The Liverpool ownership saga has been more dramatic than a soap opera story line recently. The uncertainty surrounding the club has persisted for months since the unpopular club owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett intimated they were willing to sell the debt ridden club.
The drama has culminated this week in a High Court hearing with the verdict seemingly clearing the way for New England Sports Ventures (NESV) to complete their acquisition even in spite of one final twist emerging from a Texas court room.
Liverpool fans can at least take solace from the fact the power battle has at least deflected attention from the terrible start Roy Hodgson’s troops have encountered on the field – one which leaves the club wallowing in the bottom three of the league.
Now, with the Merseyside derby looming on this weekend’s horizon, attention will divert back to the struggling management and faltering playing staff. Should Everton deny Liverpool the spoils on Sunday, the pressure will intensify immeasurably.
It is no coincidence that disharmony amongst the businessmen is mirrored by disharmony in the dressing room and amongst the fans. A lack of cohesion from the top to the bottom of a football club makes for a highly poisonous environment. It provides players with distractions and excuses that they can ill afford in their pursuit of winning football matches.
It is therefore not unusual to see teams struggling to produce performances of an acceptable standard when there is unrest in the boardroom and discontent on the sidelines. In fact, it is almost a cause and effect relationship.
The situation tends to be reminiscent of a long term illness. It starts with a feeling that all is well with the world; the club is happy, healthy and invincible. Remember the hope and optimism that greeted Messrs Hicks’ and Gillett’s Anfield entrance?
All of a sudden, there are murmurings that all is not quite right, although there is no sign of anything particularly debilitating at this point. The team still performs well on the pitch, but the fans and media begin to detect some signs of ill health in the boardroom.
Sure enough, the full diagnosis is revealed and the true extent of the problems crippling the core of the club comes to the fore. In Liverpool’s case, the dire financial status triggered by the owner’s business plans and Rafa Benitez’s errant transfer activity have left the club with a dearth of genuine quality in their playing staff and little means by which to rectify the situation.
With the illness spreading throughout the body players inevitably put on an outwardly determined facade. The likes of Gerrard, Lucas and Danny Wilson have all at one point or another insisted their sole focus is on playing well and getting results, but the truth is it becomes increasingly difficult for teams to deliver the goods amidst this kind of setting. Inevitably the rapid deterioration escalates.
A team in decline
The symptoms that have stricken the Reds have previously engulfed other clubs in much the same way and if the imminent new owners cannot provide the right kind of remedy then expect to see Liverpool continue to disintegrate in much the same way.
Pick any example from the plights of Portsmouth, Newcastle or Leeds in recent times and you will see that their downfall was fashioned in an uncannily similar fashion. These three clubs all allowed venom from the very top to course through every vein of the club and ultimately the fate of each was relegation.
Roy Hodgson has inherited a team in decline. From challenging for the title in 2008-09, Liverpool struggled throughout last term and missed out on Champions League qualification with a 7th place finish.
Defeats to Blackpool in the league and Northampton Town in the Carling Cup this year highlight just how frail Liverpool have become and confidence is at an all time low as they loiter in the Premier League’s relegation zone.
The different agendas of the warring Anfield factions have corroded a club that was once considered to be the healthiest in English football and they are now in need of a fast and effective cure. The Reds need to be nursed back to health from top to bottom.
Fortunately for fans and affiliates of English football’s former powerhouse, there is still time to arrest the alarming slump. New ownership brings new hope. The right result in the court room and a much needed cash injection could well herald the dawn of a new era for the Red half of Merseyside.
The aim for NESV, assuming it is they who take charge, is to restore the harmony and the dignity of Liverpool old. They need to get behind their manager and support him in January. And they need to give the confidence back to the players and the fans.
It starts this Sunday. Victory at Goodison Park to cap off their turbulent week may prove to be the catalyst for a Liverpool renaissance this year. The distressing position of 18th they currently occupy can be easily discarded if you consider Liverpool are only 5 points behind 4th placed Arsenal in an incredibly condensed table.
Then, with everyone pulling in the same direction, we might witness a remarkable, full recovery.