FSG’s time in charge of Liverpool so far, and why those who criticise need to re-evaluate

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By Jay Pearson – @JimmyCully

The 2019 Summer transfer window is now shut and LFC Twitter is going crazy.

“Can’t believe we didn’t strengthen!”

“How can you win the Champions League and not go out and buy anyone?!”

“We got 97 points and didn’t win the league, so obviously we are not good enough”

“I don’t care that we are European Champions; you can’t go backwards like this!”

Through every scroll and swipe, you would see a vast ocean of negativity and fans arguing with each other about Liverpool’s transfer business. We had just won the greatest club competition for a sixth time, yet so many fans were focussed on Klopp not signing anyone and FSG not investing in the team.

Klopp has proved that you have to buy the right players at the right time. This is not a video game. If you look back at his signings for Liverpool, the German has got the vast majority of them spot on, in terms of how well they have done and the fees they have commanded.

Prior to this window, Klopp has signed 17 players in his time at Liverpool and you would say 12 of them have made a significant impact at the club. That’s 70% of his transfer business where players have made an impact.

Klopp’s first interview with LFC TV contained one of his most iconic quotes: “We have to change; we have to change from doubters to believers.” The people that are complaining need to remember this.

FSG got the brunt of the ‘Twitterverse’ in regard to the summer spending. #FSGOUT was starting to appear more frequently and, after John Henry spoke on TV about investing in the squad to challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title again, some Liverpool fans were expecting another summer window like 2018.

But if you know your football, this was something that was never going to happen as it just wasn’t needed.

Yet Twitter was still ‘blowing up’ saying FSG need to spend and all they care about is balancing the books and making money off the fans. There were tweets that pointed out that FSG had apparently ‘done nothing for the club’ which is so far from the truth.

This is clearly not the case, and people have either very short memories or were too young to really remember the Hicks and Gillett era.

Let’s refresh those memories…

October 15th, 2010, will go down as one of the most critical days in the history of Liverpool Football Club. This was the day that John W. Henry and New England Sports Ventures (NESV), completed its takeover of the club.

Liverpool’s chairman at the time, Martin Broughton, likened the takeover saga to that of the clubs triumph over AC Milan in Istanbul: “As every Liverpool fan knows, the most nerve-racking way to win a match is by a penalty shoot-out, But in the end, as long as you get the right result, it’s worth the wait. We’ve got the right result.”

This was after a very long and traumatic legal battle against former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett for control of the club.

John W. Henry was now the new owner of Liverpool Football Club. Greeted by the cheers of waiting fans, he declared himself “proud and humbled” to be the club’s new owner. “We have a lot of work to do and I can’t tell you how happy I am that we’ve finally got to this point,” he said.

READ MORE: Liverpool’s summer business examined as transfer window slams shut

At the time, he was unwilling to commit himself on plans for investment in new players or in a new, larger stadium. “It’s too early to say what we’re going to do,” he said, “but obviously we’re here to win and we’ll do whatever is necessary.”

This day was D-Day for the club. Much bigger than any cup final. Had the triangulated corporate finance opera played out between a Texas courtroom, the chancery division in London and the city of Liverpool gone on any longer, the club would likely have gone into administration.

It is always tempting to overplay the parallels between football and the things that happen around it, but in Liverpool the two have long been both emotionally and financially intertwined.

From the Margaret Thatcher years, to Hillsborough, to the Dockers in the ’90s and now, the task of taking the football club out of the hands of two US cowboys who bought the club, stripped it bare, placed so much debt on it and broke every promise that came out of their mouths. At the time of the deal’s completion, Liverpool were in the relegation zone.

Not many fans want to remember this period under Roy Hodgson. It was a ‘dark time’ to be a Liverpool supporter. The club was no longer among Europe’s elite and it seemed a very long way away to get back to the top table of domestic and continental football.

Gone were the days of shopping in the expensive places for new players. Liverpool were now resorting to looking in bargain bins and freebies. The club Hodgson walked into was not a good one, to be fair. Financially, Liverpool were crumbling, weighed down by the debts and mismanagement of the previous regime.

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When FSG took over, Liverpool were languishing in 19th place, whilst playing unattractive football. Hodgson had also said some very ‘unwise’ things during his six-month spell from hell.

When asked about if any other atmosphere can rival Anfield he said: “Well, San Siro and Old Trafford are excellent.”

He said an away win at Trabzonspor was “a famous European night” and that “the famous Anfield support has not really been there since I arrived”.

After Liverpool were beaten by Blackburn in early January, the new owners had seen enough. Hodgson was relieved on his duties and the search for a new manager began.

Henry promised to listen to the fans during his first interview. He certainly did when appointing legend Kenny Dalglish as caretaker manager. ‘The King’ was eventually installed in the Anfield dugout on a permanent basis, albeit six months later than most people wanted.

They *do* spend

FSG cannot be questioned when it comes to investment in the squad. The January 2011 transfer window was a big one. It was their first chance as owners to prove their muscle financially in the transfer market.

As we all know, Liverpool are sometimes nicknamed ‘net spend FC’ because they are very good at balancing the books. This was evident in their first window. Fernando Torres was sold, with the £50m price tag used to bring in Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll.

The fact that FSG were willing to dispense of the big bucks to bring Carroll in is a reflection of the fact that they too wanted to get off to a good start with the fans in terms of transfer dealings. And at the time, there was no better prospect to spearhead a young British squad than a man many were tipping to be an international star for years to come.

