Liverpool owner John W Henry

Borne out of the ashes of the Hicks/ Gillett era, the purchase of Liverpool Football Club by the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) marked a significant day in the history of the Premier League club. An escape from the tumultuous relationship between fans and the board prompted optimistic belief that this could spell the return of the club to the heights of English and indeed European football again.

The American group took over at Anfield in October 2010 having had no previous experience of football, with their primary interest being in Baseball.  Managing Director Ian Ayre, whilst talking to Sports Illustrated, described the first year for FSG as “a leap of faith”, with the new investors canvassing opinion largely from other people. Their first transfer window saw the now infamous acquisitions of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll for a combined fee exceeding £50m. Ayre saw this period as somewhat transitory suggesting to the American magazine that:

“Within that year we then get to a situation where the dust has settled and people start to see what is and isn’t working.”

“I think the fundamental shift particularly around player acquisitions and disposals was that we took the view that it needs to be more of a science.”

“Your biggest expenditure line can’t be the whim of any individual.”

Lessons learnt by FSG during that first year in charge manifested themselves in the transfer policy of today. Current policy dictates that there will be no transfer expenditure on players over the age of 30. Instead there is now a continued focus on cost effective youth recruitment, with players of perceived future talent passing into Melwood. The hope being that the likes of Raheem Sterling and Coutinho will be the stars of successful Liverpool teams in the future. Contrast this to buying purpose built players at the peak of their powers or those that have previously proven their worth but are now approaching the latter stages of their careers. The sentiment of FSG is something to be applauded, with the clamour for a youth-centric base already in evidence amongst many fans. However, is this utopian brainchild simply a naïve attempt by an American sports franchise to revolutionise football in this country?

Strict adherence to the policy laid out by FSG will unfortunately lead to an inevitable period of short-term mediocrity for the Merseyside club. In an era of instant gratification this has naturally led to many harsh criticisms, with many fans unsatisfied with a mid table standing for a club of their stature. By sacrificing short-term success at the club, FSG is aiming to trade off the rebuilding period with a goal of long-term success for generations to come. Borussia Dortmund fans will have faced exactly the same anguish during their rebuilding years, and hopefully their current successes are something Red’s fans can look to for inspiration.

Youthful teams often exhibit their potential when circumstances are favourable but are often rudderless in the face of adversity. The trials and tribulations of an exceptionally promising Aston Villa side this year illustrate the fact perfectly. Many that actually support their ambition rightly criticize FSG here for their inflexibility. If the side could contain a balance weighted towards youth whilst containing a few older players, the transition for the club could be a lot less painful. Supporters seem baffled that the likes of John W. Henry appear totally unaware of the key influence that legends such as Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have on the fortunes of the club. These extend further than simply in a playing capacity, with the aforementioned icons able to inspire a generation off the pitch.

On the other hand it is worth considering whether Liverpool are actually missing out by not signing older players. Are there actually any feasible over 30 options for Liverpool to consider? In reality the options are extremely sparse in the current transfer market. Over age players that are currently being touted include Xabi Alonso and David Villa. With asking prices reported to be in the region of £10m, the clubs owners would likely block both moves. Would a non-recoupable outlay reaching into the tens of millions represent good business? In the case of Alonso it is important for FSG to remain detached from the emotional side of any prospective transfer and to react with their heads rather than the clubs hearts. Aside from these players, the over age transfer market is pretty bleak and I suspect may Red’s fans would baulk over a potential move for a player of Scott Parker’s ilk.

Liverpool fans may contend this policy by looking at clubs who have found success in an older squad. The Abramovich era Chelsea squad has been littered with older stars such as Lampard and Drogba, which have seen the clubs ambitions totally transformed. However, at a club like Chelsea money seems to be no object when those at the helm are unconcerned with making losses on players. Liverpool like many other clubs simply cannot afford to conduct their business in this way. Avoiding crises that include the decade long collapse of AS Monaco is shrewd business and not something to be criticised for a lack of ambition.

With wages in the modern era ever encroaching on turnover, the precarity of football clubs is financially unprecedented. Whilst FSG’s policy is stifling instantaneous success at Liverpool, they should be applauded for bringing an era of stable growth to the club. In 5 or 10 years time Liverpool fans may not look on this period with angst but instead with a sense of gratitude for forging a successful future for the club.

