On October 1st 2010, as a club, Liverpool were about as low as they had ever been. Under the managerial stewardship of Roy Hodgson, poor league performances left the Reds languishing in the bottom half of the Premiership. A shock home defeat in the League Cup to a club at the bottom of the Football League – Northampton Town – only emphasised the fact that Hodgson was out of his depth.
Off the pitch, though, things were even worse. American duo Tom Hicks and George Gillet had crippled the club with debt. Up for sale, there had been no takers, and with the Royal Bank of Scotland threatening to call their loan in midway through the month, Liverpool were staring administration in the face.
Fortunately, things started to change. Another set of Americans became our saviour as New England Sports Ventures, led by John W Henry, bid £300m for the club. Hicks and Gillet tried to block the sale and a week of High Court battles ensued, but on October 15th, ‘good’ overcame ‘evil’ and the sale was rubber-stamped. Immediately, Liverpool’s debt was reduced from £25m a year to a paltry £2m.
Triumph of ‘Good’ over ‘Evil’
Despite the takeover, performances on the pitch didn’t improve. Hodgson’s Liverpool got worse, with defeats to Everton, Spurs, Newcastle and Wolves all before the turn of the year. When Blackburn inflicted Liverpool’s 9th defeat of the campaign in early January, the new owners acted, relieving Hodgson of his duties.
Confidence at the club and amongst the fans was low. The next move by the owners needed to bring everybody together and the appointment of club legend Kenny Dalglish as caretaker-manager certainly did that.
Although King Kenny’s first game ended in an FA Cup exit away to Manchester United, the new found optimism at the club remained. Liverpool’s style of play immediately returned to the values which had made the club famous, as the ball was kept on the floor as opposed to Hodgson’s more direct approach.
Dalglish’s first win soon arrived, quickly followed by another, before Fernando Torres threw a spanner in the works by demanding a £50m transfer to Chelsea. But, fear not, the new found positivity around the club was kept intact with the record purchases of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.
Suarez scored on his debut and Torres’ new club were beaten away. Liverpool’s form under Dalglish was second only to Chelsea. Suarez was sensational, with the likes of Dirk Kuyt, players whom had struggled under Hodgson, suddenly looking the part. The introduction of youngsters Jay Spearing, Martin Kelly, John Flanagan and Jack Robinson further enhanced the good vibrations reverberating through the club. Just before the end of the season, Dalglish was appointed permanent manager. Confidence was at an all-time high.
Now, able to stump up the transfer cash, Liverpool were expected to be big players in the summer market. It started well as Jordan Henderson was captured for £16m. Newspapers, internet forums and twitter speculated who would be next, with well over 60 players linked; most of the times, without the player’s knowledge.
But so far there hasn’t been a next signing. (Update: The deal for Charlie Adam was agree after this article was written. The Blackpool midfielder is Liverpool’s next signing, further calming the nerves of each and every supporter around the world.)
Blackburn’s Phil Jones was rumoured to be close, only to sign for Manchester United. Ashley Young did the same. Gael Clichy looked to be the new left back, but has just completed his move to Manchester City. Even Ipswich Town youngster Connor Wickham has ended up at Sunderland when a move to Anfield looked nailed on. Stewart Downing was said to be 95% done, but the transfer is still pending. Suddenly, the rumours have slowed down, the Twitter “In The Knows” have stopped tweeting. No-one knows what, or who, is next and the optimism built up over the last 9 months is slowly fading away. In its place is a feeling of ‘Here we go again’, that Liverpool still can’t compete in the transfer market with the lack of European football a key factor.
Phil Jones – one of quite a few who slipped past us..
But, for those Kopites panicking, a reality check is in order. We are only just into July, with the players only returning to pre-season training on Monday. With the introduction of youngsters Flanagan, Robinson and Kelly, the squad that finished the season was alot stronger than the one inherited by Dalglish. That’s without including fit again skipper Steven Gerrard! Add to this the fact that a number of loan players have returned to the club (Alberto Aquilani, Paul Konchesky, Dani Pacheco, Emiliano Insua), Liverpool’s squad is bursting at the seams. Before there is an influx of players, some must be shipped out. David Ngog, Milan Jovanovic and Joe Cole are amongst the prime candidates to be moved on. Now that clubs have started back training, dialogue between managers and agents will intensify, meaning player movement is likely over the next few weeks.
Despite the signing of £16m Henderson, many are pointing out that rival teams are already ahead of us in terms of conducting their summer business. Yes, United have spent £50m on Jones, Young and goalkeeper David de Gea. But, what people aren’t mentioning, is the fact that they have also lost 2 key players in Edwin Van der Sar and Paul Scholes. They needed replacing quickly. It is arguable whether United’s squad is stronger now than it was at the prior to the end of the season. As for the other rivals, Chelsea have bought no-one, Man City captured Clichy but look resigned to losing Carlos Tevez and Arsenal are imploding with Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri all set to be wearing different colours come August. Even perennial big spenders Spurs have yet to splash the cash, and instead, are trying to hang on to their star player Luka Modric.
Another reason not to stress out is that amidst all the talk about the players we have “missed” out on, not one word has come from the club. All the links have come from newspapers or the Internet. On many occasions last season, Dalglish told the press that when Liverpool have something to announce, the fans will be the first to know, not the newspapers and definitely not Twitter “In The Knows”. The club has returned to the correct way of doing things behind closed doors; the Liverpool way. Another example of this is the team line-ups. Under Rafael Benitez and Hodgson, the Liverpool team line-ups would appear on forums and Twitter 24 hours before the game. When Dalglish came in, this stopped immediately.
So in all, my message to Liverpool fans is don’t panic. From where we were on October 1st 2010, the club has been transformed. Our owners seem to be the right ones for our club. The manager certainly is. Rather than worry that we aren’t signing a new player every other day, we should instead trust in what is going on behind the scenes. The ‘Liverpool way’ of going about our business is back.
Hopefully, the Liverpool way of winning things will follow.
Follow the author on twitter @rnevitt
And at rnevitt.blogspot.com