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Liverpool united will never be defeated...
IT’S tantalisingly close now – something that Liverpool Football Club has lacked for far too long. No, not number 19 which, unfortunately, still glints like a faraway star, visible, out of reach, but burning brighter than it ever did under Tom Hicks and George Gillett. What feels close now is unity. Something the club needs before the Holy Grail can ever be achieved.
And now, for the first time in a long time, it looks close. Whether you liked Rafael Benitez or not, there is no denying his was a reign fraught with in-fighting, political battles and cringe worthy headlines. Whether it was owners v manager, academy v manager, chief executive v manager or boardroom v owners, it was a spell when ‘club’ was not an accurate term to describe LFC – there were too many people pulling in different directions and losing sight of why they were there in the first place.
It left fans feeling like they were no longer part of it, just paying customers watching on as the soap opera developed. We all know the stories of the missed targets, the players we could have signed but didn’t.
Too often the story was the same – egos got in the way, businessmen thought they knew best.
It was a situation that was never likely to breed long-term success, especially when the club was carrying people with little or no knowledge of football.
Now, things feel different. OK, the owners are American. But everyone’s done their digging and that’s where the similarities seem to end with Hicks and Gillett.
For now, John Henry and Tom Werner can’t claim to know football, or Liverpool.
But they know sport and they know how to be successful at it. They are proven winners rather than proven leveraged buy-out kings.
The new owners have already made a big impression. They’ve only been at the helm for a month but they seem to ‘get’ Liverpool more now than Hicks and Gillett ever did.
They’ve wisely avoided Liverpool scarves and have made every effort to listen and learn from fans.
For some their air of prudence rings alarm bells. Surely the only way we can close the gap on our rivals is by spending and spending big?
Let’s be honest, it would help. But with the forthcoming shake-up in financial rules governing clubs, it is wise for Liverpool to be run in the right way.
Both Manchester City and Chelsea have work to do to meet the criteria which will require clubs to break even over a rolling three-year period if they want to play in the Champions League or Europa League.
Instant success is what every Liverpool fan wants deep down. It’s what we expected when Hicks and
Gillett came knocking and look where that got us. Patience is likely to be the order of the day under Henry and Co.
But that’s not to say it won’t be exciting. Already there are noises suggesting youth will be given a chance. That scouting locally, nationally and internationally will be stepped up.
That can only be a good thing. You don’t need to delve too deep to find numerous examples of Liverpool wasting money down the years.
One of the not-so-secret secrets to the Boston Red Sox’s success in baseball was putting together a team of people who knew the game inside out and using their collective wisdom to win.
Damien Comolli is already on board as Director of Football Strategy and that looks like a step in the right direction. Roy Hodgson is almost a side issue – he will go. It’s a case of when not if. He doesn’t get our club and probably never will. He was brought in as a caretaker and that remains the case.
The owners and Comolli might be backing him publicly for now but what else can they do? Until the right man is found – or until the current slump becomes too alarming – he will remain in charge.
Some fans say it’s not the Liverpool way to criticise Hodgson, he is our manager after all (or he was at the time of writing).
But nothing about Hodgson: how he was appointed, who he was appointed by, the football he plays, the way he conducts himself, is the Liverpool way.
Hodgson has shown himself to be stuck in his ways and is unlikely to be receptive to the new approach.
Panic buys, investing millions of pounds in a player on the basis of a hunch, an agent recommendation or a DVD, will stop.
Yet no-one’s told Hodgson. He said recently: “There is probably a little more chance in January that we might take a chance on someone who is second best than we would in the summer.”
That’s not likely to have gone down well in the Henry household and neither is Hodgson’s record.
Henry loves statistics and Hodgson’s don’t make for pretty reading. As Americans (apparently) say, you do the math.
Henry wants a long-term approach. A 63-year-old manager playing 35year-old football is not something to build a revolution on.
Our owners’ scientific approach to signings and scouting has brought Boston two World Series triumphs.
And Henry says their challenge ‘first and foremost’ is to win the Premier League.
For now, all we can do is wait and see what happens. Because, as we found out to our cost too many times under Hicks and Gillett, actions speak louder than words.