Jack Hallows gives his take on the current FSG divide amongst fans and why we shouldn’t be so quick to blame the owners.
We all have a right to be angry and upset with Liverpool Football Club. The wheels have fallen off spectacularly since the turn of the year and what was looking to be a fantastic season is all but over. The Reds have tumbled spectacularly out of the title race and been eliminated out of both domestic cup competitions in embarrassing fashion. Our momentum has been halted, our quality levels have dropped, our goals have dried up and most worryingly, our weaknesses have all been exposed at once.
Putting the entirety of the blame on our owners Fenway Sports Group is, however, quite simply ridiculous. The American owners have become the scapegoat for Liverpool fans’ frustrations and with many unwilling to be too critical of Klopp or his players, they have seen a large portion of the fanbase turn against them.
The release – not leak, release – of a number of email exchanges between John Henry and the rest of FSG during the time preceding their takeover of Liverpool FC haven’t helped matters, with fans simply reading too far into them and using them as fuel for the fire they’re attempting to light underneath the owners.
Some of the language and wording used in the emails was certainly ill-advised I’ll admit but for me, these emails haven’t told us anything about FSG that we weren’t already aware of.
Henry writes about Liverpool being a solid business investment that if acquired on the cheap, would represent a ‘steal’ of a deal for the Americans. Our owners weren’t drawn to the prospect of buying Liverpool because of our illustrious history or trophy record. They’re businessmen. They made an investment and truth be told, it’s paying off big time for them. The club was an absolute mess on the brink of administration when they took it over and they’ve restored it back to full health, seeing it recently valued by Forbes at over £1.16 billion.
There have been errors along the way over the last seven years sure, with certain signings, transfer dealings and of course last season’s ticket pricing gaff all being unfortunate highlights but there’s no hiding the truth. FSG have given Liverpool stability, injected financial prowess into the club and also fixed a large number of the problems that they were faced with when taking over – including the gorgeous new Main Stand. They even managed to recruit Jürgen Klopp as our manager despite our reputation as a European superpower starting to dwindle.
Okay sure, Liverpool have only finished above sixth once during FSG’s tenure and the trophy count hasn’t exactly been illustrious. However, it is not our owner’s fault that Liverpool’s players have reached a number of domestic cup finals/semi-finals and even a Europa League final but not been able to turn it on when it mattered. It’s also not their fault that the Reds faltered at the final hurdle in 2013/14, coming so agonisingly close to a first Premier League title only for it not to come to fruition.
Much of the frustrations towards the owners is directed at their habit of not signing marquee players who cost over £40-50 million on a regular basis in the manner that City, United and Chelsea do but they forget that our owners warned us right from the start that they are not ‘sugar daddies,’ as James Pearce put it. They’re not a Sheikh Mansour or a Roman Abramovich and we have to live with that. Sure, it would probably be quite nice to sit back and watch Liverpool spend £250 million on three players, see the squad have a huge upturn in quality and performance and win the title but there’s never any guarantees in football and it’s not like FSG have spent only peanuts.
While we haven’t been able to compete in the market for targets like Paul Pogba or Kevin De Bruyne, the Americans have still sanctioned 475 million pounds worth of deals in their tenure, recouping £355 million in the process, preferring to focus on smart business.
Brendan Rodgers often lamented the use of a transfer committee but FSG have shown the nuance to learn from this. Klopp makes all final decisions now. He’s the one who has the first and final say in any transfers and it was down to him – not the owners – that we didn’t buy in January. The players Klopp wanted weren’t available and if you look at his transfer record, you will see he’s never bought for the sake of buying. He opted to sit tight and wait until the summer. The right decision? Probably not. However, the important thing to remember is that it was his decision.
There are reports circulating already that FSG are willing to back Klopp with the money to bring in as many as six high-profile targets in the summer and it’s worth remembering that while not football geniuses, our owners still want to win. Yes, primarily Liverpool was a financial investment for them but no owners want to sit back and watch the club suffer and fail.
They’ve made mistakes but they’ve shown the ability to learn from them and they most certainly should not be blamed for the shortcomings of the current squad. They may not be perfect but at least we’re not stuck with Mike Ashley.
Find Jack on Twitter if you would like to discuss his article with him.