OCTOBER 17, 2010. What a time to be alive.
Mediocre Liverpool managed by a mediocre manager resided in the relegation zone — floundering in an unthinkable 19th place in the Premier League with just six points won from eight games played.
A depressing figure of four was already in the league table’s lost column in the row reserved for the Reds. And all this before the clocks had turned back to Greenwich Mean Time.
The country was yet to experience Halloween but Liverpool was already stuck in a nightmare.
Losing to Blackpool at Anfield was bad enough, a dark day of a dark time when a bleak manager spoke of a bleak outlook. “There are 31 games left but when you are in the relegation zone you are in a relegation battle,” Roy Hodgson said.
Hardly the rallying cry you would expect before Liverpool crossed the park but The Reds should never need raising to do battle with The Blues.
And that’s what made it worse. The meek surrender from too many on enemy turf that day. Derby victories should never ever come easy, yet the 2-0 win for Everton at Goodison Park was exactly that.
The ever-dour David Moyes had a spring in his step and a smile on his face post-match. Hodgson, meanwhile, when he wasn’t doing battle with Scandinavian journalists, was spitting out superlatives that only the swivel-eyed could stomach.
“I refuse to sit here and accept that we were outplayed or in any way inferior,” Hodgson told an assembled media throng that could barely contain its amazement at the personal propaganda campaign playing out before them.
“That is as good as I have seen a Liverpool team play under my management.”
Inside Goodison, writers were chuckling into their hands. Outside, fans were seething and shaking fists.
The imposter’s words fooled nobody. Yet it was an all too familiar feeling. What had happened to our club? Liverpool were desperate and dysfunctional – it was the worst start to a season in more than 50 years and people were explaining it away.
There was no fun to be had from going the games then. It was dark and depressing. While once we talked only of goals, glory and trips abroad, then it was dodgy deals, debt, leveraged buy-outs and the brink of bankruptcy.
Gallows humour ruled and in-match arguments between fans were common.
Liverpool had been floundering for some time — the wrong people holding power; individuals who cared little for the club making key decisions.
That desperate Derby day was the first time John W. Henry watched Liverpool in the flesh; the club’s first competitive match under the ownership of New England Sports Ventures.
Liverpool as he found it was a club without a trophy for four years. A club torn apart by lies and broken promises under Tom Hicks and George Gillett. And a club in need of major surgery — on the pitch and off it.
Just 48 hours or so before defeat at Goodison Park, NESV’s £300million takeover had been confirmed, Hicks and Gillett’s torturous grip finally loosened, finger by finger, despite continued legal threats.
A jubilant but shy-looking Henry was snapped emerging from a London lawyers clenching a fist and quoted as saying: “It’s too early to say what we’re going to do, but obviously we’re here to win and we’ll do whatever is necessary.”
Into the seventh year of ownership by what is now known as Fenway Sports Group, the Holy Grail — the league title — is still only a dream. Liverpool are 70-1 to win the Premier League in 2016-17 following a dismal downturn in form. A 27-year wait for number 19 makes everything hurt more. It’s become an obsession.
As I wrote here, many supporters see that as the one and only benchmark. Everything else is noise. Old mantras are applied to modern football regardless of circumstance. “Liverpool Football Club exists to win trophies.”
- In the Premier League, Liverpool have finished 6th, 8th, 7th, 2nd, 6th and 8th since Henry spoke of “returning the club to greatness on and off the field for the long-term” in October 2010.
- After a promising start, another season of disappointment beckons. The Reds are currently fifth in the Premier League, 13 points behind leaders Chelsea.
- Away from what was once regarded as “the bread and butter”, Liverpool have won just one trophy under FSG — The League Cup in 2012.
- Four different managers — Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish, Brendan Rodgers and Jürgen Klopp — have sat in the gaffer’s seat during their time as owners.
- Liverpool have also lost three finals: FA Cup 2012, League Cup 2016 and the Europa League 2016.
We never talk about FSG: Part One #TAWPlayer #LFC pic.twitter.com/z5Pi95lb9D
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) February 7, 2017
They are the facts. It’s the opinions that are raging right now.
Some can be considered reactionary — there was certainly much less talk of FSG’s suitability and ambition as owners when Liverpool were flying high in the Premier League in November.
But there is also concern, and that has been there throughout. Not all of it is born of recent frustrations.
It’s difficult to analyse and discuss in many ways. Read around, on social media, in forums, and you’ll see very distinct camps when it comes to opinions on FSG.
