Reds face bigger threat than today’s old enemies

Liverpool are in a transitional period, new manager Roy Hodgson needs to be given more time to settle into the job, players were late back from the World Cup and either aren’t fully fit are haven’t been to enough training sessions for Roy to really know them yet.

They are just some of the reasons put forward to try and explain an awful start to Liverpool’s league season; those reasons are rapidly becoming excuses.

When the manager himself uses them it seems all the more worrying, but that is how Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson spoke after today’s 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford against one the club’s old enemies. Dimitar Berbatov’s hat-trick meant Steven Gerrard’s brace counted for nothing, although it at least kept the club’s goal-difference at ‘just’ -3 from the opening five games.

Hodgson said: “We are certainly in a transitional period. I don’t think it needs to be negative; sometimes they can be very good for a club. Certainly the task has been complicated by the fact I didn’t get a chance to work with the players because of the World Cup and with the Europa qualifiers starting so early, we were thrown into the deep end of competitive football.”

He also spoke of what was to come, what the targets were: “Our aim is to get better. Our aim is still to try and get to the Champions League, maybe that’s where I need to have my focus. If we are good enough to get into the top four, who knows, maybe we can get closer to the number one position. I won’t say we can’t do it, nor will I say we can do it.”

In reality nobody expects a title challenge from Liverpool this season. This season there is an air that survival is the target. Not league survival, but survival as a team that might one day be able to challenge for the title again. Survival in the sense of not letting the gap between this club and Chelsea grow any wider than it already is. Hodgson will be well aware of this.

The real reasons for Liverpool’s struggles have very little to do with what is happening on the pitch or at Melwood. Despite the brave face Roy tries to put on he’s been given a far more difficult task to carry out than his board would ever acknowledge. Perhaps if they would acknowledge it – like they could have acknowledged it last season – it wouldn’t quite be so difficult.

Claims were dismissed in some quarters during the summer about how unhappy Fernando Torres had become, with promises broken time and time again about investment in the club. Some of those who were dismissive now seem willing to accept it as fact; no matter how much Torres loves Liverpool and the supporters he just won’t hang around forever at a club that is not just incapable of moving forward but is clearly sliding backwards.

None of the many rumours about possible changes to the club’s ownership are positive enough to convince world class players to stick with the club should any club that is going places come in for them. This club needs to be backed by owners with the means to see the crippling RBS debt paid off and the means to get the new stadium built (and started before planning permission expires in nine months).

The brave faces talk about how the squad needed to be trimmed, how the squad is good enough and that the addition of another striker would have been a bonus and was never a requirement. Liverpool only got any goals today, by and large, because the last two remaining world-class players managed to create and convert Liverpool’s only two goalscoring opportunities.

Fernando Torres won the penalty and free kick that Steven Gerrard scored his goals from. The over-reliance on those two played a huge part in the many difficulties of last season, with one or both of them missing or far from fully fit for most of the season and arguments raging about whether they were being overused or over-protected. Nothing was done this summer to reduce the risk of the same situation developing again this season.

But arguments about whether the squad has enough quality in it are just at one end of the scale of where the fans’ worries and concerns lie for the future. What is far more worrying, far more extreme, links into that situation but paints a far bleaker picture.

Bleak futureIn three weeks’ time the debt owed by the club and its immediate parent companies to the Royal Bank of Scotland is due to expire. This debt has been expensive for Liverpool. Interest paid on the debt each year would have gone a long way towards adding more world class players to the squad.

In fact RBS have done quite well out of the club over the past few years. Better than the club, better even than the owners, who as it stands look like losing out on making any real money from the club, if any at all. And one huge fear is that RBS would rather keep lending (and clawing back penalties and interest) than lose that easy money they’ve been bringing in from LFC for nearly four years.

If Liverpool hadn’t made a profit on transfer deals for the last four transfer windows would the club have been able to service the debt? This season won’t be ending with a nice fat Champions League prize money cheque from UEFA. And a stadium barely over half full during the week for the Europa League game shows that gate receipts won’t be anything like they were in Europe’s premier competition. The form on the pitch at the start of the season makes Liverpool a less attractive choice for the TV companies when choosing which fixtures to show live later in the season.