During the 2011/12 season – Dalglish’s last – they invested £60m into the team including £16m on a certain European Cup winning captain, Jordan Henderson, whilst recouping £20m in player sales.

In 2012/13, another £63m was invested where they brought in future stars Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, this time under new manager Brendan Rodgers. The following year, FSG spent £50m on the squad, and brought in £30m in player sales.

But it was the 14/15 season that saw FSG spend over £130m – their biggest outlay in a signle window since taking over. As we all know, £75m of that was brought in from the sale of Suárez to Barcelona, but it added to a total of £90m in money brought into the club. It was a significant sign and trend, that Liverpool Football Club had owners who are willing to back their manager and spend big.

Another £113m was spent in Rodgers’ final summer with Liverpool. We welcomed Bobby Firmino that summer of 2015 and the best free transfer of all time, James Milner. Another £80m was recouped by the club in player sales.

Klopp’s first summer transfer window in 2016, he spent £72m of FSG’s money and brought in Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum. Klopp was ruthless with his squad and sold a total of £76m worth of players which gave FSG and very profitable window.

The reason why this was so significant was because FSG were in the midst of their biggest investment since taking over the club.

Operation: Anfield Main Stand

One of the things the club has been crying out for since 1998 was a new stadium. Two of the biggest reasons were for a bigger capacity so more people could get off the season ticket waiting list and more match-day revenue.

FSG are very smart people. They already own the Boston Red Sox – another sports franchise steeped in history and play their home games in an iconic sports arena, Fenway Park.

Fenway has been their home since 1912 and has a unique feel about it. It’s obviously had its renovations over the years and FSG have had to modernise it, but the history and traditions of the team is etched in the walls. Sound familiar?

FSG had two options:

  1. Build a brand-new stadium with all the fancy mod-cons a new stadium brings and no huge restrictions on initial capacity and the options to expand in the future.
  2. Stay at Anfield and keep the spirit and atmosphere and re-develop the Main Stand and Anfield Road End.

The American owners were very professional and courteous in their approach. They sounded out focus groups, local residents and supporters clubs to get their views on the options. The Anfield atmosphere is something special. It cannot be re-created anywhere else in the world. Unless you’re 3-0 down in Istanbul, right?

Ultimately, that was the deciding factor. FSG had done the same thing with Fenway. They redeveloped the stadium and went on to have great success, being crowned World Series Champions on several occasions, which made it all the more special as it was done while at Fenway Park.

The Main Stand cost an estimated £114m to build and it is absolutely stunning. The colossal structure reaches out into the skyline and on a clear day can been seen from the East Lancashire road coming into the city. Everton even built a huge blue structure to sit between the Park End and Bullens Road stand at Goodison just to block out Liverpool’s Main Stand.

The point of this, is that FSG delivered on their promise to redevelop Anfield when the time was right. They took into account all stakeholder opinions and produced and beautiful structure that on a match day is a sight to behold. We now wait to see what happens with Anfield Road.

The biggest windows to date

FSG in 17/18 spent a total of £157m bringing in the likes of Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Robertson and van Dijk, who were all vital to a memorable run to the Champions League Final. Again, in a very clever move, £175m was brought in from player sales.

It’s as if these US owners know what they are doing and are successful businessmen? Funny that, isn’t it?

In the days after Kiev, the club and transfer genius Michael Edwards didn’t mess around. They knew they needed to strengthen and immediately announced the surprise signing of Fabinho from AS Monaco. The Brazilian signed for the Reds without even a sniff of it being ‘leaked’.

The Reds meant business. Naby Keita was already purchased the previous summer, but he finally arrived. Xherdan Shaqiri followed not long after at a bargain £13m.

But it was the then £67m arrival of ‘The Bearded One’ Alisson Becker that was the large excitement and to all of us, the biggest sigh of relief that summer. It was apparent that all top teams have world-class goalkeepers, and Liverpool now had one of the best in the world.

We all know what this team achieved last year. It is arguably, depending on age, Liverpool’s greatest season ever. In the modern era, this is true. To get to 97 points and win the Champions League is a phenomenal achievement. But it is getting overlooked too quickly and people are losing their heads over it.

Comparisons are being aimed at 14/15. Where we did go backwards after pushing Manchester City all the way in 13/14. But that was a one off. That team was not capable of challenging for the top prizes every year. This team is. They will always be in the conversation for the top prizes and will be for many years.

Under FSG, we have owners who trust the manager 100%. If Klopp wanted new players this summer, he would have been backed by FSG. But he didn’t. Klopp will not buy for the sake of buying, he never does.

The timing has to be right, and you have read earlier, he hasn’t got them wrong. Nor has he had any pressure from the men from Boston to sign a ‘big’ player for shirt sales or flashbulbs at a press conference.

FSG in, not out

Liverpool are very lucky to be backed by an ownership group that genuinely cares about the history and values of not just the club but the city itself. Yes, there have been mistakes along the road – the £77 per ticket fiasco was a massive own-goal and recently the trademark issue surrounding the name ‘Liverpool’.

But when you look at the bigger picture, Liverpool Football Club have never been in a healthier place, on and off the pitch. Some people from the ‘FSG OUT’ brigade need to remember what they have done for the club and not be so short sighted.

The future looks very bright for this magnificent football club under the guidance of these Americans from Boston.

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