By Lewis Rooke – @LV_Rooke
Part one in our two-part ‘American Liverpool’ series. Part two can be found HERE
The Yanks. It’s almost a buzzword in football nowadays. They don’t understand the game, their soccer.
American ownership has almost colonised the Premier League since the divisions popularity soared to new heights in the early 2000’s, with owners such as Stan Kroenke, the Glazers and Randy Lerner noted for their financially stringent approach to football- utilising the beautiful game and historical clubs as profit churning machines to line their own deep pockets.
Liverpool fans have felt the sting of Uncle Sam’s profiteering whip more than any other club in the Premier League era, with the toxic ownership of Texan billionaires Tom Hicks and George Gillett almost landing the club into administration and ruin. Decades and decades of success, trophies, lore and love at the mercy of two fellas looking to make a quick buck.
Hicks himself said about Liverpool after taking over: “Liverpool will be the most profitable investment I’ve ever made.” After a long and arduous campaign to oust the regime, Liverpool fans nightmares finally came to an end with the Liverpool board voting 3-2 in favour of Hicks and Gillett leaving the club. And finally, an end to those Americans…
And then along came Fenway Sports Group. “Oh no, the Yanks again.” Reds fans couldn’t help but feel the ghosts of Hicks and Gillett had not yet been vanquished with the arrival of John Henry and FSG in October 2010.
Contextualised further by Manchester City’s new found Middle Eastern riches, the new takeover did not have the sweetest taste as Roy Hodgson’s lacklustre Liverpool side stunk out Anfield, week in, week out- to the point where a relegation battle was a real possibility.
FSG immediately sprang into action in January of 2011, the like we had not seen previously. Hodgson was swiftly dispatched, replaced by club legend Kenny Dalglish and, with the new found faith, the club record transfer fee was broken twice in the matter of two days on both Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll. That summer also saw Henry back Dalglish once more with another spending spree on the likes of Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam.
A less successful window, with Downing, Carroll and Adam failing spectacularly and a young Henderson underwhelming. Twelve solid months of consistent financial backing scaled down- with Fenway’s fingers burnt for the first time.
Transfers strategies were re-evaluated and new manager Brendan Rodgers was given a more budgeted role, with instructions to buy young players with a sell-on value. Whilst Rodgers performed well initially, his forays into the transfer market were very much hit and miss- for every Philippe Coutinho there was a Fabio Borini.
A superb 2013-14 season saw Rodgers elevate and nosedive a season and a half later, with the reigns eventually handed to Jurgen Klopp.
Understandable was FSG’s reluctance to hand a war chest to Jurgen Klopp given the Reds previous chequered transfer history- with the Germans first transfer window yielding only a young Marko Grujic. However, with faith rapidly increasing with appearances in both the Europa League final and League Cup final, marquee signings started to filter in- with Sadio Mane breaking the £30 million barrier.
A Champions League finish later and FSG dipped their hands into their pockets once more, with Mohamed Salah breaking Liverpool’s transfer record at £36.9 million.
A glorious Champions League run later and FSG have full faith in Klopp, splashing £75 million on Virgil van Dijk – a player who the former-Dortmund manager insisted on – as well as over £50 million on Naby Keita and over £40 million on Fabinho.
Finally. Not only is the faith of the fans at an all time high, but the relationship between the owners and the manager has never been stronger. And perhaps this fact is going under the radar given all the praise heaped on the scintillating front three, as owners are understandably perceived as the corporate beast stripping away at footballs beating heart.
But in FSG, we have owners who understand the football club and back the manager financially when the trust is there and despite a few hiccups know how to treat the fans well. They’ve overseen an Anfield expansion, and also wiped the clubs heavy debts.
In light of the recent news that the Liverpool owners rebuffed a takeover bid of around £2 billion from the cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour – a takeover which if successful, would make Liverpool the most expensive club in world football – their decision to not cash in on the Reds shows their commitment to the cause. A far cry from bygone times.
Football ownership can be a thankless job, with many clubs futures hinging on the roll of a corporate dice when choosing owners. So, as Reds, we must be grateful the club is thriving and has not slid down the Hicks and Gillett slippery slope again – or worse – the Venky’s or Oyston’s.
Eight years ago, Liverpool’s future relied on the roll of a dice – we should be grateful it has come up sixes.