Haradona a.k.a. Avijit Das Patnaik, sizes up the challenges facing the new owners of Liverpool FC (written before Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers)
Liverpool owes pre-Christmas gifts to Avram Grant’s defenders & Robert Green – not least for the 12 goals pounded past them by Villa, Bolton, United and Chelsea. This ensured Liverpool could stay above West Ham at bottom of the EPL table, mid October, one game after an oh so(!!) news breaking, takeover.
Guardian’s news box scored over four million hits in three days, as the world followed a soap opera of court room drama, monetary and mismanagement issues, few promises and loads of pensive supporters. The miners stuck in Chile or the Commonwealth games closing in New Delhi had lesser takers. The eyeballs blinked only once the takeover was complete and another red soap opera took over – Wayne Rooney’s reported fallout with his coach and his disenchantment with the English media for filling their front pages with his expensive infidelity tastes.
Reports of Rooney wanting to leave Manchester United would be the only positive news that greeted the Kop supporters, when all their new found hopes got evaporated after a listless performance in the Merseyside Derby. It looked worse than 2-0. The key supplier to El Nino, and Liverpool’s face, Steven Gerard was sitting too deep to send anything more than long hopeful balls. The derby itself should not have attracted eyeballs – as the pre match league standings reflected a battle to come out of the relegation zone, than any honor.
You wish they had utilized that channel in attracting fine talents. What else would explain their transfer policy? At a time when Wenger got Chamakh, Redknapp poked out Van Der Vaart, Mourinho brought Di Maria – Hodgson gave the famous Liverpool shirt to Poulsen & Meireles. It wasn’t any better yesterday. In two months, the trio mentioned above, has had more impact for their clubs, than what Rafael Benitez’s David Ngog and Aquilani together did in over a season.
While heaps were blamed on Benitez’s purchased players (he did his share of splurging) the left side of Liverpool’s field today – Joe Cole and Konchesky – are Roy’s boys! Cole, initially thought as a good punt, started his red journey with a red card and a missed penalty. Another Chelsea reject, Glen Johnson, is shadow of the player he was last season and Daniel Agger isn’t too impressed with Roy. Suddenly, life under the much maligned Benitez, seems better.
Truth be told, Benitez acquired some fine talents and got the poster boys to stick to Anfield, despite some years of disappointment. There is a strong case that players believed in Benitez and the owners, then, let him down. Even last season, Liverpool was a threat in any match – they had honors even with Spurs, Villa, United and City and won both the Merseyside Derbies – today even that charisma is fast dwindling.
So too is the hope of a new stadium. Pointers from the new management indicate that they are more interested in redeveloping the existing fortress – a decision which would threaten the proposed Anfield Plaza and numerous fans employed with it.
Hodgson’s own conservative posture during press conferences isn’t exuding confidence. Mentioning “display against Everton was best in my short tenure”, “I lost five of my first six matches at Fulham” and “I haven’t been sacked in 35years” are lines you would associate more with a Fulham manager; not one who manages a football club considered a bigger advertisement for their city, than the Beatles. Hodgson surely doesn’t need Google to tell him that when the NESV owners took on Boston Red Soxs (in 2002) they wasted little time in dispensing the Fenway Park manager.
The differences with the new owners and their predecessors are significant – Tom Werner & John Henry were desperate to get into the club (got in through the kitchen door!! in their first visit to Anfield) and have remained extremely low key since. All their talk has centered on a business model which is based on sending out a strong team, with Werner’s pet line being “What drives us is winning.”
Henry later hinted on their strategy ahead. “When we arrived at the [Boston] Red Sox, the New York Yankees were a juggernaut and it wasn’t that much of a rivalry. I believe we turned it into a rivalry where we have gone toe-to-toe with the Yankees, even though they have got much higher revenue. People now think that Boston is on a par economically with the New York Yankees, which is just not true”.
Hope springs eternal and Liverpool supporters can be forgiven for feeling ‘it cant get any worse’ and ‘it hasn’t got any worse’ in past half a century. Two trackers will keep them engaged – cheering their team into top half of the table, and predicting the activities in January transfer window. The latter will and should interest them a lot more.
Henry further sizes up the challenge ahead “There were big financial issues [in Liverpool] but in the end we made a decision we really wanted to compete at this level… This [running the club from the current mess] is not going to be easy.”
Sure it wont! They have huge due to clear (237million pound to Royal Bank of Scotland to be exact) and have a ground breaking decision to make on the stadium – a decision which would get the public sentiment swaying, either ways. Their only lifeline would be if and when the financial fairplay rules come into strong force. That would set them forming a team – a team with a winning mentality, a coach fit for leading Liverpool.
When I started following EPL diligently about a decade and half ago, the zenith was fought between London and Manchester. At the moment of writing this, the league table shows the same two cities battling – with a remarked difference. Two billionaires – a private investment company tycoon and an oil baron – have changed the dynamics of world’s most popular football league. Hence the degree of enforcement of the financial fair play rules, will, potentially, trigger another turning point.
Against all the challenges Tom & John have just two aspects going for them – the media – If the owners wants to repeat their act and build up a strong, intense rivalry with the best, the journalists won’t mind continuing being their best friends;
And the fans – best epitomized by a remark made by Johan Cruyff and engraved in the media room at their Melwood training ground “I sat there watching the Liverpool fans and they sent shivers down my spine. A mass of 40,000 people became one force behind their team. That’s something not many teams have. For that I admire Liverpool more than anything.”
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