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A Defining Season for the Fenway Sports Group at Liverpool FC

john w henry A Defining Season for the Fenway Sports Group at Liverpool FC

To many followers of the game, this one included, it is doubtful whether Kenny Dalglish was ever really the man that Fenway Sports Group (FSG) wanted in the first instance given their penchant, and the sounds that came out of the club even before the departure of Hodgson, for appointing a younger coach. Theo Epstein, for instance, was just twenty-eight when FSG appointed him as General Manager for the Boston Red Sox. With this in mind, the appointment of Brendan Rodgers this past June was of little surprise given his ability to fit the profile that FSG appeared to set for hiring Dalglish’s successor. It is arguable now that approaching two years following their arrival, FSG now has a manager in place that they feel comfortable with.

However, tremors are ever so slightly beginning to be felt from the Kop. Only slight, but strong enough to take a reading. The sacking of Dalglish was always going to upset many connected to the club given the emotional bond he holds with the supporters but the subsequent search for his successor angered more given the manner in which it appeared to be conducted.

The office of the manager’s chair once graced by the likes of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Dalglish himself seemed to be hawked around European managers as though some kind of transatlantic beauty parade only to be knocked back publicly by some of the incumbents themselves to the indignity of the Liverpool supporters. It is telling that Rodgers himself refused talks with the owners unless it became clear that he were not one of a dozen or so that were asked to take the stage to be judged via a score card. His eventual arrival was greeted with a sigh of relief that the apparent fiasco was finally over. However, the process did little to reassure onlookers that FSG are finally getting to grips with the game they knew little about at the outset.

Perhaps of more concern to Liverpool supporters should be that in appointing Rodgers, FSG second guessed themselves by going against their instincts in deciding against appointing a Director of Football to replace the also sacked Damien Commoli. Commoli’s appointment in the first instance, appointed on the recommendation of Billy Beane, he of ‘Moneyball’ fame and the Oakland A’s baseball team’s general manager, surprised many and did little to dispel doubts regarding the steep footballing learning curve that FSG faced.

Every media outlet reported during the search for Dalglish’s successor that his replacement would be more of a ‘Head Coach’ type without overall responsibility for player recruitment. That particular job would be divided between a technical board so that one man was not ultimately responsible. The idea is more at home on the continent than in England where managers traditionally have control of this aspect. However, it is widely believed that this is the route that FSG had decided to go down. Louis Van Gaal was reportedly on the verge of assuming the DOF position.

Ultimately, it appears that in appointing Rodgers, whom was reported as refusing to be a part of this, they have decided to stick to the traditional British manager model in order to get the man the wanted. It has been met with some scratching of heads in that conducting a search for a man to fit into the model they were creating they then decided to tear this up again at the first signs of dissension. Whether they should have followed their instincts remains to be seen but they have aroused scepticisms of being indecisive in this regard.

More pertinently for many, the new stadium, or the redevelopment of Anfield, is still no closer to being confirmed. Something few would have imagined back in October 2010. It can be appreciated that John Henry and co have obstacles to overcome before anything can be finalised but this is of scant consolation to supporters, not to mention the residents in the terribly run-down Anfield community, whom have waited for years for this project to get going. It is clear that FSG will not invest their own money for a new stadium. The estimated £300m cost of a 60,000 stadium will not make financial sense for an investment company to justify for what is essentially 15,000 extra seats on top of Anfield’s current capacity. Only with a naming rights partner could a new stadium become a reality and that search has not yet born fruit.

FSG found themselves in a similar situation with Fenway Park once they had purchased the Boston Red Sox and ultimately decided to renovate and stay put at the historic old baseball stadium. This could be duplicated at Anfield if FSG are able to navigate through a mountain of red tape and moral choices concerning the fate of the neighbours in the homes immediately outside of Anfield, the expansion of which would see the purchase and demolition of some homes whose owners may not want to move, as well as the consideration to the ‘right to light’ law that an expansion may deprive others of.

There are no easy decisions to make in regards to the stadium question but FSG should be seen as making progress in this regard rather than treading water. Hicks and Gillett came promising ‘a spade in the ground’ within sixty days but, like many others, this turned out to be a false promise. With this in mind, the new stadium, or the expansion of the current one, has turned into a symbol of trust for the owners. The supporters and local residents are sick and tired of being misled by 15 years of false dawns and of grand looking plans that cost millions to design and are then torn up and begun anew. FSG must become more transparent with up to date information unless they wish to arouse fresh suspicions upon their motives as owners.

