It is as though they are in a Need For Speed game and they just pressed the turbo button to jet ahead and enter amongst their competitors, who would now see them on their respective maps. This could possibly be the best way to analogize Liverpool’s recent change in, well, just about everything. It is hard to attribute the breath of fresh air at the club to one person here. Yes, the return of King Kenny and his work so far is what meets the eye first but everybody out there, including the Liverpool supporters, are now getting to see the rest of the picture. There are many who have played their part in fixing the Reds so far, and this U-turn epitomizes the Liverpool way of doing things – together.
From H&G to John Henry
Any Liverpool supporter would soon mask the loss of Fernando Torres to a new face of indignation, if the names ‘Hicks and Gillett’ were said in audible capacity. The duo, who was probably Liverpool’s biggest mercenaries, incurred an ill-fated reign since their takeover in 2007. The motive of earning money, money and more money encapsulated hollow promises of investment in new players, in a new stadium and in the rise of Liverpool on the world map. Instead, with time, their crimes slowly began to surface and introduced Liverpool to a predicament that would be more than difficult to get out of.
16 April, 2010. The day H&G decided to appoint Martin Broughton to take Liverpool out of their clutches. Liverpool never belonged to them and they never belonged to Liverpool. Broughton diligently carried out the sale process and after careful planning and consideration of numerous offers, the British Airways chairman, along with the rest of the non-American board, chose John Henry, the face of New England Sports Venture (now referred to as Fenway Sports Group). But this was not going to be as easy as one thought. RBS were seeing the possibility of pushing the club into administration and docking nine points. This piece of news did not go down well with NESV and they were ready to turn their backs on the club if such a thing were to happen.
The good news here is that Liverpool did not wake up in administration or with nine points docked. They were instead taken over by John Henry who, although knew the sad state of affairs that plagued the club till its sale, did not pay much interest in the same. Instead, the prudent businessman/sports enthusiast was and still is, more eager to see the Reds earn the fortunes that they deserve. It has taken the new owners just 3 months to splash the cash. 57.8 million pounds spent in one day. Transfer record broken twice in the same day. A 24 year old and a 22 year old bought, after parting with a 26 year old world class striker. And after all the big bucks shelled out, the net spend was just 1.8 million pounds. Smart move Mr. Henry. This is only a trailer of the way Henry and FSG are intending to run the club and there is not a cloud of doubt that it is not the right way to do so.
John Henry – Learning the Liverpool Way
Rafa and Hodgson, The King Rules
When Benitez first took over Liverpool, there was little that he knew about running the club more as a family than as a football institution. However, it did not take long for him to drink the club’s ethos and the man soon became a Kop legend after his side won the UEFA Champions League in 2005. Although he came close to an encore of the same the following year, the Reds couldn’t kiss the trophy as they lost to Milan in the finals. Success however, was still there as his side clinched the FA cup that year.
But soon Liverpool was going to stare into the dark. With the arrival of the new owners Hicks and Gillett in 2007, Rafa was going to experience a tough life as Liverpool manager. The lack of activity by the Yanks forced Benitez to do things his way rather than the Liverpool way. With every passing season, the hope for investing in new players ebbed away and Benitez was forced to ‘sell-to-buy’. This was never going to be enough for walking the club into more glory. Liverpool’s health was deteriorating and at the end of the 2009/10 season, the club finished at a dismal 7th in the league. Not entirely Rafa’s fault, but he had to leave anyway.
Amidst the turmoil emanating from the climax of the Yanks’ reign, Broughton, Purslow and Iyre had the added responsibility of finding the club a new manager prior to the start of the season. Although many names were linked with the job, most prominently Didier Deschamps and Frank Rijkaard, it was going to be an Englishman next in office. Roy Hodgson was never the unanimous choice amongst fans but nonetheless, they welcomed him with open arms.
Liverpool had a dry spell in the summer transfer window with regard to player influx and Hodgson’s first responsibility was to get in new players. Enter Koncheskey and Raul Meireles. Although Meireles is proving to be a shining star, Koncheskey’s signing was Hodgson’s first mistake. But this was very small in comparison to Roy’s capacity in bringing back a straying Liverpool side back onto the road. His tactics, style of play and consistently incorrect squad formation and selection made him Liverpool’s Pied Piper. Luckily for the players, the fans intervened to remind everyone what Liverpool FC was all about. They protested against Hodgson and pleaded the owners to take the man out from the danger zone. No complaints against Hodgson; he was, simply, not the man for the job.
