Christian Purslow finally made his long-awaited appearance on Liverpool’s official TV channel earlier today, answering questions sent in by supporters some time ago.
It was a chance for him to show fans that the club was being run day-to-day by a leader they could trust. Someone with integrity, someone who wouldn’t tell lies or answer questions in a way he knew was some distance away from being fully open and honest.
One of the most trivial of those questions was about a mural.
He was asked: “Was a mural depicting our amazing Champions League final triumph ripped down from a wall at Melwood to remove any trace of Rafa from the club’s history?”
His answer: “Absolutely not. I can’t say I’m an expert on how we decorate any walls anywhere in our buildings as I do have plenty of other things on my plate, but I have checked. The reality is there was a mural and it was changed to reflect our new shirt sponsor and I’m delighted to say Rafa is smack bang in the middle of it with the Champions League trophy as he should be, celebrating a fantastic night in the club’s history. We celebrate our past; we don’t hide it or are not embarrassed about it.”
Celebrating our past is just about all we can celebrate as supporters of Liverpool Football Club. It’s our present we’re embarrassed about. And those words were written before tonight’s Carling Cup tie against Northampton.
A mural painted on a Melwood stairwell is obviously going to be removed if it’s basically an advert for the club’s former main sponsor, and that’s what the mural he’s referring to was. It featured past and present Liverpool players sporting last year’s Carlsberg sponsored home shirt. Had it been a poster it would have been ripped down; it was a mural so it was painted over.
Why he’s talking about that particular mural is something only he and the club know. Because the club know that the artwork discussed in a story on this website in early July is not the artwork Purslow spoke about today.
This site made an error in July when it referred to a mural featuring Rafael Benítez being taken down from a wall at Melwood.
The error was the use of the word “mural”.
A mural is, according to most definitions, a large painting applied directly onto a wall or ceiling. What had been described to us was clearly not a mural.
What was described to us from the outset was a photograph of Benítez. We were informed this had been taken down on the orders of Purslow. It wasn’t a mural – it was part of a display featuring a number of other photographs and also some quotes. It wasn’t just Liverpool players and managers that were featured. And the idea for this display came from Sammy Lee; it went up soon after his return to the club as assistant manager.
The story clearly hit a raw nerve for someone.
We found ourselves being contacted by numerous people, including some from the club, about “the mural”. We were told we’d got the story wrong, that the only mural being removed from Melwood was the one that basically acted as a big Carlsberg advert.
We’ve never had that amount of contact before telling us one of our stories might be wrong. And never that fast.
It seemed that the club had come up with a set response to questions about the “mural”. And whenever we pointed out that the stairwell painting wasn’t what we were referring to we were greeted on the whole with silence.
Every response we saw from the club referred to the painted Carlsberg ad.
We were willing to accept that somebody with an axe to grind may have deliberately set about giving us false information. Even though we’d asked many questions before running the story, we could see why the information may not be accurate.
But the club were constantly focussing on a painting that had no resemblance to the display we’d had described to us.
In the end we felt it was best to contact Paul Tyrrell, the club’s head of press, to ask for his side of the story.
We referred to the stock answer that seemed to form the basis of any response from the club. We gave him this example: “The image that was removed from the stairwell at Melwood wasn’t about Istanbul. It was a big picture of Gerrard, Torres and Carra in colour in front of a host of legendary players from the 70’s- 90’s all wearing Carlsberg strips with Rafa again in colour at the back alongside Robbie Fowler.
“It’s a great image, but the players were all wearing last season’s strip with the Carlsberg logo plastered all over it. As we have just changed our sponsor to Standard Chartered, the design team is preparing a new image to go up with players wearing the new Standard Chartered kit. Rafa will be part of the new mural alongside the Cup won at Istanbul. LFC is and has always been proud of our amazing history and there’s absolutely no desire to remove Rafa or his achievements from the club.”