By the same token, it would help their cause greatly if they became more of a visible presence at Anfield. To many, the club lacked clear leadership off the field last season and the owners appeared to be missing in action as the club swung from one crisis to another. FSG could argue, perhaps justifiably, that the boots on the ground in L4 let them down last season but they did themselves few favours by appearing detached at crucial moments of the season. The decision to fly back to Boston to catch the opening games of the Baseball season rather than attend the Hillsborough memorial service won them few friends. If FSG wish to maintain the goodwill that has generally accompanied them thus far than they need to take heed of how such gestures are interpreted within a city like Liverpool.

An owners interest in their club is generally judged by how active they have been in the transfer market but Liverpool have been strangely subdued this time around. FSG have invested large sums in previous transfer windows but the sums received from departing players has off-set that to a degree.

Supporters disappointed by a risible eighth place finish last time around are understandably concerned by the lack of activity taking place. The names mentioned as possibly incoming, such as Clint Dempsey and Joe Allen, are good players in their own right but few could argue that they are of a good enough upgrade on the existing squad to bump an underachieving squad to fourth place and the Champions League. Patience, something lacking at Anfield since an arguably unjust guillotine landed on Benitez’s neck in 2010, will perhaps have to be found again lest the pressure on FSG and by definition Brendan Rodgers becomes heated.

The talk of major players departures are disconcerting to some that view the club as on the precipice of slipping away into sleeping giant obscurity once and for all. The departure of an Agger or a Reina would not go down well at present. However, the longer the club stagnates on the pitch then the greater the risk of losing the key building blocks to any successful side. With this in mind, FSG must think big if it wants to convince supporters that they are ‘here to win’ as FSG’s Tom Werner had assured.

Few have played the transfer market worse than Liverpool over the past four years but Football, to almost paraphrase Gordon Gecko, never sleeps. Investment has to be continual lest a club wishes to fall behind in the running. For Liverpool, falling even more behind the front runners could be terminal for the ambitions they profess to hold. For the Fenway Sports Group, both on and off the pitch, this is the season that they must deliver.

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27 Responses to A Defining Season for the Fenway Sports Group at Liverpool FC

  1. Michael says:

    Never new they didn’t attend the memorial service instead went to the baseball wtf! I worry alot about Liverpool, but that is something I have become use to…A festering lack of movement in to the club at the moment. Kenny wasn’t good enough but all his signings will lead the charge this season… Andy Carroll way to smash his confidence again if he does stay… Haven’t replaced Ngog,Kuyt,Maxi. Talk of Agger & Skrtle going omg… and a hostile reception for Suarez at everyground next season! 11th place here we come.

  2. crazyhorse says:

    Well,well,well it is now becoming clear to many blinkered liverpool fans what these americans are doing to our
    club,raping and killing us by stealth! i thought liverpool fans were smart and had good nouse but iam not so sure
    now,the sight of american flags on the kop with the fans chanting usa usa wanted to make me puke when hicks n
    gillette took over and decided to rape n pillage in L4 a few years back,the fans woke up and fought back,(be careful what you wish for though) because once again after a couple more american clowns have the club in a
    noose the fans are waking up and about time too! I dont want to hear any crap about these zionists saving our club from going into administration because they bought the club for next to nothing with the help of their freemason brothers in arms,and you know who i mean,they have no intention of putting real money into the club
    only taking money out (watch the players who will be sold and the reason given will be to trim the wage bill,
    rogan taylor was spot on about the need of the fans to buy the club with share bonds i believe barcalona went down this road a few years back and never looked back.I believe the fans who love liverpool football club need
    to rise up against these people who have no love for our club but only a love of money!

  3. Paul says:

    “Not interested to put real money to put into our club”.

    Liverpool fans are delusional. I don’t understand the whole “cutting your nose, spiting your face” some fans have. The current ownership is better than Hicks and Gillett. They want to spend the money to bring the club back to where it was. With financial fair play, they cannot spend beyond their means.
    You should put the blame where it deserves to be: Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comoli who wasted over 75 million pounds in investments. Liverpool has been one of the top spenders in the league for the past few years so you cannot blame ownership, rather the players that resources are being spent on.
    You have a good manager in Brandon Rodgers who will get value in the market. You might not see instant success this year but it is a start.

