Opinion

Custodians

On Thursday this week news broke that FSG had rejected an Abu Dhabi based consortium’s interest in purchasing Liverpool Football club.  The men behind the bid had connections with City’s owners; one of them was actually a cousin of Manchester City sugar daddy Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.  The £2 billion bid would have been the largest sum ever paid for a football club and would likely have seen Liverpool projected into another league of spending power, up there with City, Real and Chelsea.

However the general consensus amongst the fans is one of quiet relief that the current owners flatly rebuffed any offer to buy the club.  The owners remain committed to Liverpool for the long run and were quick to reiterate their stance via the club’s official website:

“FSG have been clear and consistent: the club is not for sale.”

The fact that fans are now content to stick with FSG rather than go down the paths followed by Chelsea and City is a testament to the rising popularity of the owners.  The Boston based investors have gone through something of a renaissance in popularity over the past few years.  It appears their divisive standing among the fan base is over for now.  Their increase in satisfaction with the owners is a sign of just how far they have come in a few years, things have been more than a tad shaky with them in previous seasons, but they deserve full credit for the current health of our club.

Long road           

We all know where the story begins. FSG helped got the club off life support back in October 2010. They deserve endless credit for ousting the corrosive bandits Gillet and Hicks who had ran the club into the rocks after deliberately undermining Benitez for three years.

Whenever any judgement is cast on the owners, it’s very important to remember just how bad things were off and on the pitch in October 2010.  After years of under funding and mismanagement, Liverpool was a club tumbling backwards.  It was a decline with no quick fix and years of rebuilding work and dreaded “transition” were on the cards.

Perhaps it was this dire, purely inherited situation that forced their hands in their first transfer window of January 2011. Maybe Luis Suarez’s arrival was designed to dull the pain of the previous few years of negativity. The club was on its knees, bereft of quality in all key areas, their signing of Suarez was perhaps an aspirin for the painful re-construction that was to come.

In all honesty, some of the pain in those years stemmed from the bizarre transfer policies or lack thereof.  This confusion in direction came from the owners and it became a stick to beat them with.  First Damien Comolli and then a transfer committee fronted by Ian Ayre, saw some truly woeful bits of business done.  Millions were squandered on second rate or injury prone players from Downing to Sahko.    Moments of quality from some of the signings did little to ease the frustration of woeful league standings and embarrassing results.

All managers and clubs have ultimately mixed success overall in their transfers dealings, but Liverpool were getting it wrong way more often they were getting right. The club couldn’t seem to make up its mind on whether it wanted top quality or young lads for the future who we could sell at a profit. The notion of Liverpool becoming a feeder club didn’t too well with the fans.  The net spend brigade pointed to Sterling, Suarez and most recently, Coutinho as evidence for a lack of investment in the playing staff.

Some of the rubbish flung at the owners from the fans was massively unfair.  In an era where every other club seems to have had a brush with a mordant miser in control of their destinies, Liverpool were lucky to have owners like FSG who genuinely seemed to give a damn about the club.  In the thee years before Klopp arrived, with a rookie coach in charge, £301 million was spent on new players.  Hardly a mark of owners refusing to spend. They were learning, at times painfully slowly, but they were getting there.

Klopp and Edwards to the rescue

October is an auspicious month for Fenway Sports Group and Liverpool FC. It was the 8th day of that month in 2015 when Jurgen Klopp’s grinning, towering presence arrived at Anfield.

Liverpool were rudderless and the failing fast in the league once again. FSG’s move for Klopp was a sign of a ground shift by the owners. The penny dropped and half measures were over. Results slowly improved as Klopp’s destructive pressing game became all the more effective. FSG were there in the background watching this improvement and weighing up their next moves.

Poor players were shipped out or replaced and the owners made the very shrewd decision to promote Micheal Edwards to Sporting Director in November 2016.  Edwards is proof that something can be salvaged from even the most woeful of lost causes.  He was a member the hapless transfer committee but survived plenty of upheaval after Klopp was brought in.  The Americans obviously saw enough the former Portsmouth and Spurs performance analyst to the elevate him to the office of Sporting Director.

He has since gone about radically improving our efficiency in transfer dealings.  Whether it be in persuading Bournemouth to donate £21 million of their hard earned money for Jordon Ibe and Brad Smith or Liverpool’s dogged and ultimately successful pursuit of top class talents like Van Dijk and Alisson, things have dramatically improved in this department under his watchful eye. The owners deserve as much credit for this as they did blame for their previous failings.

Still building

FSG have not only backed Klopp and given him an asset like Edwards to work with, they have proven themselves as worthy investors in the club’s infrastructure.  The stadium has been transformed, with £114 million spent on the main stand.  The top class facilities and improved attendances will see match day revenue continue to grow.  Around the ground too, there are wholesale improvements with a new hotel and club shop planned.

A new state of the art training ground is due to be completed by 2020 and plans are being drawn up for further expansions of Anfield, with the clock ticking on the existing planning permission.  With so much good work being done off the pitch it is hard to pick a quarrel with the current owners.  They are still working towards the full fruition of their plans, yet they can say with some confidence that they have transformed the club from where it was.

The manager is being backed in a way we haven’t experienced in the Premier League era.  When you consider Rafa’s reward for the Champions League Final of 2007 was just one top class signing, the players Klopp has been able to bring in since the disappointment of Kiev, are a testament to the improved and still rising confidence of FSG.

They have come an awful long way since their formative years as owners, and only the most cynical, over demanding fan would be unhappy with them.  We have perhaps been guilty of impatience with the owners since 2010.  Knee-jerk calls for them to sell up and leave have been fuelled by poor results and bad signings.  1-3 defeats at home to Palace and 6-1 humiliation at Stoke will drive even the most rationale of supports to despairing social media rants, however FSG appear to have ridden through those turbulent years.

The fact that the club can now draw in £2 billion offers is a testament to the wonderful work they have done.  Yes they are in it for their own financial gain, but they care about their project and want to see the club rise in the right way. For that, they can be rightly considered worthy custodians.  A wealthy, royal Arab or oil rich Russian might be the fast track to guaranteed tittles, but that would be a tad boring wouldn’t it.  We don’t do boring at Liverpool do we.

 

 

 

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