Moving On?

Posted: May 20, 2012 by mcdonaldtaf in Business, Finance, Liverpool FC, Manager Talk
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In a bizarre twist of events our club finds itself on, what appears, a sound financial footing yet still tearing itself to pieces. Maybe that’s too strong a term, for what could well be the over exuberant and noisy minority? Although, it still appears there is this clique bitching about that clique, while frustration continues to surface. Maybe frustration will remain until performances match the very high expectations we demand (and the word is demand) from our club. Are we really only able to stand together when we are riding high or on the precipice of destruction?

The negative reaction to FSG’s swift culling of senior figures at the club seems to have come too early. Perhaps proving that the scars left by the club’s previous Amercian owners remain. Itching and irritating from time to time, making us sensitive and likely to react at the first signs of more pain. In fact, while I don’t agree with some decisions, I’d go as far to say that it’s refreshing to see such definite action delivered with respect. Who wouldn’t be up in arms had it transpired that FSG had talked to other managers over the past few months? They said that decisions would be made at the end of the season and that is what has happened. Their need to maintain the respect those senior individuals deserved (befitting of the Liverpool way of old) means that a delay will be incurred. This should be applauded rather than the frantic search for a panic button.

The key decision was clearly whether or not Dalglish should have survived to manage the club next season. Personally I think he’d done enough to warrant another season at the helm – but I don’t have millions (or tens of millions) of pounds resting on the finishing position of the club. There had been signs of the potential, which was simmering away, being delivered. But for every boiling point we mustered (usually against the bigger clubs) the old habit of going tepid against smaller sides continued to plague us.

So we have a fresh start from next season and maybe that’s what we really need after the past few seasons. Finally, in many different ways, a line can finally be drawn and we can turn a new page. Even the new retro warrior kit has a real ‘fresh’ feel to it (despite some mis-handling at launch). It can sometimes be the small changes which makethe difference, particularly when a cultural and/or structural change is required. Culture is a strange animal to manage in any organisation, never mind one where the culture is of such importance to all those connected to the club.

This fresh start is I assume one of the hurdles in seeing the return of Rafa Benitez to Anfield. The majority of the kop would back such a move from FSG, I feel. Elsewhere in the ground I’m sure an increasing number would still be holding their lack of faith in Benitez as a reason to express their dis-satisfaction. This would be despite Benitez’s success prior to and during his stay at Anfield.

In many ways I think what Benitez brings should fit FSG down to the ground. Despite the ludicrous levels of mis-information,which even persists today, he had a successful transfer record at Anfield. Not only in the way he took us so close to the title with financial restraints (compared to others) but also in the value he created from players he signed in terms of both performance while they played and cold hard cash once they left. Unless there is Man City type money locked in the Anfield safe we’re not being told about, then this type of value can play a pivotal role in club success.

Benitez’s ability to take players and improve them on a (generally) consistent basis is too often overlooked. Instead his detractors will point to players like Ryan Babel who never quite made the grade. Especially when other managers never got it wrong  – Veron anyone? There is no point pulling out all the figures again. If you’re not convinced that Benitez’s signings made a profit overall for the club then you’ll never be convinced – black and white clearly not being black and white enough for you.

You can probably tell who I’d go for. That said I do accept that such a move could be seen as a backwards step; when the club is desperately trying to gain momentum moving forwards on all fronts. To some Benitez also became a divisive figure towards the end of his tenure; although his working conditions left him with an unfair and inhospitable environment within which to operate – and thus unfair to judge him on. To be fair I think he often got caught in the middle of things and became a focal point because of his love for the club. Is this a bad thing?

I suspect that Rafa won’t get another try, this time round. Indeed his next opportunity may only arrive at Anfield once he’s found success elsewhere. At which point I’m sure some will be banging on FSG’s email inbox asking why they didn’t take him when they had the chance.

Because, as in life, FSG (unless we have immediate success) will be damned whichever way they go. We’ve become very good at showing our dis-pleasure – perhaps a little too good? We can share views and opinions immediately and we can also shape opinions through the explosion of social media.