The extremes range from fans making one-man protests outside the training ground and producing ‘FSG Out’ merchandise, to those that steadfastly believe John W Henry, Tom Werner and Mike Gordon have got absolutely nothing wrong and can take Liverpool back to the very top.
Both have flaws for my money and perhaps the truth lies somewhere in-between.
Among the extreme anti-FSG camp, language like “parasites” and “vultures” doesn’t really wash given what has come before at Liverpool FC.
A year ago this week, in the aftermath of a 77th-minute walk-out by thousands of fans at the Liverpool v Sunderland game, Henry, Chairman Tom Werner and President Mike Gordon issued a statement to Liverpool supporters.
First apologising for the 2016-17 ticket pricing plan which prompted the protest, it went on: “The three of us have been particularly troubled by the perception that we don’t care about our supporters, that we are greedy, and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club’s expense.
“Quite the opposite is true. From our first days as owners we have understood that serving as custodians of this incredible institution is a distinct privilege and as such, we have been driven solely by the desire to return LFC to the pinnacle of football. In the world of modern football, growing the club in a sustainable way is essential to realising this objective.
“To that end, we have never taken a single penny out of the football club. Instead we have injected vast sums of our own money to improve the playing squad and modernise LFC’s infrastructure — exemplified by the £120million advance from FSG to build the new Main Stand.”
The statement is of course grandiose and framed for effect but the facts within are hard to ignore. If they’re falsehoods they will forever be held against them. Not just in football, but in business too. FSG may be a lot of things but compared to Hicks and Gillett, or to the Glazers down the road, these are owners that could most definitely be worse. They also undoubtedly could be better. But what is the ideal? For those advocating they are ousted (without any credible suggestions of how to do so) who are the owners they want in their place?
When Liverpool was up for grabs and on the market, it was moneyed foreign businessmen that came knocking to buy. There wasn’t a dyed-in-the-wool Scouser who loves the Reds sitting on a fortune ready to bankroll the club. There isn’t now either. Any new owner will likely seek bigger and better commercial deals, talk money language, reference ‘brands’ and ‘projects’ and everything else that rankles the traditionalists. It’s not something I enjoy. It’s also not something I can do anything about. It is what it is.
Liverpool’s previous owners loaded debt onto the club to the point where interest payments reached £110,000 a day. The worst manager in the history of the club was appointed at the expense of a European Cup-winning one. Hicks and Gillett publicly fell out with other. People in suits wandered around the club sucking the life out of it. Millions of pounds of the club’s money were wasted on stadium designs that never made it past a drawing board. And that’s only the half of it.
When all that was happening a tiny minority of Liverpool’s worldwide support mobilised to try to force change and highlight the damage being done. The majority of fans turned the other way and wondered what all the fuss was about.
One result of those times though was that supporters have remained both vigilant and suspicious of the current owners. Everything is assessed; everything considered. Everything watched and everything read. There’s a feeling FSG can do more — that they don’t have the burning ambition for the club that fans do; that they are looking for a shortcut that doesn’t exist. But there isn’t a popular uprising to remove them from power. There isn’t a perceived danger. The club’s very future isn’t in jeopardy. Liverpool can be better under this regime. And, perhaps crucially, there isn’t an alternative waiting in the wings.
Henry’s emails from 2010 — in the public domain via US court records — when he describes acquiring Liverpool FC for the debt as “stealing this franchise” will always jolt to fans. It’s business language, money talk — it’s not how a fan would describe a club they love.
But it’s also reality. These are the type of people that run clubs in the Premier League. Henry was having a conversation with fellow members of an investment company. He was hardly going to discuss Hodgson’s prehistoric tactics, was he?
To those hash-tagging the life out of #FSGOut right now, genuine question: What do you want ‘in’? If Liverpool was officially put up for the sale tomorrow, who is buying it? Another investment group? Another businessman from far afield? China?
It won’t be the fans that’s for sure. Whoever came in would face many of the same challenges as FSG do:
• The Financial Fair Play rules (and no, they’re not being ignored by Chelsea and Manchester City)
• The fact that Liverpool are fifth in England in terms of money (and ninth in the world).
• The fact that hands are tied in many aspects of bringing money in – ticket prices can’t be raised, sponsors aren’t queuing up to name stands, the corporate offer – and demand – isn’t the same as London (have you seen the Emirates?)
It’s easy to scoff at the above, write it off as an excuse, to call people ‘FSG apologists’ and jump back on Twitter’s carousel of crap. If I’m an ‘apologist’ for writing this, sound — I’m just a match-going supporter of 27 years that wants Liverpool to win every football match they play in. If there’s a way to help to make that happen sometime soon, let me know. I’m all ears.