For Liverpool to survive, barely, the debt needs to be less oppressive. Refinance from RBS or a move towards debt supplied by hedge-funds is not something Liverpool FC can live with.

Easier terms, something RBS are unwilling or unable to provide to the current owners, would perhaps allow LFC to tread water a little longer. But Liverpool don’t want to tread water. We didn’t let David Moores sell the family silver so that he could make a profit and Liverpool could tread water.

This club needs to be financed in a way that sees debt cut down to the levels it had when Moores sold it. Back then it had an overdraft facility and debts like all clubs that related to the way players might be bought and sold and other operating costs. Overall it had £60m of debt, a figure that the club could and can work with.

The stadium needs to be built without the building costs crippling the club. That requires some serious backing during the construction phase, after which it should be possible for it to be self-funding. The club would like it to be built with seats for over 70,000 fans, but with the lack of investment in the playing squad and the growing disenchantment amongst supporters it might struggle most games to fill the 60,000 seats its soon-to-expire planning permission allows for.

For Liverpool to move forward it needs owners with the means to help it get out of a transitional phase different to the one on the pitch. The club is currently in a transition from being outside contenders for the Premier League to being contenders for playing outside of the Premier League. A transition from being one of the biggest clubs in the world to being one of the biggest clubs to go out of existence.

The right kinds of owners are needed to bring about a transition from near-destruction back to being somewhere close to where the club belongs. That kind of change is not going to work with the backing of banks, bankers and speculators who see LFC as an easy way of making money, regardless of the misery they cause to make that money.

Until Liverpool get the right kind of owners the stuff on the pitch really does remain a side-show.

A side show to the circus that none of us wanted, a sad and destructive war that we all want brought to an end. There are some enemies we just don’t want to face any more. Games we don’t want to play any more.

There are people with the power to bring it to an end, to accept it’s all over, to play their final cards and admit what they will settle for or what they will give.

We’ve suffered enough. End it. Let us move forward.

13 thoughts on “Reds face bigger threat than today’s old enemies”

  1. the biggest threat we face is the bank or banks or board allowing that pair of parasites to remain in control and by what is on the rumour mill and the many websites i have read it seems that is exactly what will happen , as a club it looks like we are gonna be shafted again and again till these two are gone, i say dont go to the matches ,any of them , but how many people will take notice , very few methinks cos there is always someone who would rather catch a glimpse of their hero at 50 quid a go rather than do what is best for the club ,boycott the matches and see how quick the club is sold cos with no revenue at the gates and no fans in the stadium also no kit being sold will mean no tv rights and loss of funds to repay the debt , dumb and dumber will be gone quicker than roadrunner and wil-e-coyote on their acme rockets .
    YNWA

  2. All well and good focusing on the ownership, but what about Hodgson’s defficiencies. Hicks and Gillett don’t dictate that our play is slow and lacking movement. Tom and George don’t tell Carra to hoof the ball and they have no say on substitutions. Torres crying out for pacey support – Babel? No. The weak Ngog and the headless chicken Jovanovic. Did the Americans sign the useless Konchesky? Roy is out of his depth. Still, it’s always nice to hear the manager of Liverpool FC declaring he had little expecation of victory, and how good the opposition (any opposition) are.

  3. All these Tweets are driving me mad. I can’t read what people are writing. Why can’t comments be restricted to either this site or the forum?

    Tweets are limited to 140 characters. Surely people with anything substantial to say cannot fit it in that limit! :-(

  4. Marshy,

    I see what you’re saying, and Roy’s done nothing yet to convince me I was wrong to be unhappy about his appointment. I’m still trying to give him time, hard as it sometimes gets.

    That’s all we can give him. Time. We can’t give him more money, we can’t threaten he’ll be replaced by someone of a higher standard if results don’t improve soon.

    The club’s ambition seems to be to aim for a CL place. So that’s what he’s aiming for. We need new owners and a new board with intentions (and backing) to aim for the league.

