Brendan Rodgers goes into the history books as the man sacked over the telephone by the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) as they lined up his replacement. His legacy will be he’s the only Liverpool manager since the 1950s not to win a trophy after having three seasons in charge, though he’ll hang on to the fact he took them to a runners-up spot in the Premier League.
Many have argued he should have been given more time, while very few have questioned the board. Are FSG any better for the Anfield club than their previous American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett?
The quick response from most Liverpool fans will be to dismiss the suggestion out of hand. It’s understandable when the debacle of their ownership turned into something from a soap opera. They couldn’t even remain friends with one another and there were failed attempts to make coups for power from within. The tabloid saga is just one element of their time there, the other was the performance of the team and standard of players on the pitch.
Under their watch Liverpool also finished second in the Premier League, they’d been fourth the season before. In their runners-up campaign they managed to get to the quarter finals of the Champions League, a feat that looks beyond the current crop of English entrants into that competition.
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Pound-for-pound the players on their team sheet are a level above the current crop. Fernando Torres at his best, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Pepe Reina, all eye-catching names that had claims to be the best in their field. The support cast would easily walk into the Liverpool side of today.
Many will point out that after the 2008/09 season they went onto finish seventh the following year. This is true but they didn’t force the sale of any top players.
The feeling they used the club to service a debt isn’t reflected in transfer dealings. They retained talent and it was Hicks and Gillette that bought some of the big names within the squad.
Running a club like a business, with debts or not, is fine as long as the on-field activity remains successful. Rafael Benitez paid for the poor season with his job, a move that was an attempt to continue the high bar that had been set in the previous two years and prevent a constant downward trend.
While the fuss surrounding their ownership meant it was a necessity they were removed, it doesn’t mean John Henry and FSG have a free pass that allows them to avoid criticism. Some of their decisions have left Liverpool in a worse position and wasted resources.
A club does need to be run like a business in today’s game. They shouldn’t be applauded for giving Rodgers £310m to spend, instead they should be asked why they allowed so much to be wasted for zero return. They have created the transfer committee to replace the failed Damien Comolli experiment, in doing so allowed more money to be ploughed into players the manager didn’t request.
After taking over from men seen as villains John Henry has had an easy ride. His public persona has been warm and FSG have largely delivered on key promises, like the stadium issue. But the backdrop has been the decline of the team.
Many state that Hicks and Gillette could have bankrupt Liverpool before FSG saved them. I think it’s more likely the pair were playing a game of chicken and would never have allowed a valuable part of their portfolio to fold. While they were facing off, and losing favour with the Liverpool fans, they did keep the team healthy.
FSG on the other hand have ran a great PR campaign. They even appointed club legend Kenny Dalglish as a manager for a second time in a nod to fan and player pressure. It’s as if they give a little, speak of understanding tradition, then do things their way regardless. The truth is they are novices in the world of football and throwing money around aimlessly produces a club without direction.
The club may be financially secure under FSG but the team is more fragile than ever. It’s hard to imagine them challenging for the title again any time soon. Under Hicks and Gillette there was always a threat off the pitch but Liverpool remained one when on it.
— Titanbet (@TitanBet) September 30, 2015