FA Cup draw: Reds home to Barnsley

The draw for the last sixteen of the FA Cup has been made and Liverpool will host Barnsley from the Championship.

Liverpool’s route to the fifth round hadn’t exactly been smooth, a replay required against Luton and going behind twice against Havant, to the backdrop of off-field uncertainty over whether the owners were going to be able to get a new finance package in place, not to mention admissions from the most talkative owner that he’d been looking to replace manager Rafa Benitez with Jurgen Klinsman.

This was the first time since 1957 that the fifth-round draw had been made without ties still to be resolved from the fourth round. Continue reading FA Cup draw: Reds home to Barnsley

Be wary of Hicks spin as he fights for Reds support

Liverpool supporters need to be careful in the coming weeks that they don’t fall for the PR spin that will undoubtedly be served up by Tom Hicks as he aims to get Liverpool supporters falling for his stories and promises once again.

He’ll use the promise of a fancy stadium and the so-called £17m signing of Javier Mascherano to boost his claims that he cares about the club, hoping that we soon forget the lies and deceit of the past few months in particular, but that have been there since the day he first spoke of his plans for the club nearly a year ago.

He’s also keen to try and play on Liverpool supporters’ mistrust of the press, a mistrust that stems back at least to 1989 when The Sun lied about Liverpool supporters and what they had done to their dying and dead fellow supporters on the day of the Hillsborough disaster. Those lies were deeply upsetting, and the ‘newspaper’ was soon boycotted. For a paper that sells over 3 million copies in the UK, it now sells just 12,000 in the Liverpool area – where it used to sell around a quarter of a million.

In deflecting the blame and trying to deny claims about him yesterday, Hicks used the word “tabloid” three times, unprompted, to try and convince listeners that he was the victim of more tabloid lies. But the stories and allegations haven’t just come from the tabloids. The broadsheets have covered the stories, as has the BBC – the whole of the media is in on the truth about Hicks. Using our mistrust of the tabloids won’t work, not for most of us anyway. He even denied having spoken to DIC yesterday, before admitting that he had after all, dismissing it as unimportant because it was “months ago”. It still happened, so denying it is still a lie! And according to more reports, he was still speaking to them last week.

Liverpool supporters certainly gave Hicks the benefit of the doubt, even when the evidence was mounting against him. Where he came unstuck was when Jurgen Klinsmann was offered the job at Bayern and more weight was added to the claims he’d been offered Rafa’s job by the owners. The minute Hicks admitted that any doubters saw the light. Hicks has not been honest. And as soon as they have seen one subject where they were wrong to trust Hicks, they started to question other subjects.

But some supporters are still far too trusting. They already falling for the words Hicks used in his statements on Friday and his interview yesterday and have started to think maybe he’s not so bad after all.

That’s a dangerous approach to take. Hicks does not deserve the benefit of the doubt any longer. Even yesterday he lied about having had contact with DIC, before admitting the truth. The best way he had of getting back the trust of the majority of the Liverpool supporters was to show that the lies were now all in the past. But that’s not how he sees it. He thinks he can still lie to supporters, that they’ll fall for it all again.

So it’s important that we don’t. Listen carefully to what he says. And make sure any supporters you know who don’t have access to the internet are also careful to read and listen carefully.

One subject Hicks will use in the coming days is the signature of Javier Mascherano. Arguably the best holding midfielder in the world – (and if he isn’t now then he soon will be) the Argentinean is currently on an 18-month loan deal at Anfield, which expires in the summer. It’s no secret that there is a £17m agreement in place to see the player stay at Anfield for five more years after that.

Hicks has now told the press that he will allow the signing to go ahead – after he’d blocked it back in October when he told Rafa to shut up and coach.

So, surely, if Hicks is willing to find £17m from somewhere he must have the club’s best interests at heart? Not exactly. But he’ll be happy to see the headlines make it look that way. He will be happy to see the tabloids work for him in this instance. Except the deal isn’t quite what it sounds.

This was rumoured some time ago, but The Liverpool Way fanzine say they’ve now had confirmation that it’s true. The £17m covers everything – the fees to the owners of the player, and the player’s wages – for five years. It doesn’t even have to be paid up-front. The whole amount can be spread over five years, at a rate of under £3.5m per year. Mascherano’s owners will get a fee of a few million – at most £4m if Mascherano’s wages are £50k per week.