That aside, the above points clearly matter. It won’t be easy for Liverpool to win the league under any owner. That doesn’t mean give up. That doesn’t mean accept your lot. But there is a place for context and realism. Liverpool can’t afford Paul Pogba. Whoever the owner is. Manchester United can.
Ultimately, when FSG do sell up — and at some point they will — the likelihood is they will make a significant return on their investment. The club will be worth more money than when they bought it. It will have a bigger ground, a better manager and the books will be in a much healthier state.
Is that enough? For us supporters, no. Of course not. We want Liverpool competing at the very top of the game. Challenging for titles. Competing in the Champions League. And those are the standards we should demand.
Liverpool have qualified for the Champions League just once under FSG’s reign after finishing second in 2013-4. In the six seasons that preceded their takeover Liverpool qualified for it four times.
So is it that simple? That black and white? Good then, bad now? That measurable in football terms?
Because take the 2008-9 season as an example. Liverpool was owned by Hicks and Gillett. The manager was Rafa Benitez. The owners had already revealed their hand in regards of hating each other, debts were mounting and the chief executive, Rick Parry, left his job in the February of that season.
Yet Liverpool were brilliant regardless. Battering the Mancs, mauling Madrid. Loads of goals scored. Very few conceded. An amazing side with an amazing spine that lost only two games all season in the league, clocked up 86 points, and still didn’t win the bloody thing. Imagine they had. Imagine ousting owners that had overseen Liverpool finally winning the league again…
Brendan Rodgers nearly did it, too. With FSG in the boardroom. Dress it how you like, but like 2008-09, that side played some of the best football we’ve watched in recent history. It was balls out by the manager. It was almost perfect by the players. Earlier this season, we were saying the same about Klopp’s team.
It can’t be ignored that from February 2007 to October 2010, the club was being torched from within. The pieces needed to be picked up and put back together and those tasked with doing it — Henry, Werner, Gordon and the likes — knew nothing of the charred shell they inherited. They had to learn and admitted as much.
Have they got things wrong? Should they have done things differently? It’s easy to say yes on both counts. But is it uniform incompetence? Does everything they touch turn to shit? Or is it just frustration that Liverpool haven’t achieved more?
Would the same arguments be arriving from the same people if we had won a penalty shoot out against Manchester City in the League Cup final a year ago? Or if we’d triumphed in Basel in May? Neither is beyond the realms of reality.
That there isn’t a universal view out there about FSG from Liverpool fans suggests it’s the nearly-but-not-quite that causes so much of the problem. That you can see how just a little bit more here and there could make such a difference is the frustration. Almost every aspect of their reign has a ‘this’ and a ‘yeah, but what about this?’ about it.
Take the Main Stand. To my mind, as someone who has previously sat for a number of seasons in both the Main Stand and The Paddock, it’s a huge improvement. The facilities, the accessibility, the actual number of seats obviously, the way it looks — all of it’s an upgrade. Anfield is bigger and better than the ageing stadium that welcomed us not long ago. But is it enough? Shouldn’t Liverpool FC — 18 League Championships and five European Cups Liverpool FC — be aiming higher and pushing for more?
Anfield – with a capacity of 54,074 – currently ranks fifth among English club grounds size-wise, lagging behind Manchester United, Arsenal, West Ham and Manchester City.
From 2018, Spurs will have a 61,000-seater ground, by 2021 Chelsea aim to have a 60,000-seater stadium and there are murmurs Manchester United have investigated extending Old Trafford further, too.
Clubs up and down the country have known for years that they have outgrown their homes. And Liverpool were no different.
On October 7, 2010 then Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton confirmed in The Liverpool Echo that the New England Sports Venture (NESV) company had pledged to build a 60,000-plus stadium for Liverpool.
Broughton said: “There’s definitely a commitment to invest in a stadium and we will finish up with a 60,000-plus seater stadium. Where they haven’t finalised their view is whether that should be the new stadium or whether there are still opportunities to build at Anfield itself.”
So far, still short. Significantly so. Outline planning permission for phase two of Anfield development, the Anfield Road stand, remains in place. Unlike the Main Stand with its huge corporate offer, this was said to be for predominantly general admission tickets.
The expiration date of the outline planning permission is September 2017. The club must submit further details by then to trigger a window until 2019 to actually carry out the work. So far, so silent.
From the very start there was no real commitment to this stage of potential development. And now it appears increasingly unlikely to happen. In September, Henry said: “I don’t know if there is a next step because ticket prices are an issue in England. That may foreclose further expansion. We’ll have to see.”