 

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  • Theo
    1 year ago

    Cleverly disguised excuses!! Regardless of the time allocated for a youth policy, if the gap gets bigger it gets harder to bridge it, a 5% drop needs more than 5% to get back – simple math! Same with any team, if the policy is solely based on youth then a 5 year window today becomes 7 or 8 in 5 years. FSG are simply trying to get into the CL on the cheap; they don’t have the financial muscle to revamp Anfield and build a proper team. You need senior and proven superstars for youth to flourish, and you need to win trophies to create momentum. Furthermore, an only unproven youth policy is by far riskier than a pragmatic approach. Unfortunately, football and the team are not a priority for FSG but pure finance is. They are waiting a salvation form the financial fair play rules and by then it may be too late to recover for our once mighty team. They got their fingers burnt in some idiotic domestic talent purchases at inexcusably high prices and wages, so now they have withdrawn into their cocoon of shame and have shut the purse. Please spare us with the condescendingly naive articles and warped logic and smell the coffee.

    Reply
  • Towson Tom
    1 year ago

    Did the writer actually watch LFC during the latter half of the season? Young yes, but good enough to deserve to be in the squad with the likes of Gerard and now Toure and of course Pepe to do the shouting!!

    Reply
    • Oliver Bishop
      1 year ago

      Yes I did watch Liverpool play a fair bit last year. I’m not contesting the amount of young talent in the squad at all. The balance just isn’t there at present and this will only get worse. Toure is unlikely to play every week, Gerrard has at best 2/3 years left in him and the goalkeeping situation is at present up for debate.

      Reply
  • MaxidusForMen
    1 year ago

    There is this misconception that Liverpool will become top 4 or even title contenders in 3,5 or 10 years time based on this “science”. I dont see how that can be the case, when other clubs like Arsenal and Tottenham are getting stronger and more ambitious. Also what FSG seems to be overlooking, is the real possibility that these youths having matured, will simply move to other more ambitious clubs due to the failures of Liverpool competing in Europe or for the league title. Maybe FSG will be happy to just cash in as indeed maybe the underlying reason behind such dangerous strategy. In your example, you gave the names of Villa and Alonso as over 30′s, but the reality is that Liverpool cannot compete with top targets anymore regardless of their age. Lack of European football, namely Champions League is beginning to have an adverse impact on Liverpool’s transfer targets or ability to retain world-class players like Suarez. We need a mix of young and matured. If players are only to be purchased for their sell-on value, then we are not building a title contending club, we are building a selling club!

    Reply
    • ebri
      1 year ago

      This is the best truth i have ever heard. Lfc please pay attention to this and make amendments. We love our lfc and we want to keep supporting lfc.

      Reply
  • Martinmarx
    1 year ago

    A very well written piece. It’s tragic people don’t seem to realise the club was in decline afte uncle Joe stepped down really. Yes Kenny had some success initially just like GH at Lyon and Moyes will have at United. But when the wave lose energy and you need to rebuild we failed massively from Souey through Rafa (I know I know that night).

    I would agree very much with the last sentence of the article which I think capture brilliantly the meaning of patience and faith.

    Reply
  • Yaseen YNWA
    1 year ago

    Decent article, but the gratitude of the “those” fans will show in 2-3 years.. not 5-10. They don’t seem to realise that without FSG we’d probably be in the championship and under administration.
    If you look at each young player brought in and look at getting 6-8 seasons out of them, and each summer from 2014 on just add 1 star signing, it can create a dynasty. While the likes of chelsea, city etc overhaul their squads every 3 years and rebuild from scratch with the hiring and firing of manager, Liverpool would have continuity and a squad who has years of experience playing together….

    Reply
  • Yaseen YNWA
    1 year ago

    If you take Man Utd for example as a team who dominated for a long period. You had the likes of beckham, scholes, the nevilles, butt, giggs,brown, and the rest of the young players who spent a long time at the the club. They formed the framework. Most were not “world class” as proved by the players who moved onto other clubs without achieving much(apart from the Forlans). Each year they made a big name signing, the likes of the Cantona’s, Coles, Ronaldo’s, Van Nistelrooy’s, Rooney’s, Van pERSIE’S BUT that was the Star signing to Spearhead the squad. The squad who knew Fergies Tactics and style. Who knew each others game and have been playing together a long time. That is why they can sell their star’s, buy another and just move on. Because the framework is in place. Where as other teams missing a star or two are toothless. FSG IS BUILDING THAT FRAMWORK.

    Reply
  • Rob Haimes
    1 year ago

    Just a great article. Spot on, since January we’ve looked strong and once Brendan has implemented his way of play throughout the team we’ll start reaping the rewards. Ibe and Sterling looked dangerous and were well managed, Borini started to actually show signs of being half decent, Sturridge has flair, whereas Coutinho is just something else. Credit to FSG for doing what they’re doing, would rather see my club heading in a positive direction for the long run than splashing out, getting a small amount of success, which wouldn’t even be guaranteed, and then slowly dwindle again.

    Reply