Personally I think it’s time to just let things crinkle out for a while and give FSG some breathing space to make decisions. We have after all only just finished the season.

I’ve seen that some individuals have been singled out for having direct contact with the club. I’m a little bemused as to why. I find it refreshing that views are being sought from outside the confines of the board room. Views which shouldn’t just be restricted to those delivered from the supporters committee – as good an idea as the committee is. I can only assume there is some dis-satisfaction with who is and (perhaps more importantly) isn’t being contacted. If I owned the club I’d want views from far and wide, but we all know I could never take on board views from everybody. I hope those who were singled out do not withdraw from any involvement (as minor as it may be) with the club. Then the majority lose out, for the sake of the few.

From a management perspective I see nothing to be worried about at this juncture. If we’re two weeks from the start of next season with key people missing then we can start to bang the drums. Let’s face it if the club announced all new appointments today we’d start shouting about them rushing things. Once, not so long ago, there was a time for action. That time has gone and hopefully will not return. Now there is a time for a more dignified unison from the club’s supporters. That time should start… now!

Coming soon… full review of 2011 LFC accounts (subscribe on the left to be notified once published) 

Pause?

Posted: September 21, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Site News

What do you mean there are only 24 hours in a day!

Turns out that 24 are not enough. In between work, family and a myriad of other things I’m just not getting the time to keep posting here (or anywhere else for that matter). So I’m hitting pause on Invincible Bastion for the time being. Hopefully in the future more time will present itself, as long as it’s not accompanied by a P45 again!

Blogging has been a real eye opener for me and I remain amazed that the site was attracting over 4,500 hits a day at its peak. There was me thinking I just spoke rubbish!

If you do like what I’ve had to say (fools) then I will still be contributing to other sites etc. I find I can be more flexible with other commitments, rather than trying to ensure x amount of posts get put on here every month. The main ones will be:

Well Red Magazine – If you don’t buy this magazine then you’re mad!

The Tomkins Times – Yes it’s subscription based but if any site was worth a few quid every month it’s this one. Especially if you are level headed, able to debate reasonably and want to interact without caps lock or screaming!

There will also be other sites I hope to contribute to, who’ve contacted me in the past. So I’ll be around and of course I’m always on twitter @mcdonaldtaf

‘Do you know what I don’t understand?’ I said to the other half, in a serious monotone. ‘Quantum physics!’ she laughed; probably more out of pity than anything else. My jokes have never been the best.

It makes sense that I don’t understand quantum physics – hence why my joke was so funny. But what doesn’t make sense (and what I also can’t comprehend) is this feeling of optimism I get at every ‘new season’s eve’.

I even had it last year. Well! It was a little different last year. Maybe more along the lines of ‘it won’t be that bad’. Even the signing of Joe Cole made me wonder if we could push our way into the top four. Maybe he’d just gone stale at Chelsea and he’d be rejuvinated in red. Oh, how wrong was I? Poor misguided fool.

It’s not wrong though, is it? It’s perfectly normal to get questions running through your mind:

What if all the signings turn out to be first class, can we push for top four or maybe even better?

Will it make a big difference with us not playing in Europe, while others around us are?

Have Arsenal blown their chances of top four, with two of their best players on the way out of the door? (obviously not the best of poets either!)

Can Kenny Dalglish carry the team to silverware, given the form he got out of a weaker team at the end of last season?

Despite my current optimism my brow has become increasingly furrowed with each signing we’ve made. I’m not sure I understand the logic of paying such a premium for English players. The signing of Andy Carroll still makes my head spin. Not that he’s a bad player and not that he can’t become a great one. Just because the level of improvement we’ll need to see to warrant such an expensive investment is vast.

There is clearly a strategy in play. A plan has been formalised and is being followed with great rigour. Inexorably leading us to fielding the highest number of british players a Liverpool side has seen in a long time. After harping on so many times last season about the need for Fenway Sports Group to plan fully and think differently. I would be a hypocrite to start complaining now.

