A Critical 3 Months For Liverpool Football Club

Posted: January 15, 2010 by mcdonaldtaf in Business, Finance, Manager Talk
Tags: , , , , ,

I can’t remember in all of my years of supporting Liverpool entering into such a critical 3 month period, both on and off the pitch. Report after report enters the public domain suggesting that Anfield is in melt down; from the owners right through to the till operators off the pitch and from Rafa through to the youth team on it. All the while the sea of change in feelings among fans towards Rafa is clear. Anyone who tweets, facebooks or follows a good number of blogs will have seen a shrinking of pro Rafa statements.

The stories, which were not long ago accepted as part of a media ‘witch hunt’ against the club, are becoming gospel and used as ‘evidence’ in why Rafa should step down. There is still, to date, very little reference to the real crisis which has plagued us all season – the injury crisis. A crisis which created confidence problems and the tailspin (an excellent analogy from Paul Tomkins) we now find ourselves in.  Tony Pulis is one of few who have quite rightly pointed out that if you, as an example, take 5 of the best players (Reina, Benayoun, Johnson, Gerrard and Torres) out of any top side they are going to struggle. It is only the super sized squads, funded with endless transfer fund streams, who could maintain absolute confidence of picking up results surely?

The media continue to sell their wares in the usual way. A few months ago Rafa was lambasted for leaving on the bench, or, taking off the pitch Torres, Gerrard and/or Aquilani. “Surely if they’re on the bench or they started the match they’re fit, what is the man doing?” they cried. Just a few weeks later and having being able to play the three together for the last four games that same man has now, according to some, run two of them into the ground for playing them too often. Some media outlets make it sound like Rafa is the sole cause of their injury problems. It just goes to show that as the man at the top you’re often damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

On the negative side of Rafa, it was suggested to me yesterday by Gareth from the Well Red blog that Rafa’s determination to stick to the ‘Benitez way’ could be his downfall. I found it hard to argue with him, especially after so many losses. I do believe we have become somewhat predictable this season. Sometimes you need to shake things up and adapt to new situations. Rafa’s game plan worked last season when we had players fit (for most of the season) and everyone firing on all cylinders. It has not worked this one. Although the latest injury news is not good, maybe circumstance will drive a change in game play. Hopefully bringing what we need most at the moment… results! Even under difficult circumstances.

While we miss our influential duo playing together for the next 6 weeks and the Israeli trickster for at least 4, the pressure will no doubt increases on others. Aquilani is still finding his feet in the hustle bustle of the premiership; although the quality is clearly evident if a bit sporadic at the moment. Maxi hasn’t even been on the pitch yet, but so much is now expected of these two. There are no two ways about it, we have to start winning consistently from tomorrow.

I don’t envy Rafa’s job at the moment. A few weeks back I came into work to find my hard drive was kaput and a report I was expecting sadly lacking in Quality. So I went and bought a new Computer (a faster more powerful one) and then, after the initial setting up, I re-wrote the report myself. It was a crap day for me, yet I was able to keep control of the situation. Rafa can’t just pop to ‘Player World’ and buy Torres v2.5, nor can he take his place on the pitch.

While on the pitch antics have reached boiling point, off the pitch they continue to simmer. While my own views of the owners hasn’t changed. I have noticed a thawing of attitude towards them in some quarters. Someone who I know historically ‘hated’ H&G and what they were doing to the club surprised me by saying he was starting to warm to them. Ironically the swift resolution of the Junior e-mail fiasco together with the news of investment, possibly leading to the infamous spade finally being plunged into the ground in April, seems to be having an effect. The Junior fiasco provided an opportunity for the owners to put the club before bloodline. While the news of investment gave some an excuse to remain on the fence a while longer, or to jump back on it, until April anyway.

The approach to transfer spending, in light of no additional investment, has also begun to look prudent given the headlines surrounding Old Trafford at the moment. By not adding to the debts (although it is unlikely we could if we wanted to), our £237m of debt looks a lot more manageable than United’s £700m. In fact while our owners could make a healthy return on investment with a £350 – £500 million price tag, some are suggesting that United would have to be sold for over £1bn for the Glazers to reap any rewards. That said I would still liked to have seen our owners put their hands in their pockets to fund more player acquisitions this month. I suspect their liquid assets are somewhat stretched at the moment.

Things could also have turned out a lot worse. They say market corrections happen for a reason. So consider what would have happened if the credit crunch had started this year instead of 2008. Our debts could well be somewhere near the £700m mark by now. Yes we’d have a new stadium and better players but we would, in all likelihood, be more at risk of being the next Leeds. I will not believe anyone who tells me Liverpool couldn’t be sold tomorrow for £237m.

Have the owners given themselves some breathing space for a couple of months or more rope for the noose? I guess the next few months will tell. If the investment isn’t forthcoming and the spade not in the ground (certainly by May/June) I suspect that the fence sitters will jump down in their droves and Christian Purslow will lose some significant credibility among the fans.

So an absolutely critical three months for Liverpool Football Club. We have to start consistently winning games and cope without Gerrard and Torres. A top four finish is absolutely vital. Off the pitch investment talks must come to a satisfactory conclusion, lending relaxed and the spade put in the ground. Are the wheels falling off? No, but I’m under no illusion of what could happen should the nuts not be checked and tightened regularly over the next few months.

  1. dan says:

    Excellent balance post! I wish the media would write like this and also paul tomkins as it is really annoying me.

  2. dan says:

    When I said paul tomkins I meant he is balanced too. Btw

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