Wednesday, 1 September 2010

LIVERPOOL FC: There's Klingons on the starboard bow

From the new Well Red magazine website:

YEARS of listening to music – good and bad – has left the legacy of a rare ‘gift’. Being able to think of bizarre songs that apply to any given situation.

The latest is Star Trekkin’ – a ‘novelty’ song from 1987 by a band called The Firm.

I have absolutely no idea why it popped into my head as I drove home one evening pondering the mess that our club has found itself in.

Liverpool's chairman Martin Broughton gestures as he takes his seat before their English Premier League soccer match against Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, August 15, 2010.   REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SPORT SOCCER) NO ONLINE/INTERNET USAGE WITHOUT A LICENCE FROM THE FOOTBALL DATA CO LTD. FOR LICENCE ENQUIRIES PLEASE TELEPHONE ++44 (0)But as I thought about Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Christian Purslow and Martin Broughton - the w*nkers and the bankers – there it was:  

“There's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow; there's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, Jim.”

Perfect. Because that’s what they are - Klingons.

None are real football men. Not in my eyes. One’s a Chelsea fan (say no more), two haven’t got the foggiest and one claims to be a former Anfield season-ticket holder.

But do they actually give a sh*t about Liverpool FC? Are their own reputations more important to them than the club’s?

They’ll happily sit there in silence while the ownership farce grows and grows like an elephant on a McDonald’s diet. They’ll keep it zipped while a buyer taken seriously by the club and the Premier League – Kenny Huang – pulls out of the race.

And they’ll say nothing as other reported interested parties, many of them discredited, disappear back under the rock from which they emerged.

And all this after people within the club had been telling anyone that would listen that a takeover was imminent. It would happen in August was the word.

The ‘takeover’ – complete with new stadium and bumper transfer kitty – was undoubtedly used as a bargaining tool to keep Fernando Torres out of the clutches of Chelsea in the summer.

Yet, weeks later, it was back to square one. The Chinese option was taken away.

All eyes back on the Klingons.

“Star Trekkin' across the universe, only going forward 'cause we can't find reverse.”

Time then for some noise. Divert attention. Make sure the warnings of what is on the starboard bow are ignored.

Burying bad news has becoming a reoccurring theme at Anfield. Joe Cole has signed…and by the way ticket prices have gone up. It’s general election result day today – oh and here’s the latest financial figures from Anfield.

This time the Klingons had to steer eyes away from reports of the banks seizing control of the club in October, of spiralling debts, £60m penalty clauses and of no serious bids on the table after Huang headed for the hills.

So it was full speed ahead on operation reputation recovery. For Christian Purslow at least.
Fernando Torres Liverpool 2010/11 Manchester City V Liverpool (3-0) 23/08/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom
First it was a spin-packed chummy chat on Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek.

There was never a real chance Torres was going to leave, he said in the 10-minute interview. (“No, not at all, really.”)

Funny, but many, many people were 100 per cent convinced of Chelsea’s interest. And Torres’s prolonged silence spoke volumes. A simple ‘I’m staying’ would have sufficed to put the weeks of speculation to bed. And remember Hodgson – days after being appointed as Liverpool manager - revealing Purslow had spent longer with Torres than he had? Does that sound like someone who was never going to leave?

Steven Gerrard Liverpool 2010/11 Manchester City V Liverpool (3-0) 23/08/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via NewscomThen it was Gerrard , another who stayed silent, fuelling the exit talk. It was “not at all” likely Gerrard would have left either, according to Purslow.

Again, with a minimal amount of digging, things don’t seem so black and white.

Real Madrid ruled out a move for Gerrard due to the Liverpool captain's age and valuation, according to their transfer consultant Ernesto Bronzetti.

That’s someone who works for the club then, not a journalist, not a fan – a club official.

“The president does not agree with Gerrard because he is 30 and Perez doesn't want to know," Bronzetti told GR Parlamento.

“Plus, Liverpool asked for 70million euros [£58m].”

If Gerrard was never going anywhere, why was someone quoting prices to Real Madrid?

On to the bidders, Purslow claimed the questionable – “there are a number of bidders” – before stating the obvious: “We will take time to examine those extremely carefully.”

Purslow described a Sunday Times story that RBS could take control of Liverpool in October as “speculative”. But didn’t rule it out.
And with hardly a difficult question asked, it was on to the full-on PR spin: “The target is significant improvement. We think our club and players belong in the Champions League - so that is where we would like to be.”

Wouldn’t we all?

Charm offensive

While Hicks, Gillett and Broughton have remained quiet – keeping Liverpool fans hanging, guessing and speculating – Purslow has kept up the charm offensive.

ITV even zoomed in on him during coverage of the home match with Trabonzspor to tell fans who he is and what he does. Why?

Purslow is not famous. He’s not a footballer or a manager, as much as he would like to think he is. He might be good at something but it’s not something that fills stadiums or puts you on the edge of your seat.

Purslow was brought in to find investors, to sell the club. He failed. He’s still here. And don’t we know it?

Has a boardroom suit ever had so much media coverage as Christian Purslow?