You can’t help but feel that we’re at a tipping point though. The last chance saloon? If the plan doesn’t work, worse – if it backfires completly, the top four could be a long lost forgotten dream. Our owners don’t appear to have the same financial clout as the clubs we’re competing against, they’ve even admitted as much. So if this doesn’t work – is there money for a plan B? Doubtful.

And yet, I feel optimistic. That optimism is bourne out of trust. Trust in Fenway Sports Group, Damien Commolli and in particular Kenny Dalglish. Three parties all pointing in the same direction, singing from the same hymn sheet with the same goal in mind. What would we have given for that at the start of last season?

No European football will undoutbtedly have a telling impact on how the season unfolds. How many times did we see strong European performances followed by lacklustre domestic showings a few days later. European games put an additional pressure on squads, which in the past has been quite telling. Let’s face it none of those teams in European action are going to want to face us a few days after a trip away.

As for the signings. Well I have to trust those who make such decisions. I’ve been puzzled by them, but I believe those, who know far more than me, believe in why they have made them. Even at a premium. None of them are bad signings, just expensive ones. But if we get greater team cohesion from the outset (and into the future) who’s to say what might actually happen next season.

Cards on the table time. The bit I’ll probably cringe at come the end of the season. But I am going to be brave and set it in cyberspace stone. I think we’ll finish top four, probably with a cup. That will be a platform to build from for the future.

With a dose of good luck, or maybe even just avoiding the dose of bad luck we’ve been known for, I think we could possibly achieve even more. There’s a plan – it’s different and seems to be getting followed meticulously. Put that together with our great club’s key figures all pointing in the same direction and the worlds greatest fans behind them – who knows. Maybe we’ll just skip straight past the platform step.

Coming Soon… Blogging

Posted: July 5, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Business, Finance, Site News
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New job, relocating, close season and only one contributor to this site means only one thing – no posts! Apologies for my lack of posts and tweets and everything else. Normal service will resume when the new season kicks off (or shortly before). I’m looking forward to getting settled and writing again if the truth be told.

So just one quick LFC snippet for you to think about. I read an excellent piece about LFC and UEFA financial fair play rules on The Tomkins Times by Dan Kennett. There is one thing that concerns me about the whole thing though. That is while other clubs may find a way to navigate the rules in one way or another we’ll use it as a reason/excuse for tightening the purse strings.  Given the importance of top 4 football and the financial strength of the opposition there could be worrying times ahead. UEFA’s new initiative may well ensure the financial viability of the top clubs in the league. Whether they will be robust enough to stop the steroid like financial injections into club’s balance sheets is yet to be seen.

I’ll keep pondering on it. No doubt, more soon!

Liverpool FC Accounts

Posted: May 6, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Business, Finance, Liverpool FC
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You’ll be able to catch my thoughts on the accounts either at The Tomkins Times or in the next issue of Well Red Magazine. In the meantime though, following some requests, the accounts are available for download here:

LFC Annual Accounts 2010

Warrior Going On About?

Posted: April 22, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Business, Finance, Liverpool FC
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This morning’s news that we’re on the verge of securing a new kit deal sparked a few twitter conversations and debates. Mainly because most people were wondering who the hell Warrior actually were. They may be better known in America; but over here a lot of people were sat scratching their heads.

Now the goods news is that, from a financial perspective, the deal looks to be very good. £25m per year blows away Manchester United and Nike’s record deal and will certainly help fill the coffers as Anfield. Coffers which may soon have the additional pressure of no European football, for at least one season.

If you look at the deal from a brand perspective though, it looks like a better deal for Warrior. They may be paying for the privilege, but I imagine they are quietly patting themselves on the back at such a coup. Attracting a joint venture with a brand as big as Liverpool FC.

I’m confident that FSG and the club know what they are doing. It is entirely plausible this is the right deal for the club, at the right time. The need to increase revenues outweighing the potential damage to the club’s brand. You see what we have is a match which doesn’t quite look right. Imagine Prince William marrying one of those daughters from my big fat gypsy wedding next week. Ok, maybe I’m being a little harsh. But the fact remains that Warrior have had to pay some big money to have the privilege of supplying our kits. (I’m sure if the Gypsy folk had the money they’d of tried tapping Wills up.)