  5. Interesting talk about RBS – but if, as appears likely, the Yanks are in default under their loan arrangements, it’s likely that in fact RBS simply want to recover their loan rather than “penalties and interest”. I think the plain truth is that there is no conspiracy, just a large gap between the price of the Club and its financial value.

    And since everyone knows that a a deadline is approaching, why would a buyer negotiate now with the Yanks demanding a profit when there is a prospect of getting a knockdown price if the Bank enforces?

    And with the Bank debt (237m?) being presumably the lowest price the Bank will demand on any enforcement, any “serious backer” is going to have to be extremely wealthy with enough cash to wave bye bye to half a billion or more, with no realistic prospect of making a profit, ie I don’t see any way in which owning the Club at the likely floor price is in any way a financeable proposition, unless there is someone out there who thinks he can seriously “monetize” the many millions of Reds fans around the world at a level way above what is being done now. And the one major source if revenue is fans paying to watch the games, and the tv rights are centrally controlled, not by the Clubs individually…if that changed we might see a big spike in revenue.

  6. Is it just me? or before the game Roy just tells his players to run after the ball and kick it forward, how many shots on target did we have in PL this year I can hardly count ten, and our back four seem to be lost at times, some thing we were so strong at in recent years. Apart from the build up when we are in possession is to slow and predictable.

  7. @ Lfc Malta

    If all we did was “run after the ball and kick it forward”, the scoreline yesterday would have been vastly different. At the moment, it looks like the back four are lost at set pieces, not really in general play.

    It’s clear that the players are trying to adjust to a new manager’s methods. This will take time that some folk will give the new manager, some will not. I feel confident that once the players fully understand (and they will) what Hodgson is trying to do, we will not be so leaky in defence…

    Slow and predictable? good build up is what got us both of our goals. A good run and slide rule pass that led to a penalty, plus good movement that forced John O’Shea into the only course of action he could take.

  8. How can the evil Americans and Hicks in particular be so incredibly stupid that he thinks that if he extends the period of uncertainty, asset stripping and misery it will help him get a higher price for our Club?

    As I see it, the value of LFC decreases by the day. If Hicks is still in charge next summer and the squad is been trimmed down further our key players will leave and the Club will be worth far less than what it is now.

    Hicks has made a mess of all his sports clubs and the longer he stays at Liverpool the slimmer the chances are that he will make a penny out of his English adventure.

  9. Jim,

    The Daily Mirror are running a story this afternoon stating Hicks’ approach to Blackstone for funding has been rejected. Given he cannot use the club as collateral it seems insane that anyone would loan such a huge amount without security.

    There’s no reporter’s name linked to this story but perhaps with your links you can suggest if it has any credibility. I’d love to believe it but there’s nothing worse than a false dawn.

    http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/news/Tom-Hicks-plans-to-take-overall-control-of-Liverpool-have-been-hit-as-a-key-investment-group-pulls-out-article584953.html

  10. Ray,

    As I understand it from a very good source there was never an offer on the table from Blackstone or their associated companies to finance Liverpool or the associated debt. According to numerous other sources they rejected the idea of any involvement some months ago.

    We should obviously be glad about this piece of news, it’s positive news, but at the same time it’s way to early to celebrate. There’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the club’s future; we don’t know exactly what RBS will do in a few weeks’ time or how the owners will react in terms of legal challenges and so on. We don’t even have any public indication of a buyer out there waiting to jump in if and when RBS take over the process of selling the club.

    We can’t relax, but we can maybe afford a little smile.

  11. Thanks Jim. It’s not the beginning of the end but perhaps it’s the end of the beginning. I’m smiling at the moment because I need to make the most of these rare windows.

    By this time tomorrow there may be more misery but I’ll not concern myself with that until it happens.

    Hicks is an awful person who will stop at nothing to retain control. I hope to God there isn’t a US equivalent of Wonga.com that he might use as a last resort.

    But I cannot see any responsible financial body lending that sort of money without security and the board would never allow the club to be used as security.

    The other possibility is legal action which could drag on for months leaving us in limbo and is probably worse that ownership under Hicks.

  12. Jim

    Just seen Christian Purslow interviewed on LFC.tv. I don’t know if you’ve seen it but I’m very interested on your take of it.

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