With the departure of Momo Sissoko looking close to happening, if not now then in the summer, the club will in effect be better off. They’ll save on Momo’s wages, and they’ll get around £9m in from his transfer. If it all works out then it’s going to be quite a deal, but not because of the generosity of Hicks, purely because of how Rafa will have exchanged Momo for Mascherano, and with change left over.

The same website have also got wind of how a big chunk of money has been spent with little to show for it. £15m has been spent on getting four different sets of plans drawn up for the stadium, and also on the services so far of a consultancy firm who’ll be liaising between the club, the architects and the builders. All that money spent, a third of the amount the club was in debt by prior to the takeover, and nothing more to show for it than some admittedly impressive drawings of a stadium that still can’t be built. There’s going to be another long process needed now to get the various permissions in place, which if successful will mean some work can finally start on building – but not too much, because very little of the required finance is in place for that. The club still need to get a £300m loan before they can finish the stadium, which is already going to be a finished a year later than promised at takeover.

So whilst it seems money is no object when it comes to getting drawings done, there are still issues with Hicks over just how his policy on transfers stands up to scrutiny. Last summer’s spending should not have required any borrowing, the club having brought in more than in previous seasons, and having spent much the same as in previous seasons. The Champions League income alone was higher than the net spending on transfers.

Martin Skrtel’s signature came in January, and is used by Hicks as a pointer to his intentions, to somehow prove that he’s now fully supportive of the boss. Skrtel’s fee was slightly less than Rafa had left over in his budget from the summer after the Gabriel Heinze move fell through, and will be paid in instalments over the next few seasons. The first payment for Javier Mascherano won’t be due until the summer, and in any case it doesn’t take much to work out that Momo Sissoko’s sale (£9m) would be enough to pay for both Mascherano’s first year (£3.4m), and Skrtel’s full fee (£5.6m).

Of course Skrtel’s fee doesn’t have to be paid in full just yet, and with Rafa interested in signing Pablo Aimar, a player he worked with at Valencia from Real Zaragoza, part of the Momo money could be used for the Argentinean playmaker. Whether or not this deal can go through in the last couple of days of the transfer window remains to be seen, if it does then perhaps it will work out that a little investment in the squad has finally been forthcoming, although of course that can soon be cancelled out by sales in the summer.

The big problem here is that we are talking of relatively small amounts of investment in the team after prize money and sales have been taken off. Investment of literally just a few million pounds, when the club is going to have to pay the interest on a massive total of £350m in loans.

Before the takeover we had our eyes on a new stadium and we had debt of around £45m, we also needed investment in the playing squad to allow us to compete with our rivals. A year later and we are now in debt, directly and indirectly, of £350m, and that’s before the stadium costs are included.

This loan has just bought them time, it only lasts for 18 months, and seeing as it’s already taken them 12 months to come up with a set of stadium plans that they think they will be able to afford then it’s easy to see just how short that time is. It took them nearly six months to get this interim loan, how long will it take to get the funding for the stadium. And Hicks refused to speak about the debt when interviewed by Five Live – and so we don’t know what rate of interest this finance has been taken out at. What was Hicks hiding? Where is George Gillett, if the deal is as good as Hicks says?

So please, don’t fall for the Hicks spin, and do all you can to warn fellow supporters, with or without the internet, that the battle mustn’t be allowed to fizzle out now. Hicks is not to be trusted – and even though he asks to be judged on actions instead of other people’s words, his own words are also something he can be judged on. His own words feature lies and broken promises. His actions have seen us lose ground in the battle to be a contender for the title and very little else.

On Thursday night there’s a meeting of various people involved in LFC websites, fanzines, associations, clubs and so on to discuss what can be done to continue putting the pressure on the owners. I’m hoping to be there too. If you’ve got any ideas on showing the owners that this battle goes on, that we won’t be lied to, that we want our club back, if not completely then at least in the hands of owners who think winning might be more important than “fan affinity”, then please either leave them as a comment under this article, or post them on one of the forums of the sites supporting the LFC Supporters Network.

Remember, no matter how much you want to trust Mr Hicks, his past actions have shown that we’ve never got to take his word for it on any issue, at the very, very least we’ve got to let him know that we’re watching his every step. Please don’t let yourselves fall for the spin.