Quite what the ‘seeing’ involves isn’t clear. Soon to be departing CEO Ian Ayre was equally non-committal in an interview with FC Business Magazine, stating: “The way we managed the Main Stand expansion was great and we will continue in a similar vein to be cautious and not promise anything until we are ready to deliver.
“We will come along with planning if and when we have the right design and economic model. Once we have these parts in place, we will let people know.”
Letting people know is another of FSG’s problems. After initial positive signs of genuine engagement with supporters, and promises to “do a lot of listening”, the shutters appear to be well and truly up right now.
Appearances from Liverpool FC’s Principal Owner, Chairman Tom Werner or FSG President Mike Gordon at Anfield are rare. Interviews are even rarer. Communication is minimal. It might be their way. It might be their personalities. But this is something fans are immersed in. And silence breed the madness.
Ironically, it was the stadium issue that led Liverpool to seek new owners in the first place back in the days of David Moores.
Former Liverpool chairman Moores and the then chief executive Parry had concluded that Anfield could not be expanded beyond 55,000. And in 2002 they instead sought planning permission for a new stadium in Stanley Park.
A new owner was sought to help fund the construction. And so ownership passed to Hicks and Gillett and later to Henry and Werner.
Recognising the importance of the stadium issue back in 2010, Henry said: “We have to listen, learn, talk to the community, talk to the council, talk with the supporters. But the biggest issue of all is really what makes the most sense for Liverpool, long term.”
Six-and-a-half years on, does it make sense for Liverpool long term to potentially only have the seventh biggest club stadium in the country? A great demand for tickets remains. Accessibility at Anfield, particularly for younger fans without the requisite income for full-price tickets, is still an issue.
A circular debate spins and spins on local supporters versus the out-of-towners; on the regular match-goer versus the experience-hunting ‘Premier League’ fan. Why not cater from them all as far as is possible?
And yet the “solution” so far is one Liverpool could have built in the 1990s minus the lost millions, the drama and the upheaval. Anfield is better than it was. It’s heralded as a sign of progress. But if some fans now ask if FSG could have been more ambitious is that unfair? Particularly when the owners are keeping schtum on the Anfield Road stand plans.
The same applies with transfers, wages and every aspect of FSG’s running of Liverpool FC. The evidence of their work is obvious. But could it be better? Here though, it is less definitive. The wider world can never truly know how hard Liverpool try to bring in more players in any given window. Are links genuine? Is the club terrible at negotiating? Was it just paper talk?
If the manager says they tried but failed to lure new players — and in the case of the most recent window he did — then you can choose to believe him, or choose to speculate; with theories including lowballing, Michael Edwards’ competence as a sporting director (another who never does interviews) or just no real desire to do business. It’s area of grey, yet so many analyse it with such certainty.
What we do know is who Liverpool have actually bought and sold. Again, if we wind back to the very start of their reign, Henry was up front about the plans. “I don’t have ‘Sheikh’ in front of my name,” he said in October 2010. “When we spend a dollar, it has to be wisely. We can’t afford contracts that do not make long-term sense. We have to be smart, bold, aggressive.”
Where Henry thought there was a gap to exploit was Financial Fair Play. He thought Liverpool was undercooked in terms of incoming revenue and that with the right expertise they could increase that. That has happened. Liverpool’s revenues have increased. But so have those of the other clubs that perennially compete for the major honours. FFP hasn’t been the game-changer Henry predicted.
He also said: “We know there is a very powerful fan base for Liverpool in Asia. We are not embarrassed to say we want to exploit that.”
Again, Liverpool have tried their best — pre-season tours, tailored websites, social media and content, the international academy… But every other ‘big club’ is doing it, too. And they’re still spending. Still winning. Still competing. And still making life difficult for Liverpool to muscle in for the big prizes.
By all reliable accounts, Liverpool has the fifth highest turnover in the league, the fifth highest wage bill. And in the league Liverpool are currently… Yep.
Which brings us to the never-ending net spend debate. It was one The Observer joined at the end of January (pre-deadline day), the Sunday newspaper featuring an article about the net spend (the figure you get when comparing transfer ins v transfer outs) of the current Premier League sides in the last five seasons.
The research detailed figures as follows:
Manchester City: –£426.5m
Manchester United: –£397.6m
West Ham: –£138.6m
Stoke City: –£79.2m
Spurs were way down The Observer’s list, showing a negative net spend of only –£7.1m.
That Liverpool made a profit in the summer transfer window (+£3.14m according to The Observer’s figures) has been much quoted in recent times. The four seasons before (15/16: -£30.64m, 14/15: –£44.34m, 13/14: -£21.68m, 12/13: £51.13m) less so.
