PARRY was not dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
In fact, as the clock struck eleven and Christmas Day 2011 drew nearer, Liverpool FC’s chief executive felt alive. Never more so.
Nightcap in hand and on head, he thrilled at the smooth leather of his favourite easy chair as he reclined, feeling his eyelids begin to drop as the hour grew late.
But no, he must not sleep. For who knew what dreams may come? It was here, in the present, that Rick Parry could dictate his mind’s imaginings and reflect, truly reflect, on the past seven Christmases.
For seven Christmases it had been since the people’s chief executive had written his name in football history, elevated himself into the pantheon of great administrators alonside Jules Rimet and Stanley Rous.
The idea – no, brainwave – had come to him one night in the bath, like Archimedes. Not that Parry would compare himself to the great Greek mathematician, although he’d like to see him try and offload Stephen Wright for £3 million.
It was simple. Simple enough even for Rick’s brother Alan to understand, once he’d broken it down into short sentences and sent him a guide in the form of a pop-up book.
In one fell swoop he could revolutionise the English game with a simple solution to do away with scouting reports, protracted boardroom negotiations over players and the vagaries of managerial whims.
Stung by the disastrous 2002 summer recruitment campaign, Parry needed a big response to bring some life back to Anfield, and he’d found one before the water was even cold.
Let the fans decide.
At the press conference announcing both the big idea and the sacking of Gerard Houllier there were some stunned faces, but Parry was clear about his goals.
“It’s a known fact,” he told the gathered journalists, a mild erection not breaking his rhetorical stride, “that Liverpool has the most knowledgeable fans in the world. Until now we haven’t tapped in to that knowledge, preferring to let the manager make transfer decisions.
“In today’s 24/7 world that’s ridiculous. Surely millions of heads are better than one? We’re going to have full democracy, every decision taken by vote.”
It was bold. It was visionary. It was, at first, unworkable.
Initial plans to ballot only season ticket holders were dismissed as ‘a bit fiddly’, so another radical alternative was required.
Parry knew just the thing.
“We propose,” he told more journalists in a second Melwood press conference, “to open up the process to those who shout the loudest. Those with the most strident opinions are, it stands to reason, more likely to be right.
“We also want to hear from the massive network of people who know, for example, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s auntie or the man who put Thierry Henry’s new kitchen in.
“These invaluable contacts will keep us ahead of the curve in player recruitment, allowing us to bring only the best of the best to Anfield – subject to approval by our most stridently outspoken supporters.”
The first big decision for the newly appointed ‘million managers’, as they were dubbed, was to find a new man to coach the team and sit in the dugout each week on their behalf.
A mixed bag of responses saw some fans call for the return of Kenny Dalglish and others for the reinstatement of Houllier, while one or two pointed out Valencia’s Rafael Benitez had been making cryptic comments about lampshades and tables and might be up for a move.
The clear winner, though, was Martin O’Neill. Any idiot could see that what the Reds were lacking was a bit of passion and some directness. Lots of idiots saw exactly that, and the Northern Irishman was duly appointed.
Despite pleading for Chris Sutton and Steve Guppy, O’Neill was given Damien Duff, Lee Bowyer and long-term alleged LFC target Marek Mintal, while deadwood including an ageing Dietmar Hamann, Jamie Carragher and Djimi Traore were cleared out.
Amazingly, Traore would be picked up by Chelsea and go on to convert a Xabi Alonso cross for the famous ‘ghost goal’ which dumped out Juventus and set up the Blues’ triumph over AC Milan in Istanbul.
A season of transition saw Liverpool struggle to interpret O’Neill’s tactics and he was sacked in November after a phone vote on Radio Merseyside.
Six more managers would come and go that season before the last, John Aldridge, pulled off a run of two wins to end the season on a high and keep the club in the Premier League.
From then on it was never dull at Anfield. The manager’s job was effectively made redundant, with a guest fan taking on the job every week.
This new era’s Shankly was Tony from Rainhill, mastermind of a 5-0 thrashing of Aston Villa in 2007 (goals from Partridge, Baros and Riisex3).
Yet it was difficult to maintain consistency, especially after the crazy summer of 2008 when the fans bought ten strikers, selling Steven Gerrard to Chelsea to cover the cost.
Somehow always surviving in the Premier League, and recording a memorable Carling Cup win with a Mintal goal against Blackburn under the brief managerial reign of Tony Snell, Liverpool regularly topped the entertainment table, even if they never managed more than 42 points.
Meanwhile Manchester United, spearheaded by striking sensation Fernando Torres, battled it out with Benitez’s Chelsea for title after title. By now the masterplan was threatening to unravel, and the day Alan from Daventry sent out only eight players, none of them a goalkeeper, at Old Trafford was a new low.
Liverpool needed something new. Letting phone-in callers and forum posters buy and sell players was ludicrous. The administrative error that saw the Reds sign one-legged ex-Portsmouth man Dario Silva instead of David Silva threatened to be a tipping point.
And then along came social media, changing the game for ever.
From all corners of the globe there came tipoffs, conjecture, wild speculation. Messi likes a pint of Cains. Robben’s got a house in Allerton. Ronaldinho spotted in the Buffet Star on Hanover Street (this one was true).
And so came Parry’s second masterstroke. After a series of meetings with new office assistant Chris Purslow he realised the system wasn’t broken but had simply gone too far, unchecked by managerial influence.
What you needed was someone to process the information. A thinker, fond of the odd difficult novel. A traveller who could weigh up the likelihood of a Scandinavian starlet actually having dreamed of playing alongside Neil Mellor in a loose 6-2-2 formation.
A man whose 36 years of experience, for those who cared to study it, would speak for itself, but who could also move with the times, own all of Simply Red’s back catalogue and get in to all this computer stuff.
Parry was shaken with a start from his reverie by the sound of a new text message. “Another transfer bombshell?” he asked no-one in particular.
Indeed it was, and this time it sounded like a winner. Parry read it aloud, excitedly: “Lovely lady on Facebook by the name of Cawol. Tells me her son’s a bit special. £15m?”
The final piece in the title jigsaw sealed. Parry smiled to himself as he made his way upstairs. This time, he thought, this Christmas, we’ve cracked it.