Hicks admits past DIC talks despite past denials

Three of Liverpool’s last five matches have seen the Reds score an own goal, but it’s the joint owner, Texan millionaire Tom Hicks, who seems to be scoring most own goals.

After refusing to speak to Sportsweek on the BBC’s Five Live radio station last week, he relented today and gave an interview. Last week’s programme included an accusation that a Hicks family member had been overheard bemoaning their decision to buy into the club, and also spoke about the interest from DIC. This week’s programme was allowed the interview only on the condition that they didn’t talk about debt. As the interviewer said, paraphrasing Hicks: “I’ll speak to you but I won’t speak about debt”.

Clearly designed as part of what will be a constant PR campaign from across the Atlantic, Hicks has even allowed the interview to be carried on the official site. There are slight variations in the wording on the official site’s transcript, but nothing particularly significant other than the omission of Hicks’ flippant remark about shooting lawyers. Continue reading Hicks admits past DIC talks despite past denials

FA Cup: Liverpool 5 Havant 2

FA Cup fourth round – January 26th 2008 – Result

Liverpool 5 Havant and Waterlooville 2

From the beginning of this supposed David v Goliath tie got the non-league team didn’t look at all troubled or overwhelmed by the occasion, although that might have changed after just three minutes when Yossi Benayoun headed Liverpool’s first chance wide.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez had picked a side that were more than capable of making easy meat of a side five divisions below them, but in those opening minutes it would have been hard to tell which side was the big name. In fact that was much the case for the vast majority of the first half; Liverpool were poor, Havant and Waterlooville were excellent. Continue reading FA Cup: Liverpool 5 Havant 2

Teams: Liverpool v Havant and Waterlooville

Back to the stuff on the pitch today for Liverpool with the visit of non-league side Havant and Waterloo in the fourth round of the FA Cup. And despite there being a gap of five divisions between the two sides, Rafa Benitez is not really taking any chances.

Charles Itandje is in goal, with David Martin on the bench, as Rafa keeps to his promise to the pair that they would be the two in the matchday squad for domestic cup ties, at least in the early stages.

In front of Itandje new signing Martin Skrtel is making his full debut for the club, where he will partner the ever dependable veteran Sami Hyypia. Skrtel’s arrival probably means Sami’s days at the club are numbered, but the Finnish international will do all he can to help Skrtel settle in. Sami is captain for the day. Steven Finnan and John Arne Riise are the full-backs, and with Riise strongly rumoured to be on his way out of Anfield the Norwegian international will be hoping to put in a good performance and no repeat of his third round own goal. Jamie Carragher is on the bench.

In midfield Javier Mascherano will be looking after youngster Lucas who continues his progress towards becoming a regular starter for the club.

Quite how the rest of the midfield lines up remains to be seen, because Rafa likes to experiment and we may see a 4-5-1 rather than 4-4-2. Peter Crouch will certainly be up-front, but whether he’ll partner Ryan Babel or stay up there alone remains to be seen. If Babel is partnering him then one of Yossi Benayoun or Jermaine Pennant will play on the opposite side of the pitch to where they normally play. There’s of course also the possibility that Yossi will play more centrally, just behind Crouch.

Dirk Kuyt is one of two forwards on the bench. If somehow things start not to go too well then expect Fernando Torres brought on, but if it goes as it should then expect Dirk Kuyt to come on with the aim of building up some confidence.

Also on the bench is Steven Gerrard, just in case his influence is needed to turn the game.

Liverpool: Itandje, Finnan, Riise, Hyypia, Skrtel, Mascherano, Lucas, Benayoun, Pennant, Crouch, Babel.
Subs: Martin, Carragher, Kuyt, Gerrard, Torres.

Havant and Waterlooville: Scriven, Smith, Jordan, Sharp, Warner, Harkin, Wilkinson, Collins, Potter, Pacquette, Baptiste
Subs: Slabber, Oatway, Taggart, Gregory, Taylor

Referee: Phil Dowd

Kick-off: 3:00pm

Hicks wins finance battle, but the war goes on

The dirty deed is done. Liverpool’s owners, via their Kop Football holding companies, have finally convinced RBS and Wachovia to effectively mortgage the club to the hilt. The news came via an official statement on the club’s website, but like the latest stadium announcement this morning, the announcement was from Kop Football rather than the club.