Since Klopp arrived at Liverpool in October 15, around £67m has been spent on players with around £85m recouped (figures from LFCHistory.net for that one).
By Klopp’s own admission the squad is too thin right now, as recent results have proved. “We need players, our players plus a few new faces,” he said. But Klopp also told of the aforementioned problems recruiting in the January window.
“It is not that we don’t want to bring players in,” he explained. “We do. But the thing is, the players we want because we think they help us, the clubs don’t sell.
“It is not about money in this situation, it is the winter transfer window. Clubs are saying ‘No, we have half a year to go, we cannot find another player like this, we prefer to take money in the summer than a few pounds more in the winter than whatever’.
“So it is pretty easy. You see the situation. It’s tight, it’s close, we know that. But if the right decision is not possible in signing the right player then you cannot make the wrong transfer.”
It’s clear Liverpool have ended up short on quality numbers at a crucial point in the season but was the club wrong to accept good money for Christian Benteke (£32m), Jordon Ibe (£15m) or Joe Allen (£13m)?
If any of those players had stayed the ‘making a profit in the transfer window’ point would be redundant. Yet would Liverpool be 100 per cent better off with unsuitable, unwanted or demotivated players?
The Reds need to recruit, recruit well and recruit in numbers, this summer. Will they? Right now nobody knows. But they have before under FSG. And last summer’s sales will help.
Dalglish was at the helm in his second spell as manager for 16 months. In that time Liverpool signed 11 players for the first-team squad, including Luis Suarez (£22.8m), Andy Carroll (a club record £35m), Stewart Downing (£18.5m) and Jordan Henderson £16m.
Major outs included Fernando Torres (£50m), Raul Meireles (£12m) and Ryan Babel (£5.8m).
Brendan Rodgers, FSG’s great hope, got three years and took Liverpool within a whisker of the title with the Reds producing some fantastic football to watch during that 2013-14 title challenge.
He welcomed 33 new players to Liverpool (two on loan, three free transfers) with the major buys including Christian Benteke (£32.5m), Roberto Firmino (£29m), Adam Lallana (£25m), Dejan Lovren (£20m), Lazar Markovic (£19.8m), Mario Balotelli (£16m), Mamadou Sakho (£15m), Joe Allen (£15m), Daniel Sturridge (£12m), Nathaniel Clyne (£12.5m), Alberto Moreno (£12m), Fabio Borini (£10.5m) and Divock Origi (£10m). (The full list is here).
The major departures included Suarez (£65m), Raheem Sterling (£49m), Carroll (£15m), Borini (£10m), Alberto Aquilani (£7m), Jonjo Shelvey (£6m) and Downing (£6m). Full list here.
Suarez and Sterling — who both unequivocally wanted to leave the club — are still held up by many as being examples of profiteering, or being a ‘selling club’ (or both) yet it’s hard to see what the club could have done differently in either situation outside of the obvious “replace them better than we did” answer.
Klopp, in 16 months as Liverpool manager, has been conservative with the chequebook so far and it is perhaps that fact as much as anything that has sparked the latest wave of fury bound for Boston. The dream under Hicks and Gillett at one stage was a club simply standing on its own feet — spending the money it had earned. When that doesn’t happen, ambition questions are asked.
Only Sadio Mane (£30m) and Georginio Wijnaldum (£23m) can be classed as ‘big’ buys among the six (no one is counting Caulker or Manninger) arrivals during his time.
Joel Matip was captured on a free, Loris Karius (£4.7m) and Ragnar Klavan (£4.2m) are cheap Bundesliga buys and Marko Grujic (£5.1m) was always a purchase for the future.
So what about the here and now, right?
Whether it was Klopp, his coaches, Edwards, FSG or everyone all together, there has been an overestimation of the ability of the current squad and underestimation of the rigours of the season. With hindsight, we know that now. But hindsight gives everyone 20-20 vision.
The recent run has dragged everyone down — one win in 10 has even the most positive fans reaching for the Domestos.
Now Liverpool must again pick up the pieces and salvage a season that still could and should top five out of the six league finishes under this ownership. In the context of the season, it will considered a failure when the title seemed to be in reach. In context of recent seasons? It could at least rank above average.
In spectacular Groundhog Day fashion, reports have also suggested this week that Klopp will be “backed” in the summer. That of course has the world-weary cynics moaning and groaning.
That wasn’t from John W. Henry of course. He’s told us many times that he prefers to deliver rather than promise. Perhaps now is the time to do both. Promise to deliver. It would be lovely to hear what the plan is.