    As for Barcelona having fans buying the club. You’d then be dealing with another beast: Board politics.

    It is even worse than MUST who wants us MUFC fans to hurt the club financially so the Glazers can sell the club. How stupid and backward is that? Do they even realize the implications of damaging the club financially?

    • Mufc77 says:

      As much as I hate Kenny dalglish and Liverpool if I was really going to blame someone for their current problems I’d go all the way back to whoever owned the club at the start of the preier league era.

      The owner, chairman, CEO and all those at the top level dropped the ball big time by not tapping into liverpools worldwide fanbase and by not sorting the stadium situation out sooner. They have stood still while other clubs like City, Chelsea and Arsenal have passed them by and shortly they will be watching as spurs leave them trailing.

      Ive never been to anfield but Ive been told it’s a dump by fans of several teams, it’s time for them to bite the bullet and build another stadium with a 70+ capacity and start making some serious match day income. These new owners were clearly counting on selling the tv rights to games on a individual basis to make money but that’s not going to happen any time soon.

      If they don’t stop the decline this season and players leave I could honestly see Liverpool in relegation trouble in 3-4 years time when Steven gerrard retires, It would be a sad day if it came to that.

  4. Clampdown says:

    They must deliver what? Top 4, or would improvement over last season and a demonstration that the club is on the right track be good enough?

  5. David Tully says:

    Hi Clampdown,

    By deliver, I mean in the sense of proving that the club is moving in the right direction both on and off the field. I doubt any Liverpool supporter would argue that a top 4 finish is a minimum requirement for next season given the events of the previous three season.

    Cheers,
    David

    • Clampdown says:

      Yes, realistically, that’s what I hope for as well. Some others talk as if top 4 is an imperative. I would love it, but I’m not expecting it.

      I like Rodgers and think he’s the right guy on which to take a chance. And, thus far, I think FSG have acted with the club’s best interest at heart. They took a chance on Dalglish (as if they really had a choice) and Commoli, and it didn’t work. The issues they’re dealing with in regard to the stadium aren’t easy. But I hope the supporters are willing to give them some time.

  6. crazyhorse says:

    Clampdown are you taking drugs?? how have these american clowns acted in the best interest of my club?
    do one and take these american conmen with you.

    • Clampdown says:

      What would you like them to do?

    • snavehtrebor says:

      I think in terms of ownership, Mr. Horse would prefer a middle eastern Shiekh or perhaps a Russian gangster rather than an American Clown/Conman/Cowboy (pick one). Because, you know, Americans.

    • Paul says:

      crazyhorse,
      you sound more like a xenophobe then somebody who’s worried about the club.

      http://swissramble.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/liverpool-keep-car-running.html

      read this and educate yourself. If you know how to read that is!!!

      • crazyhorse says:

        Paul would you like to explain how on earth from my comments you can accuse me of being a xenophobe ?
        if you really knew anything about me you would find me the total opposite,i dont have a fear of people from
        far off places or a loathing or hatred of my brothers and sisters from around the planet, we are all one
        consciousness experiencing reality from a single point of reference and veiw the illusion we call reality from
        the vehicle we call body,we all go through life thinking how smart and clever we all are,but we only trying to
        learn and evolve, to find a meaning to understand why we are here on this rock called mother earth,now say if
        i dont agree with the actions of a person or country because they invade or attack others to control ,kill for the oil
        minerals or gold of the country then that is my choice and duty as a member of the human race to speak out over
        these countries that commit crimes against humanity,so if i have a dislike of say America, Israel, russia, any middle eastern country,China or even the Uk it is not a hatred of people that i have but an objection, to people
        anywhere in the world ,men women and children being blown to bits, in order for these occultists and murderers
        in power serving a global agenda to enslave humanity, these tyrannts i have what you would call a hatred towards and so should any decent person ! wether you are black,yellow,brown pink or white i dont give a toss!
        if you want to pray to an invisable deity thats your own personal choice,but paul one thing for sure mate,i aint
        xenophobic.