Again there was no mention of George Gillett, the co-owner, in this statement, continuing his public silence since leaving these shores after the December meeting with Rafa Benitez. His son Foster Gillett disappeared two weeks ago, and is believed to have resigned from his position of company secretary at the holding company.

In the statement the figure of £350m is confirmed as was expected, and it also confirms that the previous credit agreement was due next month. They certainly cut it fine in agreeing the package – the previous deal was believed to be due at the end of next week, leaving them just seven days before hitting serious problems. It was back in October that Hicks insisted the debt package was just thirty days away from completion, at the same time as admitting that the new stadium was now going to cost £400m. In fact that was just the first in a number of hurdles the owners faced in trying to pile substantial debt onto the club. The thirty days came and went, and shortly afterwards came the admission that they couldn’t afford the stadium, which would now be “downgraded” according to Rick Parry. Continue reading Hicks wins finance battle, but the war goes on

Stadium downgrade revealed, but no finance as yet

Despite hopes from many Liverpool supporters that DIC would step in and buy the club off current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, before they committed to a new loan which could quite easily cripple the club in the event of even just one poor season, the 25th of January looks like being a black Friday in Liverpool’s history. Although in typical Hicks style, it might be a black Saturday or Monday instead.

Two announcements were expected to be made today by the owners. One was to confirm that they had increased Liverpool Football Club’s debt significantly; the other was to try and soften that devastating blow with details of the latest plans for the new stadium, which will become the third version submitted for planning permission.

It was expected that both news items would be revealed at the same time, but instead the first announcement to come was that on the new stadium.

Perhaps it’s easy to read too much into things, but although the announcement appeared on the Liverpool FC website, it was not worded as being an announcement from Liverpool FC, or for that matter Hicks and Gillett. When Hicks and Gillett took the club over last year, they actually used a holding company they’d created, Kop Football. They owned the holding company; the holding company owned the club.

George Gillett, unheard of since before Christmas, his son having seemingly fled the country two weeks ago, isn’t even mentioned in the announcement. Tom Hicks is quoted in the release, but only by name. It’s normal practice to describe the position of anyone quoted in a press release, be it director, owner, manager or custodian, but not in this instance. Continue reading Stadium downgrade revealed, but no finance as yet

How Reds owners mislead fans over transfer funding

Liverpool’s owners borrowed £298m to take the club over, of which they spent at total of £218.9m on buying the shares and paying off the debt. There are few clues as to where the other £79m went, or what the extra £52m they are trying to borrow now will go to.

In the Champions League, Liverpool earned a decent sum thanks to getting through to the final. According to UEFA.com, the way that CL revenue is shared between the two clubs sees it split into two halves. One half is distributed as fixed sums based on criteria including games played, results, progress and so on. The other half is paid out based on a figure relating to the “commercial markets of the national associations involved”.

For Liverpool, who went all the way to the final, the competition was quite lucrative. Continue reading How Reds owners mislead fans over transfer funding

Hicks laughs as refinancing draws nearer

The Tom Hicks propaganda machine rolls on relentlessly as he moves closer to getting the loans he needs to continue with his unwelcome control of Liverpool Football Club.

Hicks is co-owner of Liverpool FC, although his approach to that ownership has seen his business partner disappear into oblivion. George Gillett may well be Hicks’ co-chairman, but Hicks might as well be alone in his control of the club.

Hicks would argue that there is an anti-Hicks propaganda machine churning out stories that make him seem the wrong kind of owner for the club – but he’s done nothing at all to prove otherwise. In fact in an interview with the local press in Texas, he’s shown contempt for all of his customers at this franchise – all the fans of Liverpool FC. His mocking and sarcastic tone, and that of the journalist who’s failed to attempt to find out any other side to the story other than the 61-year-old Texan’s, suggest that Hicks does not care one bit about the Reds. Continue reading Hicks laughs as refinancing draws nearer

Liverpool Fans threaten American owners with future financial penalties

Press Release

For Immediate Release


Liverpool Fans threaten American owners with future financial penalties

Three quarters of Liverpool fans surveyed by supporters group would consider future match ticket or merchandise boycott if Hicks and Gillet remain at club

Liverpool, 23rd January 2008 – More than three in four Liverpool fans subject to a survey carried out via fanzines and fan websites would consider withdrawing their financial commitment to Liverpool FC in future should the club remain in the hands of US businessmen Tom Hicks and George Gillet. Continue reading Liverpool Fans threaten American owners with future financial penalties