“It’s about competing at the highest level in the world’s largest sport for us, that’s why we are here,” said Henry in 2010. Two years on, Tom Werner, talking after the sacking of Damien Comolli, said: “We feel we are a club that needs to be perceived as the strongest club in football and we want to get there.
“I would say we certainly have the resources to compete with anybody in football.”
For men so sold on facts and figures, statistics and evidence, they surely both know that so far, bar the outlier of a season, that simply hasn’t been the case.
Luring Klopp to Liverpool made a statement. It said we mean business. It united a fractious support. But it’s still a fanbase scarred. It’s still wary. It still doubts. These aren’t the dark days of 2010. Nowhere near, nothing like. Far from. We’re at the right end of the table with a world-class manager in place for starters.
But the recent run has been hard to take. We’ve been nearly but not quite, again, and context and calmness is required from all parties. It’s often easier said than done. It means a lot all this.
But, regardless, a big summer surely beckons for FSG now. Smart, bold, aggressive. Do whatever is necessary.
They were Henry’s own words. Now to deliver.
@TheAnfieldWrap they’ve delivered a top class manager & stadium, it takes time to build a top class team – stay patient & believe.
— Roger Curlett (@r0gthed0dge) 7 February 2017
@TheAnfieldWrap v. similar to their stewardship of the Red Sox. Titles will come. (And they will spend this summer, guaranteed.)
— Mike Anton (@mdotanton) 7 February 2017
@TheAnfieldWrap Only one league cup and one top 4 finish. These are the things that really matter and they have fallen way short
— John Gibbons (@johngibbonsblog) February 7, 2017
@TheAnfieldWrap FSG still think they can win ‘smart’, constantly looking for an edge that doesn’t exist, they talk big but lack conviction.
— Andy Heaton (@Andrew_Heaton) 7 February 2017
able to compete with other clubs.
— Martin Turner (@Turner_LFC) 7 February 2017
@TheAnfieldWrap (2/2) – Strategically conservative, decreasing dialogue with supporters and lack of transparency.
— David Webber (@DrDaveWebber) 7 February 2017
@TheAnfieldWrap Sensible owners who’ve stabilised the club. It feels like they are priming us for acquisition, not for a title charge #LFC
— Jamie Holme (@JamieHolme) 7 February 2017
And The Ugly
@TheAnfieldWrap dreadful. Employing a model that can’t work. Sell to buy, value obsessed, unwilling/unable to compete💷. Interested in 💷not🏆
— James Cutler (@cutz10) 7 February 2017
@TheAnfieldWrap FSG sell the atmosphere around the globe while systematically destroying what made it special simultaneously.
— Chris Carrington (@Carrot1983) 7 February 2017
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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We have an elite bracket manager, easily top 5 in the world. If we can’t (and he doesn’t want to) buy the ready made world class article, it is the responsibility of Hunter, Fallows and Edwards to secure the services of emerging elite level players that fit into the Klopp development bracket. Players such as Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, Marlos Moreno, Ousmane Dembele, Gigio Donarumma, Jonathan Tah. If Klopp is averse to bringing in stop-gaps of the same or similar quality to what we already have and we cannot buy the current best, it simply has to be the emerging best in the World, as opposed to our current love, the English Championship, where it seems every promising player we buy for the future falls off a cliff at some point.
Excellent article John.
Well researched, reasoned and balanced. And bloody honest too. Maybe it’s because we tend to admire articles more that resonate with our own views but I must say this is one of the more salient pieces ye’ve given us in a long time. It takes guts to take on this topic and have the figures, politics, debates and emotions recognised on both sides.
Personally, I agree with all you’ve said (a 1st for me on general TAW features) and your ending piece is worth republishing:
“Luring Klopp to Liverpool made a statement. It said we mean business. It united a fractious support. But it’s still a fanbase scarred. It’s still wary. It still doubts. These aren’t the dark days of 2010. Nowhere near, nothing like. Far from. We’re at the right end of the table with a world-class manager in place for starters.
But the recent run has been hard to take. We’ve been nearly but not quite, again, and context and calmness is required from all parties. It’s often easier said than done. It means a lot all this.
But, regardless, a big summer surely beckons for FSG now. Smart, bold, aggressive. Do whatever is necessary.”
Thanks for taking the time to write this and the balls to eye the elephant in the room face-on, without blinking,
*Gareth, not John- sorry, John’s Twitter above must have been in my mind. Soz.
The only thing I’d say is coming out to placate fans with promises of 150m quid to spend makes every target 30% more expensive. I know we want to be reassured but sometimes it’s not the right thing.