When it comes to the leading marques in sport, even Warrior’s owners New Balance look like the poor relations. According to Wikipedia New Balance’s revenues total $1.55bn with 4,000 employees. Quite a sum, but when compared to Nike ($19bn and 34,000 employees) and Adidas ($12bn 42,000 employees) the gulf becomes very evident. In fairness New Balance’s figures were from 2006; but unless they doubled every year they’ll still be miles behind. [Update: I'm reliably informed New Balance's current revenues are $1.65bn]

Then consider the branding work undertaken by the likes of Nike and Adidas. The flashy adverts, sponsorship deals and other brand associations place them clearly at the pinnacle of the sporting good manufacturers. The question is, should we be accepting an association with a company most reds had never heard of until this morning?

I’ve seen the comments of ‘who cares about branding’. To the core of the reds support based in the UK who makes the kit is not as important. But our world wide appeal is very important to the club’s future. There is also those casual kit buyers, of which I am one. If I see a nice Barcelona kit I buy it and it’s the same for international kits. Will we sell as many kits in the UK? Quite possibly. Are we likely to see a reduction in the number of kits sold abroad, especially if they don’t get the design right? Quite possibly.

Flagship brands have to associate themselves with other flagship brands. If they don’t then they run the risk of damaging their own brand.

Arsenal F.C. – O2 and Nike
Manchester United – AON and Nike
Chelsea – Samsung and Adidas
Liverpool – Standard Chartered and Warrior

Which name looks like the odd one out?

All may not be lost though. In much the same way as I said FSG should bring a fresh approach to Liverpool FC, maybe Warrior should bring a new approach to kit design. An approach which will see the fans more involved in the actual design of the kit. It has always puzzled me why the design of such a standard commodity as a football shirt has to be kept under cover and designed by a closed group.

It’s not an idea of my own, as Gareth Roberts (@robbohuyton) of Well Red Magazine first put the thought in my head. But maybe the new fans committee, which will branch out to large groups of fans, could play a key role in the design of the new kits. With a majority of fans having the final say when presented with a range of kits. The technology exists and the club already runs polls. Why can’t FSG (with Warrior) again take a different approach?

This is not a major disaster and like I say it is quite possibly the right decision, in the current circumstances. However it also feels like a downgrading of our kit supplier to me, even if we’re getting more money for that downgrading. The best should associate themselves with the best, this deal does not do that.

Look behind, look ahead

Posted: April 20, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Liverpool FC
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As the season approaches its conclusion. Maybe now is a good time for a little reflection, on what has been a season full of ups and downs. At this moment it looks increasingly likely that Manchester United will beat us to number 19. That in itself is enough for us to start reaching for a bottle. But when it’s coupled with a season which saw us become embroiled in a battle at the foot of the table – well, is one bottle enough?

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The Echoes of Silence

Posted: March 30, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Liverpool FC
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Quiet around here, isn’t it? Pretty quiet everywhere in fact. No games and no drama coupled together with a closed transfer window leaves us all in the same position. Like being a newly elected president kicking his heels till the inauguration, patiently waiting for the new dawn.

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In 1959 Bill Shankly took on a task of behemoth proportions. One which was completed expediently and achieved so much more than simply seeing Liverpool Football Club returned to the top of the football pyramid. While many would see Livepool’s 6th title win in the 1963/64 season as a crowning achievement in itself, it was only the start. Shankly was laying the foundations for decades to come. Foundations which would be built upon by subsequent managers. Turning the club, as well as Anfield, into a fortress – a bastion of invincibility.

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I Need 100 Liverpool Fans (Again)

Posted: March 1, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Liverpool FC
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I’m writing a piece for the next edition of Well Red Magazine and need 100 fans to complete a survey about FSG’s performance to date (along with some other matters). If you’re interested then please email me mcdonaldtaf76@gmail.com with how long you have supported the reds and your twitter username (if you have one) to obtain a password for the following link.