Wednesday 22 February 2017

'Pool get back to the real business

Merseyside derby perfect clash to begin revival

Henry Winter

Published 16/10/2010 | 05:00

John W Henry, new owner of Liverpool Football Club, gestures to fans at the offices of Slaughter and May in London yesterday. Photo: Reuters.
John W Henry, new owner of Liverpool Football Club, gestures to fans at the offices of Slaughter and May in London yesterday. Photo: Reuters.

The Texan desperadoes have finally been run out of town, having run out of bullets, leaving Liverpool to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and look to the future, starting tomorrow at Goodison Park.

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Liverpool's focus switches from Slaughter and May to slaughter and mayhem. It's derby time.

The match that showcases the Premier League at its visceral best, all high stakes and high tempo, and probably a few high tackles as well.

It is the type of occasion that makes profit-driven businessmen such as John W Henry and his New England Sports Ventures cohorts buy into English football, even if he has decided to make the October 24 date with Blackburn his first Liverpool match.

Revenue

It is a new era for Liverpool and for their manager. Now that significant revenue will be diverted his way, Roy Hodgson must buy better, think bigger.

He must remember Liverpool's great tradition of facing down opponents and lift them out of the relegation positions.

Hodgson admitted yesterday that the unbelievable interest in the legal dispute with Tom Hicks and George Gillett simply highlighted Liverpool's stature.

The club of five European Cups, 18 titles and the Kop inevitably attracted intense scrutiny during what Hodgson called the "trauma'' of their ownership battle.

"It shows this club really matters still not only to people in Liverpool but to people all over the world,'' he reflected. "I was proud to come here. I'm even prouder now to be the manager of the club because I realise what a big job I have taken on.

"A cloud has been lifted. The previous owners were unpopular, draining the club of money and dragging the club back.

"I put my faith in the board to choose the correct new owners. From what I know of NESV and what they have done with the Boston Red Sox, it would suggest they know their stuff and will be good for the club.''

Only time, and substantial investment, will tell whether the incoming American is better than the outgoing Americans. Frying pans and fires enjoy close proximity.

Henry, though, has made a promising start, phoning Hodgson and reassuring him about his job.

"I don't think there's any need to talk about my position at the club but he did back me. He was looking forward to working with me and the people here."

Hodgson insisted "there isn't'' a break clause in his contract relating to new owners, despite the suggestion when he joined of such a provision.

"If someone wants to get rid of me, presumably they would have to pay up my three-year contract,'' he observed, calling for perspective, given the scale of the assignment he has taken on.

"Everyone knew it was going to be a difficult job. I signed for three years. It's a sad day if after a bad start of seven games people think the solution is to find someone else with a magic wand.

"We all know a magic-wand solution doesn't exist. I would be very disappointed if after such a short time people decided they wanted to get someone else in.

"I know I can turn the situation around. But I will have to be given support and patience.

"We can't go from third bottom to top in the next four weeks, but if we can turn this around with the new owners, it would be a wonderful feeling.

"With all the years I have spent in football, a quieter, more tranquil start to the beginning of my work at this great club would have been very, very desirable.

"I haven't got that, partly because of the ownership situation but partly because we have six points and we've lost to Blackpool at home. But I have no regrets at all about taking it.''

Articulated

Hodgson's status in football was articulated by his local rival, David Moyes.

An hour before Hodgson held court at Melwood, the Everton manager could be found 10 miles away at his Finch Farm retreat, reminiscing about the overseas coursework he did to acquire his Pro-Licence.

"Roy was manager of Udinese and was really obliging,'' recalled Moyes. "He and his wife took me out for dinner a couple of nights. He let me watch all the training and put me in kit.''

One of the most sanguine voices to be heard in England's dugouts, Moyes argued that the impatience in English football needed combating. Managers were being marched to the stocks too precipitously.

"Maybe a transfer window for managers might be the way to go about it,'' said Moyes. "Managers could only go in January or the summer. That would give more stability to clubs.''

Moyes, understandably, had an issue with debt-ridden clubs who have overspent in chasing the dream.

"I'd have done anything to be at the top but what I couldn't do was go and spend outrageous money that would put the club in jeopardy," he said. "Our debts are far, far less than Liverpool's. It's made it difficult to win as many derbies as I'd have liked to over the years.

"Maybe soon it will become unfashionable to be so heavily in debt. I think most clubs have learned from Leeds.'' Leveraged buyouts were particularly "wrong'', argued Moyes.

A footnote amid all the column inches from the courts was the sad news of Ross Barkley's injury.

It is individuals like Barkley that football should be about, not carpetbaggers like Hicks and Gillett.

The Everton teenager would have been on the bench at Goodison, warming up on the touchline, dreaming of a debut, but instead he's on crutches, his leg pinned after a double fracture of the tibia and single break of the fibia in an England U-19 game.

"We fast-tracked Wayne Rooney and Jack Rodwell because they were good enough and Ross was certainly good enough to be on that fast track,'' sighed Moyes. "He'll be out for six months.''

Injuries have bitten deep into Moyes's small squad. Marouane Fellaini damaged his hamstring on international duty, aggravating it by playing on.

"I will write a letter of disappointment to the Belgian FA,'' said Moyes, adding "you have to ask questions'' over what was happening in England training to claim Aaron Lennon, Darren Bent and Everton's Phil Jagielka.

Liverpool, emboldened by a new optimism, will aim to exploit the absence of Jagielka and Fellaini -- and celebrate the exit of the desperadoes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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