  7. crazyhorse says:

    To be honest i would like a honest scouser who had a few bob and had a love of the club….but that aint gonna
    happen,and mr horse would never in a million sundays want a dirty russian gangster like the rent boys from chelski,nor would i want a middle eastern puppet shiekh who tortures and kills his own people to keep the zionists happy, and yes , i do hate americans well the criminals who are in the corridoors of power and serve
    the globalist agenda to enslave humanity,so in the bigger picture i would rather us be poor in relative terms
    compared to city and chelsea because we liverpool fans have something money cant buy,and that is something
    your born with and stays with you throughout your life and beyond into eternity and that something is a real love
    a bond that you have from cradle to grave and can never be broken or bought for the price of a dirty dollar or bloody oil..end of.ynwa

  8. crazyhorse says:

    And if we sell agger to that cult team the blue moonies for 20 mill am gonna chuck liverpool and getta new love
    in my life! he,he…….when you look at the city owners dont you just think of Frank Zappa ?

  9. Fernando says:

    This Liverpool team will go as far as Luis Suarez goals will take them. As their best player, Liverpool must hope he gets the focus back to his goal scoring prowess and away from everything else.

    The issue with Liverpool is somehow balancing patience with the need to not over react to bad results. Liverpool’s aim should be a top six finish b/c the roster as currently constructed is not in the same league as the last year’s top four. Can Liverpool pull a Newcastle this year? Remains to be seen but stranger things have happened.

  10. Realtalk says:

    Very pessimistic outlook and responses. The owners gave done a huge deal to pull the club out of debt. Also they tried to invest last season on players but see that now as being unsuccessful so obviously are more cautious this window. As them them not attending the Hilsborough mem service, im sure their reasons are not JUST to see a few baseball games. The stadium situation is an extremely difficult one and even if they do have a larger capacity the match day revenue will only be paying back the cost of the building for at least 20 yrs do people will moan about that.
    The problem is people are constantly looking for negative things and comparing to the past. I’m not saying to blinding follow everything the owners do but they do need support and time. REAL supporters will do that. If you want instant success go and support Chekski City or PSG. they buy their success.
    The reality is other clubs have come up to speed and to get 6th season would be an indication of moving in the right direction. A new manager means he want to have a squad to play his style of football and if it’s got players that can’t adapt then even if LFC finish in 8th they’ll be lucky. The men of the moment Kuyt and Maxi are gone. Carroll will have lost confidence again if he stays. Borini will take time as he’s young. Suarez scores when he has quality support who knows his movements which doesn’t look like happening this season. And yes NGog whether you like him or not was never replaced. This sounds negative but what do you expect them to do. They can’t be held ransom to clubs and agents charging extortionate fees for talented player who will only jump ship when there’s no champ league. People can say how did we get Suarez then. Do you notice nothing has been mentioned about his contract extension. He will be gone in 1-2 years guaranteed.
    REAL supporters need to wake up and be realistic. It will take time just to get back to top 4. Maybe 2-3 seasons. Mainly due to the rise of City Tottenham and Newcastle even. The first 2 playing far superior football to us. This is not going to change in 1 season with a new manager installing pass and move. You will see improvement, but to get to the standard of football played by the other 5 clubs will take a few years. That’s a fact.
    Liverpool is not the same force it was, but with patience and support it can be.

  11. Jerry says:

    The problem with Liverpool is that the way they are being run will keep them as a midtable team for some time to come.

    Look at the players they have brought in (Borini) or are inetersted in (Allen, Williams) and you get the idea that they are miles from challenging for a top 4 spot. Contrast that with the players signed or about to sign for Chelsea, the Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Spurs and you can see the problem at Liverpool. Also, having to sell one of your best defenders (Agger) to fund transfers shows that FSG doesn’t have the resources of the other clubs challenging for a European spot.

    The way the top clubs are run today they are always willing to spend big to remain at the top. It may take Liverpool 2-3 years to develop a side capable of competing in the top 4 but the problem is that the other top clubs keep spending big in bringing in quality talent to make it difficult to topple them.

  12. Realtalk says:

    What the point bringing in players like the top clubs you mentioned if they leave after 2 yrs. you need players with the desire to play for LFC not Champs league. The main problem with LFC are the fickle supporters who are weak and get influenced by the media and other supporters. Show some strength and backbone and stop moaning or fuck off to another club.
    Agger isn’t going anywhere. It’s so obvious his agent spending rumours to negotiate a better contract. Rogers even said agents are doing this for this reason. WAKE UP!

  13. Paul says:

    Liverpool got no choice but to sell Agger if they dont make the top 4 this year. His contract is coming to an end and there are more than 1 club willing to pay him top wages.
    Liverpool needs a new stadium. If they hang around mid-table, then how do you realistically expect them to improve the squad and pay the likes of Agger top wages?? It doesn’t make any sense.

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