ACCOUNTING AND BUSINESS


 

 

 


 



REVEALED: HOW HICKS AND GILLETT SAVED LIVERPOOL FROM MEDIOCRITY

New Liverpool-Kop writer ALEX MILLER explores how the unpopular Americans have actually been good for the club, and examines how Liverpool's future is looking bright as a result..

There is no other way to put it other than to come straight to the point.  Tom Hicks and George Gillett are good for Liverpool.

There, I've said it. Now, before you call for the men in white coats, let me start to explain why, by stepping back just 3 or 4 years.

You remember back then? We were in danger of losing touch with Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal at the top of the table. We were becoming a middle of the road club, the sort of club that would settle for pipping Everton and finishing fifth or sixth each season.

We really were going that way. Just listen to the likes of  Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard , both of whom discussed the issue in their respective books.

Michael Owen had left the club he love; Gerrard almost left for Chelsea (twice). And why? Because we were becoming also-rans.

That seems like a long time ago now.

Since the  Americans bought the club in 2007, we have reached a Champions League final and improved our performances in the league immeasurably. Of course, it must be noted Rafa Benitez was already in place and already getting to grips with the Premiership when they arrived.

Back to the present. These days we no longer fear finishing 30 points behind Chelsea and Man Utd, as was the case only a few years ago. Now, we genuinely hope to pip them.

Last season was a  brilliant league campaign for us; it was just bloody unfortunate that Man Utd held their nerve to deny us (experience of winning titles and luck at vital times helped that lot).

But Rafa and the lads couldn't have achieved their recent successes without a decent level of support from the owners. Let me put it another way, since arriving, Hicks and Gillett have not actually harmed our league form have they? In fact, our expectations in the league have been rising steadily over the last few seasons.

Since the Americans arrived, we have also  smashed our transfer record several times over. They promised us big signings, and they have undoubtedly delivered on that point. Just look at some of the impressive deals Hicks and Gillett have rubber-stamped:

£20m on Fernando Torres
£20m on Alberto Acquilani
£20m on Robbie Keane
£18m on Glen Johnson
£17m on Javier Mascherano

Even the £6.5m we spent on Martin Skrtel smashed our record fee for a defender at the time.

Now we are no longer at risk of losing our best players to domestic rivals, as was the painful reality only a few years ago.

Torres, Gerrard, Agger, Kuyt, Benayoun and Rafa were wanted by other big clubs home and abroad, but have all recently  signed new long-term deals with us. The chances are Mascherano will sign a new deal when the time comes, too.

And before anyone thinks of Xabi Alonso, it was hardly the fault of the Americans that he left for Real Madrid, was it?

In recent months we have also seen some impressive performances off the park too. Hicks and Gillett saw we had been seriously under-performing off the pitch for many years, and promised us we would improve commercially.

We are.

Furthermore, a very public spat with  Rick Parry ended with him leaving in the summer. Now, whatever your feelings about Parry, you can't help notice his successor  Christian Purslow already looks far superior in terms of being able to bring cash into the club. He already seems to better understand our commercial value. Good on him, after all, we are Liverpool.

The  Standard Chartered shirt deal is very impressive. This is the biggest deal of its kind ever, worth at least £80m over 4 seasons. And how was this achieved? By skilled negotiations by our new managing director Purslow (a Liverpool fan by the way) - brought in by the Americans.

Would the Standard Chartered deal have been done if Parry was still with us? I really don't need to answer that, do I? More of the same with Carlsberg, I suspect.

This Standard Chartered deal could really extend our supporter base right across the world, especially across Asia. More importantly for us though, it could lead to Rafa having more transfer funds.

Just as impressive as the that deal was another revelation almost completely ignored at the time of the sponsorship announcement, i.e. Purslow's intention to continue working with  Carlsberg. There is now talk of a £5m a season deal with Carlsberg from next year, even though they won't be on our shirts (almost as much as our current shirt deal).

Other deals are certain to revealed soon, while new investors are continually been invited to the table, as was recently confirmed by Hicks and Gillett.

There is even talk of selling the naming rights of our new ground. Carlsberg are also said to be interested in sponsoring our new ground for an estimated £100m+ over a 10 year period - dwarfing Arsenal's Emirates deal.

Ah yes, and talking of our new ground - does anyone actually believe we won't have a new ground at some point in the near future? It will be built; there is no doubt about it. The Yanks have already spent millions of pounds on developing the project.

It is vital to them that it does get built. The credit crunch has simply delayed the building. It isn't Hicks' and Gillett's fault that we are all in recession (or do some of you blame them for the credit crunch, too?). Once the better times return, the ground will go up.

So you see there are plenty of positive signs that the Liverpool giant is really beginning to reawaken after years of sleeping on the job. Maybe number 19 is now a more realistic possibility than at any time since King Kenny walked away.

Hicks and Gillett are clearly at Liverpool to make money. However, if while they are looking to do that, Liverpool continues to buy quality players, enjoys more success, builds a great new stadium, sees more cash come in and our fan base grow, do we really care?

Don't get me wrong. We can't forget the many stupid things Hicks and Gillett have said and done since buying the club. Broken debt promises; the  courting of Jurgen Klinnsman; numerous  public spats and so on, but it's not all been bad has it?

The pair have made serious errors. Maybe now though, after a couple of years at the helm, they might just understand our heritage a little better, who knows?

It could be that 10 years from now, we will all be able to look back and grudgingly admit Hicks and Gillett gave the club the kick up the backside it badly needed. It may have been a bloody painful journey, but ultimately worth it.

Imagine the scene.

Bars in Bootle, Delhi and Shanghai all packed to the rafters as Liverpool fans across the world celebrate another Premiership title coming home at the end of the 2019/20 season.

'We're flying. Four Premiership titles on the bounce, let's see if the lads can make it 5 next year, I'd be made up if we bring home number 23. Maybe our priority ought to be the Champions League though, number 7 would be boss. We haven't won it for 3 seasons now,' chuckles Stan in Bootle.

Meanwhile in Delhi. 'The extended Carlsberg Anfield will be open next season too, an extra 5,000 fans in, that'll make us even stronger at home. Can't wait to hear 70,000 of us singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' adds Sunil.

The beers flow, thoughts turn back to 2007. 'Funny to think we might not be winning the league again if the Americans hadn't bought us out,' ponders Ken Ho in Shanghai.

It could just happen you know.
BY ALEX MILLER - FRIDAY, OCTOBER 02, 2009