Great article Gareth.
Simply spot on. We watch and wait. The players know what they have to do. Klopp knows too
The players aren’t good enough to do what’s needed to do pal!
FSG killed two birds with one stone when they got Klopp, top manager, with an aversion to spending money to build a team sorry but this is a perfect manager for FSG and hopefully Liverpool. Klopps philosophy ties in perfectly with FSG’S so they are winning the football side in addition to the financial side we fans must just hope and pray that Klopp can deliver the title. The names being bandied about for the summer are the same buy to improve with a great sell on fee now that Cou is on a shiny new contract with no release clause the sky will be the limit when anybody dares show up to buy him once again a good move to make money not necessarily win stuff since it became clear FFP is circumventable the handicap that FSG thought will level the playing field is gone and presently there are no sign of them changing tact like it or not FSG are all about developing the brand and that doesn’t include winning trophies good day folks.
I’ve been highly critical of fsg (even writing on TAW previously about them) but I’ve never called for #fsgout cos I think they are very close to being great owners and instead I’m just largely frustrated with them. They’re like a lazy kid who just won’t make the most of his potential.
I don’t want us to do what Man Utd are currently doing and simply try to buy the title. But there is a massive middle ground between what Utd are trying to do and what we’re trying to do.
We can still buy sensibly and look for bargains like Matip, but occasionally, when we clearly need the finished article in a key position, we should be going toe-to-toe with Utd/Chelsea/Real/City, whoever and breaking the bank (eg, getting a world class keeper in last summer)
I don’t understand why the owners refuse to adapt their transfer/wages policy (and it predates Klopp!) and augment the ‘young with potential’ signings with a few world class ones.
So, do I want fsg out? No. I just wish they’d make that final step to at least give us a realistic chance of competing for the title
Ps What’s wrong with disrupting the wage structure? Are they trying to say that if we sign Griezmann on 250k/week, Moreno’s going to be knocking on their door asking for the same? !
Regarding the “one trophy in six years!” thing, it’s worth pointing out that the club have also reached but lost three other finals in that time (2012 FA Cup, 2016 Europa League, 2016 League Cup). I assume that winning at least one of those other finals would’ve changed some of the tone around the club. Can failures in single match finals really be blamed on owners or transfer policy? Please.
The league performance is worth criticism, I think. But this point from the #FSGOut crowd is patently silly.
That was pointed out in the article…
Fans need to realise that there won’t be any cash-splashing billionaire to be had anymore. Given the political and economic climate, no one will buy a club for fun or pride. Middle-east oil magnates? Not with the current price of oil. Chinese tycoons? They have a political agenda to make their own league better by buying players instead. Fans need to understand that owning a club is now a business, not a plaything. Unless fans can buy the club and run it themselves, all we can do is shut up and support, or not.
I tend to trust Klopp and believe him when he says that he can’t do anything about the decades preceding him, he can only focus on the future. Whether it was selling players, just missing in 13/14 or any other event you can choose to look to before October 2015, it’s not Klopp’s problem, fault or benefit.
This was always a building project that might take 3 years to get right. The start of this season was a sign of what can be but the title fever that every fan is a run of good results away from falling prey to, happened. The news media with their using the here and now to stir up clicks and eyeballs has contributed to the fever. I’m enjoying the ride as a long term look although I had to turn off the tv last weekend at halftime in agony at the thought of a loss at Hull.
Have faith, look ahead and enjoy the team. Also, consider prayer. Hasn’t worked up to now but I’m getting desperate.
were getting ready to be sold, because sooner or later,there plan will back fire.they will then asset strip the club.david moors was to blame,get rid of lfc at any cost.just look ,never done no back ground checks on two cowboys,bad bussiness manager.rick parry walked away with 4 million,moors 80 million.sad state of affairs,pity the fans can not buy the club,that were all love.
Moores walked away with 80m? So what? That’s what happens when you sell something you own. What did you expect to happen?
Great piece, the bad run of games has everyone looking for a scape goat. Patience and belief required. YNWA
What happens if Klopp flops? Say for arguments sake we finish 6th this season, next season we don’t win anything and finish sixth again and Klopp is either shown the door or leaves of his own account. What then? When Klopp got the job the Liverpool Echo said that this is FSG’s last throw of the dice…
I groaned when I saw another TAW article on FSG on the back of this run of poor results, but this is a great balanced, comprehensive summary of where we are and how we got here. Thanks.
There are too many people already carrying out a post mortem on this season, when it is not dead yet. Chelsea will win the league, but that was on the cards even before our form fell off a cliff. All the other places are up for grabs.