Started the career at Celtic, moved to Liverpool, basked in the club’s success, enjoyed further success as player-cum-manager and then as manager. His reign was to come to an end after a horrific public disaster. He returned to the club after 16 years as club ambassador during Benitez’ reign. Kenneth Dalglish – Liverpool’s son, hero and King in so many ways, had made his way back into the club through a rivulet of opportunity offered by Rafa and was soon going to see himself at the helm. It was the only man everybody wanted to see taking charge of the club. Well, their prayers were answered.
For those who weren’t present during the earlier Dalglish era can now see and understand how the club functions on and off the pitch. The man has wasted little time in bringing back lost confidence into the squad and has instilled the Liverpool way of doing things that has, evidently, put Liverpool right back on track. It is sometimes good to rewind back to the past, pick up its lessons and bring it to the present; which is exactly what Dalglish has done here. He never fails to mention the club in public and amongst the press. He even did so when he spoke to the press post Torres’ departure. And the same has been reflected on the pitch. His ideology of ‘pass-and-play’ has given Liverpool 3 wins out of 3 so far and Pepe Reina can boast about 3 clean sheets, something that was a shrinking dream a few weeks ago.
Kenny Dalglish is a trusted person and the owners, having taken notice of that fact, have supported him in every way possible so far because they do not need a guarantee that Kenny will repay the faith. No one does. Kenny is Liverpool’s own and every little move of his is for the club. Such a man is what Liverpool needed desperately. Now they can rest assure that the players will do their best until the end of the season.
Steve Clarke: An unsung hero
Benitez brought along Pellegrino, and Hodgson brought along Mike Kelly but when Dalglish took over, he had no one overlooking the performance of the squad, behind him. Kenny then decided to call up Steve Clarke. The ex-West Ham and ex-Chelsea coach was fortunately available and is considered a great value addition by everybody who has known him.
Clarke, who worked under Jose Mourinho during his time as Chelsea manager, won 2 Premier League titles with the club after making a move to West Ham under Gianfranco Zola, another Chelsea great. Clarke is a specialist in defensive coaching and casted his lessons well at Chelsea as well as West Ham.
Liverpool’s form since Dalglish’s takeover has seen them amass 10 points out of a possible 15. Clarke’s appointment took place on 10 January, 2011 while Liverpool played Blackpool two days later where they lost 1 – 2. Given that one may excuse Clarke for this game as two days are surely not enough to teach your tactics to the squad, Liverpool have not suffered a loss since then. Also, the team has not conceded a goal in their last three games.
This surely marks a clear improvement in defense and in all probability it is because of Clarke’s coaching that we are witnessing Glen Johnson playing confidently at left back and the 20 year old Martin Kelly, who is performing exceptionally well, at right back. Sorting out the defense has been Liverpool’s enigma this season but now Clarke is starting to make this look a lot easier.
Jose Mourinho on Clarke: “If he had the chance to manage a club, even a big club like Chelsea, he would be ready for that. He is that good. He is an intelligent guy and always looking to improve. He is very open to co-operation and learning. He has a good relationship with the players, knows how to handle them. I think he is much, much better than many managers who are in charge of teams at the moment.”
Clarke – Helping Liverpool open the doors to success
Raul Meireles – Tattooing Success
It is not Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard or Pepe Reina. It is Raul Meireles. The tattoo-man from Portugal has indeed tattooed his name amongst the Liverpool folklore in his first season. It is not just his 3 goals from the past 4 games that have earned him heaps of praise. In what has been Liverpool’s most torrid season in top flight football, who would’ve thought the 11-and-a-half million signing from Porto would be the silver lining?
He has proved his worth by driving the team in the recent absence of Gerrard due to injury. Meireles has been a regular under Hodgson as well as under Dalglish, and for a player to be chosen under different managers with totally different styles speaks volumes about his qualities. Credit goes to him for taking up the responsibilities bestowed upon him and also fulfilling them, while upholding the club’s tradition.
Although the names mentioned above are the prominent ones in the club’s resurgence so far, every single person at the club has still played his/her role in varying capacity over the past few weeks, and the results are a mere reflection of everybody’s hard work. Torres’ departure seemed to be a big blow at first but the Reds have got their sweet 16 now – Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.
Liverpool’s new No.7 and No. 9 are going to be the next couple of steps on the ladder.