Apathy has been the friend of Liverpool's owners for too long
Tony Barrett of The Times on why it's time to make a stand against the owners
NO money, no new stadium, no sign of Tom Hicks and Gillett being bought out, no investment in Roy Hodgson’s squad, no top-class back up for Fernando Torres, no hope of challenging for the title they crave, no creativity in attack and no indication that improvement is imminent.
It would be easy to depict Liverpool in a negative light right now, to suggest that the feel-good factor that was spun up during the summer was always going to be dispelled as soon as the serious business of actually playing football matches began.
But to do so would be to pander to the blindingly obvious and to lend undue credibility to the opinion of those who attempted to talk Liverpool’s chances up.
This, after all, is a club on the crest of a crisis.
The only positive is that more and more people appear to be waking up to this fact, although you wouldn’t think so to listen to Jamie Redknapp who appears to think Liverpool’s biggest problem at present is the “diabolical” form of Torres, as the realisation dawns that the future facing Britain’s most successful club is as stark as it has ever been at any point in its entire history.
Perhaps this is down to the Benitez effect. Maybe the removal of a manager who divided opinion has helped focus minds like never before because now issues like net spend on transfers can be discussed without it being used as either a shield to defend the Spaniard or a stick with which to beat him.
Even some of those who wilfully avoided the ownership issue for much of the last few years are now wading in and quite rightly, if belatedly, pointing out that any manager would face an impossible job in this most dysfunctional of regimes.
All of a sudden it has become fashionable to target Hicks and Gillett, to question their motives and to seek their removal from the Anfield boardroom – and this can only be a good thing.
Public pressure will play a key role in how events pan out in the weeks and months to come and any repeat of the ambivalence with which some of the organised protests against Hicks and Gillett will only make it easier for the Royal Bank of Scotland to give the American duo a stay of execution that could serve only to further imperil the club that they should never have been given an opportunity to own.
Apathy has been a friend to Hicks and Gillett for far too long, going back to the FA Cup tie against Havant & Waterlooville in January 2008 when chants against the owners emanating from the Kop were met with indifference from some and were actually shouted down from others.
The general feeling was that such protests would be to the detriment of the team and the vocal minority were drowned out. The silence that followed must have been music to the ears of Hicks and Gillett as they realised that opposition to their regime would be limited by a lack of collective willingness to rock the boat.
Two-and-a-half years on and that vessel is on the verge of being submerged by a debt which is now described as toxic by those who hold it.
To this day there is much debate about whether philosopher Edmund Burke actually did come out with the line often attributed to him about “all that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men for do nothing” but regardless of who said it, the sentiments apply to Liverpool and the palsied state it finds itself in.
The fact is far too many good men have done nothing. The reasons are multiple and complex, ranging from a determination not to drag the club into the spotlight for the wrong reasons to refusing the situation really could be as bad as Hicks and Gillett’s biggest critics suggest.
The feeling that the latter remains a major hurdle that is still be cleared was underlined on August 31st when Liverpool’s official club website set a record for the highest number of page impressions on a single day as more than half a million people logged on hoping that the transfer window would not be slammed shut before back up for Torres was acquired.
There are times when walking on with hope in your heart are not what is required, sometimes it is better to allow logic to take over and this was one such occasion because Liverpool’s finances dictate that the chances of them bringing in a top-class forward were as unlikely as Hodgson fielding an attacking formation away from home.
Not that Hodgson should carry the can for any of these failings though. The former Fulham manager merely inherited the problems he now faces, he did not create them.
The most he can do is to make the best of a bad job and while there are those who feel Hodgson should not be immune from criticism because he knew the task at hand when he accepted the job, it should be remembered that he was not attracted to Anfield by money (there isn’t any) or glory (there won’t be any of that either), but by the name, reputation and history of a club which he believes is one of the finest institutions in world sport.
Had he been so inclined, Hodgson could have carried on picking up his salary from Mohammed Al-Fayed until being pensioned off or being offered the England job, the two are pretty much one and the same anyway, and enjoyed living a relatively easy life in Surrey in the knowledge that expectations at Fulham are never likely to extend much further than remaining in the Premier League and the odd cup run.
Instead, he took the Anfield challenge and all it entails – the politics, the financial restrictions and the endemic uncertainty – at a time when most other managers would have shied away from it as the impossible job it will continue to be until Hicks and Gillett are finally removed.
Has he bitten off more than he can chew? Quite possibly and the sheer scale of the task ahead has already dawned on Hodgson if his ongoing attempts to lower expectations is anything to go by.
Only time will tell if Hodgson can steady the ship and the fact that he will attempt to do so without recourse to the kind of finance needed for a large scale reconstruction job will certainly inhibit his chances of doing so but the least he deserves is to be cut the kind of slack that his predecessor was afforded by some but denied by others.
Those who believed the removal of Benitez would be the panacea for all Liverpool’s ills are probably the kind of people who would send for a plumber to fix a leaking tap while the foundations of the house are crumbling and their folly is being highlighted by abject performances like yesterday’s at Birmingham and previous poor showings against West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City.
This is not a defence of Benitez, nor is it an argument against his dismissal.
To adopt either position would be pointless in the extreme right now, not to mention divisive, given Liverpool’s most pressing problems have long since been in the boardroom rather than the manager’s office.
But any fanciful thoughts that a change of manager would produce an instant upturn in form and fortune is being shown up for the wishful thinking that it always was. As Hodgson himself has already pointed out, he is no “magic wand man”.
Without transfer funds he cannot buy top class back up for Torres, nor can he make the numerous other improvements needed to a squad which has long been weak (due to a combination of the unavailability of money and a flawed recruitment policy in recent seasons) outside of the first eleven. To put it bluntly, Hodgson can’t compete.
Only if Hicks and Gillett are ousted and replaced by owners who care enough about Liverpool to actually invest in it will he stand any kind of chance.
Things are bad at Anfield right now, very bad, and that is why it is incumbent on everyone who holds the club dear to do whatever they can to put pressure on RBS to belatedly do right by it by ensuring that Liverpool Football Club does not continue to remain in the wrong hands.
The alternative really does not bear thinking about.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 24 September 2010 17:52 )|