He would do well to take a leaf out of Sir John Smith’s book. Many fans don’t know who he is - the way it should be.

“We’re a very very modest club. We don’t talk. We don’t boast. But we’re very professional,” Smith (pictured, left, with Bob Paisley and TV Williams) once said.

He took over Liverpool Football Club in 1973. By the time he stepped down in 1990, the club had amassed four European Cups, and added three FA Cups and 11 championship titles to its roll of honour.

Did Smith sit down for off-the-record briefings with journalists? Did he plant information in the press or get his friends in the media to write PR puff? It’s doubtful because the phrase ‘The Liverpool Way’ actually meant something back then.

Perhaps Henry Winter could tell us?

The Daily Telegraph football correspondent wrote an ‘everything is rosy’ piece that Purslow himself would have been proud of.

Ignoring the fact that Liverpool have been searching for the ‘right buyer’ since the days of David Moores and Rick Parry, he wrote:

“The right buyer must be out there… Blessed with an iconic name, so much else is also right about Liverpool: support, manager, captain, No 9 and goalkeeper. Anfield also boasts the right executives in all key positions apart from chairman and owners.”

So that’s an endorsement for Purslow and the manager he appointed. Nice.

“If anything, and acknowledging the credit crunch and need for a new stadium, Liverpool are undervalued,” he went on.

The spin was not the most subtle…

“After a season of drifting badly, Liverpool’s board inevitably acted, removing Benítez and installing a far less political animal in Roy Hodgson.

“He has started quietly but confidently, becoming the first Liverpool manager since Shankly to win his first three European games.”

So the board had to act, according to Winter, and look, they appointed a man who can mastermind wins over Rabotnicki and Trabzonspor (what do you mean, who?).

If you think that’s blatant, wait until Winter goes for the kill, when he really backs his Klingon mate.

“The board have appointed well. Now they must find the right owners and appease frustrated fans. A new banner on the Kop articulates a dislike of the chairman Martin Broughton and the managing director Christian Purslow.

“Concerns over Broughton are understandable; he’s a Chelsea fan, a season- ticket holder who mixes with their players and his position at Anfield would have become untenable if Stamford Bridge had developed its interest in Torres.

“Criticism of Purslow is harder to fathom. Perceived as a bit too posh for some Kopite tastes, Purslow is passionate about doing what is best for the club he loves.

“He spent much of July shuttling back and forth to Spain to help convince Torres his future lay at Anfield. When it comes to dealing with the minutiae of selling a business, and an awareness of the tricks of the number-crunching, deal-making trade, nobody at Anfield is better qualified than Purslow, who has extensive experience of this skill.

“The time to judge Purslow is when a deal is done, when the sums are added up and the new owners’ true character emerges.

“A buyer will materialise. The Premier League is so attractive.”

Ah, that’s alright then, this Klingon is OK by Henry, so he’s OK by us, right?

Questions unanswered

“It's life, Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it; it's life, Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, Captain.”

As ever, Purslow and Winter’s media musings failed to answer the questions we really wanted answering. Who are the bidders? Where are the bidders? And when are they buying?

And while we’re there – where’s the money gone for the manager? You know - the cash from player sales that is definitely reinvested in the team. That can’t be used to pay debts. A ‘fact’ reiterated by Purslow and Hicks. So obviously true then…

Hodgson’s recruitment strategy has been strange to say the least. On appointment the word was he would have £12million to spend plus whatever was raised from sales.

When Mascherano headed for Spain that should have meant a kitty of around £50m. The signings of Raul Meireles and Paul Konchesky – which only happened once Masch had booked his plane tickets - took Roy’s spending to £24.2m.

If the ‘player sales’ pot is really there, why was £15m for Peter Crouch too much for Liverpool? Word was he wanted to come back. Word was Roy wanted him. The only stumbling block was cash.

Also telling were the remarks from Kristian Nemeth’s agent after his client completed a move to Olympiakos. "Liverpool told us that it is not a question of quality but a financial decision. As it is with others this season," said Tibor Pataky.

Since Robbie Keane went back to Tottenham for £16m in January 2009, Liverpool have recouped £102m from player sales. Just under £60m has been spent on strengthening the squad and some of the signings, if we’re being honest, have left a lot to be desired.

Signing back Aurelio, with his poor injury record, smacked of desperation. Poulsen was hardly a jaw-dropper either. Brad Jones? Paul Konchesky?

Ok, so Meireles comes highly recommended. But after Mascherano left, he still represents a cheaper alternative and as for parading him on the pitch at the West Brom game, when did we become Newcastle?

The only surprise was that Purslow wasn’t on the pitch too, taking the plaudits for his ‘catch’.

Hodgson, like Rafa Benitez, is working with the handcuffs on but the Klingons don’t want you to see the ball and chain.

The right words from Hodgson, the signing of Joe Cole and the recruitment of Meireles gave fans some hope. The Kenny Huang debacle, the thumping at Man City and being held to ransom by Javier Mascherano reminded us where we really are – struggling to put the brakes on our decline.

“Only going forward, still can't find reverse.”

Beam me up, Scotty and bring me back when it's all over.

From the new Well Red magazine website: