Tuesday, 2 February 2010

LIVERPOOL FC: Hicks & Gillett - putting the dead into deadline day

SHOUTY reporters standing outside training grounds for 12 hours and unnecessary shots of Big Ben aside, watching transfer deadline day tick by on Sky Sports was no laughing matter for Liverpool fans.

Six games unbeaten in the Premier League has raised hopes of a top four finish and lifted morale amongst the players.

That morale could have been boosted even further by the much-needed addition of a striker to the squad.

But Rafa Benitez couldn't complete Mission Impossible. Try as he might, he couldn't find a club willing to part with a top-class striker for next to nothing, or a player willing to take a cut in wages.

Funny that.

Instead Liverpool's transfer window business actually weakened the squad in terms of numbers with Andriy Voronin, Andrea Dossena and youngster Christopher Buchtmann leaving the club, with just Maxi Rodriguez coming in.

So now, with 14 games to go, Liverpool chase fourth in the Premier League with just three main strikers - the world class but currently injured Fernando Torres, the inexperienced cut-price Frenchman David Ngog and Dirk Kuyt, a player mainly employed on the wing in recent seasons.

Tottenham meanwhile, a point ahead of the Reds in the Premier League, could afford to let Robbie Keane go to Celtic as they still have Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko and new signing Eidur Gudjohnsen to call on.

Manchester City have been shedding forwards too, with Robinho, Jo, Ched Evans. Darius Vassell, Daniel Sturridge, Valeri Bojinov, Felipe Caicedo and probably Benjani all heading out of Eastlands on loan or permanently in recent times, leaving them with 'just' Craig Bellamy, Carlos Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Is there really no way Tom Hicks and George Gillett couldn't have released the vice-like grip on the Anfield coffers and allowed Benitez to buy a striker?

It seems not.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy's £130,000-a-week wages were too rich for Liverpool - but not for Hamburg. Victor Moses, another striker linked to Anfield, joined Wigan for £2.5m.

Gillett, of course, once said: "If Rafa said he wanted to buy Snoogy Doogy, we would back him."

So by this premise, we are meant to believe that Benitez wants to take on the rest of the campaign with such a paucity of striking options?

Sorry, no, not for me. The window's dealings are instead another stick to beat the owners with. And beaten with it they should be.

Too many fans are standing back, offering the 'Well, what can I do?' argument.

What you can do is show you care. Forget picking holes in arguments or finding flaws in the philosophy of fans' union Spirit of Shankly. Instead, support the 5,000 or so who have been marching, writing, making banners and spreading the word.

The 'investors will be put off' argument doesn't wash, either. That's simply another myth peddled by the powers that be at Anfield to make fans think twice about voicing their opinion. It's classic propaganda.

Turn the argument round. Perhaps the protests annoy Hicks and Gillett. Perhaps they are sick of it. Tom Hicks Jnr was - he said so in his infamous foul-mouthed email to a supporter.

And now he's gone.

So who's to say daddy isn't feeling the same? He can't enjoy being faced by fans telling him to 'get out' every time he touches down in Liverpool. He can't enjoy having to sneak out of side entrances to escape speaking to fans he can't bare to look in the eye.

So maybe he will sell up. Maybe he will drop the asking price. And maybe investors who can be more open and honest with fans, investors who can be true custodians and who care about the interests of the club, the team and the fans, can sort this off-field mess out.