Rick Parry, Liverpool fan and Chief Executive flew over to Istanbul today for briefing from UEFA ahead of the Champions League final in three weeks’ time. It seems a long time ago that Parry was on the back pages of all the papers as he hosted major press conferences at Anfield. Last summer saw the departure of Gerard Houllier, the arrival of Rafa Benitez and the infamous press conference where Gerrard spoke of his desire to stay at Anfield for the time being to win things. David Moores is the Liverpool chairman, the man with the money – but Rick Parry is the man that ensures the money is spent as wisely as possible. Liverpool’s board don’t make decisions for the benefit of the shareholders pockets. Liverpool’s board make decisions for the benefit of the club, rather than the company. Liverpool are a PLC, but aren’t floated on the stock exchange.
If Liverpool were a publically-quoted company then Rick Parry’s priorities might be a little different. The days of the European Cup being entered purely for the pride and glory of winning it seemed to have gone. Not for Liverpool though – the money is important, yes, but it’s not the first thought that’s entered Rick Parry’s head: "I haven’t even looked at the financial figures. This was about the game, nothing else. Tuesday night showed what this club is all about and why we’re here. Tuesday wasn’t about money, it was about clutching trophies."
There’s still no word on where Liverpool are up to with investment talks. Steve Morgan caused a big stir when he tried to buy control of the club – he failed in his attempts and seems to have given up. The Thai Prime Minister showed a lot of interest – and then backed out. If Roman Abramovich had turned up at Anfield looking to buy Liverpool instead of Chelsea, it’s almost certain that he’d have been turned down flat. He’s not a fan you see – and unless you are a Liverpool fan you’ll not be able to control the club the way its current trustees want it to be controlled.
Abramovich has paid for Chelsea to become Champions by not compromising on his spending – he brought in the coach that his advisors thought would be best, and then allowed that coach to try and buy any players he thought would be best. Chelsea were heading for trouble before he came along – they let Gianfrano Zola go just days before Abramovich came on board because they couldn’t afford to keep paying his wages. They escaped punishment earlier that season for having a pitch that looked like the venue for the beach-football finals.
The Russian has brought just about everything money can buy in football terms to Chelsea. But as Rick Parry pointed out, money can’t buy everything: "If Tuesday showed anything it was that it’s not about money. I’m sure when Roman Abramovich reflects on what happened he’ll recognise there are some things which money just can’t buy. You can’t buy an occasion like that."
Parry has been at Anfield on some famous nights, but says that somehow Tuesday seems to have eclipsed all of those previous events: "For me, Tuesday ranked on a par to anything Anfield has experienced before. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever known a night like that. The fans, Rafa and the players did everything they could to make it such a special occasion."
Parry continued: "People talk about St Etienne in 1977, but that was as much about the circumstances of the game as the atmosphere itself. The way events unfolded made 1977 so dramatic. This time, I felt as though the buildup began on Tuesday afternoon. I can’t remember such intensity before. Perhaps the most suitable comparison is with Inter Milan in 1965 when these kinds of nights were new. Bill Shankly hyped everyone up into a frenzy that night. For a lot of supporters this was a similarly new experience and, of course, like then this was a European Cup semi-final."
Bill Shankly was a man who knew how to wind his players and fans up into a frenzy. He loved football, lived for it – and in Benitez it looks like Rick Parry has found Liverpool a new manager with similar feelings. When Benitez talks about how much he appreciates the fans, he means it – he’s not just saying it. Whereas Chelsea have been criticised for their arrogance on their way to the Premiership title, Liverpool have been praised and admired on their way to the Champions League final. We’ve received emails to this site from fans of other clubs who were moved by the passion and spirit from every Red involved on Tuesday night, wishing us well in the final. Liverpool have made a lot of friends this week.
Rafa Benitez has rightly been given a lot of praise this week, but Rick Parry says that this success is why they went for him: "I think it would be wrong to say this is beyond our wildest dreams. We’ve never been in the competition simply to go through the motions. We’ve been confident from the beginning that in Rafa we had a manager who would take us forward. Now we’re as pleased as it’s possible to be with his progress. He deserves the success."
If Steven Gerrard lifts that famous trophy aloft at the end of this month, as Rafa Benitez looks on, it’s important we remember that without Rick Parry’s efforts we’d probably have neither Gerrard nor Benitez at the club. UEFA only award 25 medals to the winning team, which means some of those who played a part will miss out – Rick Parry played a much bigger part than he’ll probably get credit for.