01.28.08

Townsend To Liverpool Fans : What Did You Expect?

Posted in Football, Sports Journalism at 7:54 pm by

Given that I’ve previously linked to a number of items devoted to ridiculing Liverpool co-owner, Tom Hicks of Rangers/Stars infamy, I’ll take the occasion of the Reds’ 2-2 home draw with Aston Villa to except a dissenting opinion, one from the Independent’s Nick Townsend who contends “for most of the past year Liverpool supporters have been very happy to hitch themselves to the Americans’ wagon train.”

How swiftly has the 2008 City of Culture become the city of censure. It brings to mind that Oscar-nominated film No Country for Old Men. Liverpool’s answer would be: No City For Old Americans On The Make, as many of the faithful perceive them.

Undoubtedly there will be those who insist that Hicks and Gillett can never emerge from the dark side of their affections; particularly those who delude themselves that Liverpool can again become the club they remember so fondly, and, indeed, football recalls so respectfully, under Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley. A campaign group, Reclaim the Kop, promote the club’s “traditional values”, and their spokesman claims that Hicks and Gillett have “underestimated us badly, and badly underestimatedour love for Rafa”.

They have certainly eschewed “the Liverpool way” in preference for doing things the Tottenham way; namely, identifying a possible successor, Jürgen Klinsmann, to follow Benitez, while the Spaniard is still in post. Even Sir Alex Ferguson has stuck his not-inconsiderable oar in, insisting that the Klinsmann talks had been “a bad piece of business on Liverpool’s part”.

However, though the co-owners may indeed have committed a naïve and, in some eyes, near-treasonable, act, why the corresponding support for Benitez? The Spaniard was given the resources to acquire Fernando Torres and several others, yet he has singularly failed to satisfy the pre-season expectations. Even qualification for next season’s Champions League is under threat from, of all rivals, Everton.

For the moment, the supporters attribute the club’s shortcomings primarily to the Americans, whom they regard as having merely purchased the club as an investment vehicle. They lament the loss of Anfield’s soul in the process. Hicks and Gillett may dispute that claim, yet there’s a simple moral here: if you harbourgreat expectations of your team “ Europe and the higher echelonsof the Premier League “ don’t expect the club’s owners to be local, benign benefactors, the kind of men who in the past sought glory by association and if necessary, at cost. They still exist “ but in the lower leagues.

Seven of the top half of the Premier League owners and chairman are foreign; many are only occasional visitors. Remove Arsenal and Everton from the top eight and they are, in descending order, American (Manchester United), Russian (Chelsea), American (Liverpool), American (Aston Villa), Thai (Manchester City), and the Israel-based son of a Russian-born Lithuanian (Portsmouth).

Those high achievers sail under a flag of convenience, and if that happens to be the Stars and Stripes, so be it. That’s the deal when you metamorphose from community club to global institution, as Liverpool have done. You accept the fact that those involved will be remote, possibly absentee landlords; men, at least partly, if not primarily, lured by the prospect of profit, for whom tradition and history don’t count for an awful lot.

Bad news for lovers of free speech / stories about having sex with an 80-year-old prostitute : “Roo Unzipped” remains unpublished.

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