Our recent form is a huge concern, but ManU, City and Arsenal have all put in some dreadful performances this season and are capable of doing so again. If our form recovers quickly and we keep two of our wealthier rivals out of the top 4 things will look very different.
very well constructed this and obviously a lot of time has gone in to it…Liverpool rely on selling merchandise to its world wide fan base but that fan base will be depleted the more the dtought continues. KIds only want to wear the shirts of winners-yes even Leicester City’s
The article is a brilliant balanced piece but these things still bother me.
Winning in the commercial arena comes from winning on the field. If the team is challenging for all the honours available to them and winning some of them, then getting sponsors on board will be made a whole lot easier. The formula being that : Winning trophies equals more prize money, more exposure, more sponsors and bigger commercial agreements.
You could say that it is hardly surprising that it has taken the club as long as it has to recover from almost going into administration under the former cowboys. But to change our situation as fifth in the financial league, surely we need an injection of money otherwise aren’t we saying that our final position in the table won’t alter until the money situation changes. Our average final position in the FSG era is 6th so you could argue that we are not meeting expectations. We need more revenue but because of our standing on the Premier League ladder surely we can’t negotiate truly lucrative deals that can ultimately change our position against the other big six. The only thing that will break this glass ceiling we’ve hit is success on the pitch and while I’m grateful for FSG for perhaps 75% of how they’ve run the club I have that nagging doubt that they’ve pulled up short each time they or we have had the opportunity to break through.
Moving forward for this club begins with making the Champions League, so when going after new transfers we are able to offer players, football at the highest level. That looked like a given after beating Man City but its likely to be either nail-biting until May or worse … over this month.
I’m hoping that with at least Champions League qualification secured for next season, we can sign the calibre of player that will make it possible to remain in the top four for years to come and so providing a platform for consistent league challenges with Klopp. Come on red men :)
Excellent article. Best I’ve seen on the subject.
Well played, Gareth.
An excellent and thorough piece of work, thanks Gareth.
I’d just like to pick up on one point. FSG’s communication skills are woeful. Perhaps their silence is a deliberate ploy, however it is undermining supporters’ faith in them. Is anyone from FSG listening? I’m sure the Media dept at least reads this stuff. Apparently FSG leaked to certain members of the press this week that there would be significant spending this summer. If so, they have obviously picked up on all the flack and frustration. But why engage in leaks instead of someone – Henry, Werner, Gordon, Ayre, anyone – fronting up about it?
Maybe things will improve when they appoint a new CEO, but I won’t hold my breath.
Liverpool fans seem to have different expectations to others on this. How often have you seen Abramovich addressing the fans on the record? The Glazers? Kroenke? Sheikh Mansour? Joe Lewis?
Perhaps, though I’m not really sure what the other clubs do, and I’m only really interested in our club. It doesn’t have to be the owners as such, but we have an MD and a CEO and its definitely part of their job description to communicate with all stakeholders including supporters.
Excellent piece Gareth. It’s been coming and couldn’t have at a better time. Very happy to rea this in the face of fickle fans and so much negativity that continues to permeate.
My one issue is the morale of the team and of Jurgen, over the past few weeks. I hope that they sort it out and get on with it – if not, then Spurs are going to capitalize. There’s not much else to say.
We can fight for this and the top four spots.
Up the Resurgent Reds!!!
Spurs are usually rubbish at Anfield so let’s hope tomorrow is no different. Also hope Delle Ali has a shocker. It’s all over the papers again today how he should have come to us but we quibbled on the fee and wages. Also didn’t help by all accounts that Stevie G didn’t show up to meet him – apparently SG was his hero growing up. Thanks Steve!
To all the crying .”fans “read this article and take it in.from the two cancers and Hodgson to fsg.and klopp.just have patience.if you can’t,then go and watch someone else.we don’t need crying arses right now pushing for fsg.to go.as klopp keeps saying we need believers.i believe we will get were we all want to be.patience patience and more patience.frustration yes..but not enough to spit dummies out and want rid of our owners…I’m 52 .a scouser .not up the owners arses.i just believe in them and my manager.if we have patience 19 is not far off.
I personally would like FSG to sell. The statement “There isn’t a billionaire oligarch or sheik” is without basis. There are oligarchs and sheikhs buying bigger more lavish private yachts and personal islands than ever before. Take a look a prime London property prices. The correlation between squad value and league finish is proven. We will likely finish 5th or thereabouts. Leicester was a statistical anomaly. Meaningless. In the modern game, FSG cannot deliver league victory. Or even cups. http://www.superyachtfan.com/yacht_iroquois.html