That statement is obviously a very well crafted, “sent from above”, type of statement. And we’d have no issue with the response at all – if anyone was actually asking about that particular piece of artwork.
But nobody was.
The denials were something like being asked if Steven Gerrard is fully fit and responding by saying Pepe Reina hasn’t got an injury worries. Nobody asked about Pepe, but time and time again that’s the response. Nobody asked about a Carlsberg advert, but time and time again that’s the response.
We pointed this out to Mr Tyrrell. We gave him details of what it was we were referring to.
We made it absolutely clear that we were not talking about the painting in a stairwell. He responded: “I am glad that the confusion surrounding the replacement of the stairwell image appears to have been sorted out.”
There never was any confusion about that particular image. Not until the club started to refer to it anyway.
But at least his next comment showed he’d realised this. He added: “I am mystified at the suggestion that another piece of artwork has been taken down in Melwood. Perhaps you could ask your source to clarify what and where this alleged image is and I will be able to assuage you.”
Although his response was fairly fast (just less than 24 hours after we’d contacted him) it was much slower than the earlier reaction to the story. By the time we got it we’d already run a piece on the website – “More on the missing picture” – about our mistaken use of the word “mural” and how the club were issuing denials about the wrong piece of artwork.
We replied to Mr Tyrrell with the link, explaining it should provide the clarification he’d asked for.
Mr Tyrrell replied again soon after. Out of courtesy we asked if we could use the contents of that reply, we felt it would be good to be able to publish some comments from the club that actually related to the picture in our story instead of an unrelated stairwell advert.
Unfortunately Mr Tyrrell declined: “Happy for you to use the first email I sent you but would be grateful if you would keep the second one between you and I.”
There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking in that second email, and as much as we felt it was disappointing not to be able to use it we also understood and respected his reasons for asking us to withhold the contents.
And on balance we felt the story was now at a stage where it would probably be best left alone. The club knew we weren’t referring to a painting in a stairwell, and although they weren’t willing to go on the record to deny our claims; when all was said and done it was becoming something of an old story.
The departure of Benítez didn’t please everyone, nor did the retention of Purslow. Roy Hodgson’s appointment was surrounded by controversy, but none of that was the new manager’s own doing.
Hodgson was now two weeks into the job and needed to be given a chance to prove the doubters wrong.
More importantly a sales process was – supposedly – underway. Martin Broughton had told fans about this the day he introduced Roy Hodgson to the media, the day he suggested Hodgson was here to “steady the ship”. He said it was all going well and should be done by the end of August.
As summer went on the focus moved away from questions about Christian Purslow and his conduct over the course of his first season at the club. It was disappointing to see a fourth consecutive transfer window end with Liverpool making a profit on transfer fees, but at least this time Purslow didn’t take supporters for fools by claiming there had been a net spend of £20m.
There actually seemed to be some light at the end of the tunnel. We actually seemed to be on the verge of being sold. If that happened – and if it was to reputable owners who understood what really makes this club tick – Purslow wouldn’t be able to stick around taking supporters for fools.
It seems a long time now since the article about the picture went out on this site. The call for fans to send in their questions for Purslow went out on July 20th, over two months ago, yet he was only shown answering them today.
The questions are out of date, are the answers? Would it not have been better to ask for fresh questions or to just postpone the interview until after the deadline in three weeks?
Was it Rafa’s comments about unnamed Liverpool directors and their lack of football knowledge that prompted the interview to go out?
We’re weeks away from a deadline that defines the future of the club and we still don’t know if we can trust the man who is running the club day to day.
Can we trust a man if he can’t even be open and honest in his response to one simple, trivial, question about a photograph on a wall at Melwood? How likely is it that he was open and honest in his answers to any of the far more important questions posed to him in today’s interview?
Is he still taking the supporters for fools?
Are there many supporters who could say, hand on heart, they really believe every word of every answer he gave today?
More questions, but the main question must be – will it matter by the end of next month?
Let’s hope not.