Friday 6 December 2019

Leverage kings dethroned by Anfield revolution from within

Dion Fanning

T om Hicks went out as he came in: making pledges.

Nothing had changed in his world view even if the world he and men like him built had collapsed. But he had run out of road. Even in North Texas, a place where a good ol' boy like Hicks can usually get his version of justice, they were tired of him.

The truth can find no purchase in his being. On the day they arrived in Liverpool, Hicks and Gillett pledged "a spade in the ground" within 60 days to begin work on a stadium. It turned out this spade would only be used to dig the grave of the club. The "dead hand from beyond the grave" that the QC of Liverpool's new owner NESV talked about in the High Court belonged to Tom Hicks.

In the end, he had nowhere left to go. A leverage king who, like all leverage kings, finally discovered that nobody will take his word anymore, that his negotiating tactic that there is always more doesn't work anymore.

They built a world on debt because they confused the easy credit with profit and they saw clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United that were debt-free as ships of gold.

Liverpool is now virtually debt-free again but Manchester United's time will come, the time when the loans are called and there is, as Tom Hicks would see it, unnecessary chatter about their financial plight.

Liverpool now belongs to New England which is fitting as they were never at home in old England.

Only last week did people grasp exactly what was going on as Liverpool spent their time in the High Court.

In that absurd week for Liverpool, few things were more absurd than Christian Purslow pumping his fist on the High Court steps, looking like a member of the Birmingham Six and preceded by a man carrying a picture of the European Cup. Last week, that didn't appear strange.

Liverpool's managing director walked down those steps thinking he was a free man and by Friday Martin Broughton was talking about justice. Broughton had done what he had said he would and Purslow had worked well in the world he understands.

Purslow and Broughton now join a group of men who took on Hicks for the good of the club. The list is headed by Rafael Benitez, who alerted the world to their ways, and includes Rick Parry and the supporters whose militancy was essential, the "internet terrorists" as Hicks called them. They are an unlikely collection who wouldn't last long in a room together, but polite conversation never achieved anything.

Most of them were handicapped by working for Tom Hicks. From the moment he attempted to fire Purslow and Broughton ten days ago and appoint an alternative board, the convoluted world of Tom Hicks was becoming clearer.

Hicks had tried to appoint an alternative board, perhaps to inhabit an alternative reality. But there was nothing new in that. Hicks' board may keep going out there in North Texas where they believe they have jurisdiction over Liverpool. His alternative board will promise a huge transfer fund and keep rolling out purty pictures of a mighty fine stadium.

The deregulated Premier League is now paying the price for its deregulation as Ireland has.

By the time Tom Hicks obtained an injunction from Judge Jim Jordan on Texas land, the emasculation of the English league was apparent. A Texas court could now claim jurisdiction for English football. What next? A judge in Alabama overthrowing Lee Cattermole's next suspension?

Hicks was always in a parallel universe as Friday night's interview demonstrated once more. There he was again, sitting in front of a picture of the big lie: the artist's impression of the stadium he didn't build.

Harry Redknapp might have been nodding in agreement when Hicks blamed Rafael Benitez and Lehman Brothers for all that went wrong. Bertie Ahern is still blaming Lehmans. He'll have to fit Rafa in to his next riff.

Hicks threw out some figures about Benitez's spending that bear no relation to reality. He was making one last play for some sympathetic coverage. It was all Rafa's fault. That's what they like to hear.

But people had grown tired of Tom Hicks. He spent Thursday and Friday looking for a return on his investment and he kept on looking for more, ruling out his last chance of getting out. He resorted to pledging to RBS that he would pay the money by October 15. He didn't say which October 15.

The deal with NESV, Hicks said, was not in the best interest of the club because it would now mire them in years of litigation. Hicks was going to be the litigant but it was the others who were doing the club a disservice.

There are few corporate men like Tom Hicks who are prepared to allows us a glimpse at their confused internal workings. He operates on a spectrum of bullshit. Sometimes he might be closer to the truth than other times, but it is always, essentially, bullshit.

From men like Tom Hicks we have learned that when they say one thing it is usually the exact opposite of what is happening.

So when he talks about the "epic swindle", it is easy to remember the promises of three years ago, the talk of no debt and a stadium, and remember who was trying the con.

When he blames Rafa, it is easy to remember that he met with Jurgen Klinsmann and then blamed that on George Gillett and Rick Parry.

So he can pledge and promise in front of the fantasy stadium and ignore reality.

"Liverpool . . . has a little bit too much debt . . . but we were going to fix that," he said to Sky, except "they were frustrated by others".

Like his friends the neocons, Hicks has an entirely subjective view of liberty and justice. It is his liberty that matters and his view of justice is the only one that counts.

They, too, were frustrated by others, frustrated when the world could not be crowbarred into thinking like they do.

Every time Hicks speaks we learn more about the world he helped destroy. It was "chatter about financial distress" he said, that stopped Liverpool finding the right wealthy owner at the right price. This was the "chatter" from the banks that wanted their money back.

Everything was just chatter in Hicks' world. There is no profit and loss, there is just chatter. There is no debt, there is just chatter.

There is no up or down, just chatter. There is nothing except chatter. The bank's chatter was that Hicks and Gillett owed them £300 million. That was a lot of chatter. Hicks thought he had the beating of anyone on chatter and for a while he had. In the end, as in the beginning, all he had was bullshit.

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