In 1959, following a successful start to the decade, Liverpool found itself a club in decline – lying mid-table in the Second Division. But then a man by the name of Bill Shankly walked through the door. Shankly immediately set about plans to overhaul every aspect of the club, releasing 24 players he deemed not fit to wear the shirt, as well as revitalizing the way the players trained and creating a close-knit team of backroom staff.
Needless to say the club never looked back and after gaining promotion and stabilizing the club in the top flight, Liverpool clinched their first league title under the new regime in 1963-64. The foundations were laid and along with his successor Bob Paisley, Liverpool went on to dominate the game in both England and Europe for two decades during the 70’s and 80’s.
Fast forward to now and similarities can be drawn between that December back in 1959 and the start of ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish’s first full season in charge. Granted Dalglish need not worry about the state of the club’s training facilities, and with the modern day salaries he will not be hiring a bus to take the players from Anfield to Melwood – times have changed. He has however inherited a squad that is stumbling, finishing 7th and 6th in the last two seasons respectively.
A quick look at the Liverpool squad will show you that over the past few years it has become littered with deadwood on inexplicably high wages. The blame for which should lie mainly at the feet of the previous owners, who by bleeding the club dry through loans and interest payments forced then manager Rafa Benitez into taking gambles on these mercenaries.
As a result the task facing Dalglish is a sizeable one, although thankfully for him he has the backing of Fenway Sports Group (FSG) – an altogether different set of owners from cowboys Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Led by principal owner John W Henry, FSG have stated their belief that in order for the club to make money it must be successful, and therefore funds to build a squad capable of challenging will be available.
The signings of Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson not only provide an example of the financial muscle FSG are prepared to flex, they also illustrate the preferred model of purchasing youth with potential (and resale value). Had Fernando Torres been signed by FSG he would have been a perfect example of the model – signing for Liverpool aged 23 for around £22m and after scoring a lot of goals for the club being sold for £50m.
The strategy of buying the best young talent is a perfect way of ensuring Liverpool can once again build a dynasty to be proud of. With this blend of youth and experienced players such as Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Dirk Kuyt to name a few, if Dalglish and Director of Football Damien Comolli manage to get the right players in over this summer period, Liverpool could have a settled squad capable of challenging for honors for years to come.
Whilst signing the top young players could provide Liverpool with a squad to be feared it does still represent a risk in the fact that not all players with plentiful potential will eventually go on to be a success at the highest level – just ask Ryan Babel. A problem FSG appears willing to offset with their ‘Moneyball’ model of being willing to ‘plug gaps by paying big money where necessary’.
The willingness to pay big money for top potential coupled with a successful youth policy could well produce a solid sustainable model. With the top coaches and academy facilities, along with a manager with a willingness to promote players through the ranks Liverpool becomes a desirable place for top youngsters to come to develop their game. It only takes a couple of these players to make the grade and substantial savings will have been made, freeing up money to plug any immediate holes that may appear with higher profile, established players.
As Chelsea’s squad ages and players from Manchester United’s golden generation slowly start to retire, the importance of Liverpool making the right choices over this transfer window could be paramount. There’s a gap to be filled at the top and with ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish being backed by what appear good owners coupled with adoring fans, there appears no reason why Liverpool cannot be the team to fill it.
Watch out – The Liver bird is rising from the ashes.
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