocate, to perform that role. So we need someone who can. That someone isn’t Ian Ayre.
If you’re in any doubt about the importance of that job ask yourself this: would a Manchester United fan swap FSG for the Glazers? I guarantee they would, in a heartbeat. But would they swap David Gill for Ian Ayre? I think you know the answer.