This is a previously unpublished article written in January 2008, a year into Tom Hicks and George Gillet’s ill-fated ownership of Liverpool, warning of the inevitable disaster that was heading the club’s way.
‘Yankees Doo One’ by Jamie Casey, January 2008
How have Tom Hicks and George Gillett caused so much unrest at a football club in such a short time? Is it because they’re businessmen and not football men? Or do they simply dislike Rafael Benitez? Liverpool FC’s American owners came clean this week over their secret talks with Jurgan Klinsmann on the subject of him taking over from Benitez.
Their statement is the latest example of how the American duo seem clueless when it comes to dealing with the British media and, more worryingly, decision-making when a manager is under pressure. The Yank duo admitted meeting with Klinsmann in November , when Liverpool were in danger of crashing out of the Champions League, but an impressive 4-0 win away win at Marseille ensured the Reds progressed to the knock out stage. The secret talks suggest the owners have a lack of faith in Benitez’s ability to produce these kind of results, despite an exceptional European record.
If you compare the two to Aston Villa’s American owner Randy Lerner, you can understand why he has gained more respect from their fans. Lerner has quietly taken over Villa, shying away from the media and provided manager Martin O’Neil with transfer funds from his own pocket to build what looks like a promising young team.
The difference is Lerner’s trust in O’Neil as a proven football manager, and it has paid dividends so far. We’re just shy of a year since the Hicks and Gillett takeover, which came with the promise that they would not saddle the club with debt while building a new stadium. Yet it appears Hicks and Gillett are reluctant to fund the project with their own money, despite both being billionaires.
Liverpool’s proposed new Stanley Park ground will more than likely be franchised like Arsenals “Fly Emirates” stadium, which goes against everything the club’s current ground Anfield is famous for. Yes, they forked out £23million to bring Fernando Torres to the club last summer, but would the player have joined if fellow Spaniard Benitez wasn’t in charge? Probably not. And would he stay if Benitez was to leave? Probably not.
The latest media frenzy surrounding the club is slowly turning England’s most successful club into a laughing stock and is strikingly similar to the situation Spurs found themselves in earlier in the season. The Tottenham board’s shocking treatment of former boss Martin Jol lead to extreme criticism from fans and media over their deceitful actions in sounding out Jol’s successor, Juande Ramos.
The handling of Liverpool at present is very unfamiliar. I wonder what Bill Shankly, the man who made Liverpool a great club, would make of the current owners. Likewise, former chairman David Moores must be wishing he’d sold his club to owners whose best interests were in the football club, such as life-long fan Steve Morgan, who has now bought Wolves instead.
And so back to the Klinsmann meeting. It’s somewhat bizarre that they came out and admitted the meeting to the media this week after all this time and one can only question their PR skills. Also, why was Jurgan Klinsmann the man they wanted as a replacement? The German has never managed at club level before. Sure, he showed his ability with the German national side, but who knows what he’s like in the transfer market. However, he’s since been handed the Bayern Munich job for next season so he’s out of the running in any case.
But there still are many questions surrounding Tom Hicks and George Gillett. The Liverpool fans are growing impatient with their new owners and have already gave their backing to Benitez. The current crisis has got fans sweating at the future of the club, many of whom, will be hoping the American cowboys give in, sell up and return to America with their tails between their legs.
October 2010: Liverpool, now managed by Benitez’s eventual successor Roy Hodgson, have won just one of their opening seven Premier League games and lie in the relegation zone as the club’s fall from grace reaches a new low with Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to newly-promoted Blackpool.