Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Wenger's put Arsenal on the road to nowhere


Daily Sport column, March 16, 2011.
ARSENAL are like a posh car with a shit engine – it draws admiring looks everywhere it goes but breaks down before it gets home.
If your motor performed like that for six years, what would you do? Trade it in for one that could do the job? Kick f*ck out of it like Basil Fawlty did to that crappy Mini?
Or sit there, grin and say ‘Ah well, it looks good, and at least we’ve got money in the bank’?
Wenger has had the fortnight from hell – two weeks, three trophies down the swanny.
First, Arsenal were outfought by Birmingham in the Carling Cup final.
Then they failed to beat Sunderland at home in the Premier League and Barca swept them aside in the Champions League.
And on Saturday a Man United team containing SEVEN defenders beat them at Old Trafford.
Fans that were talking about the quadruple now look like bigger tits than you find on your average page in this newspaper.
Fact is, the Gunners bottled it. They might play pretty triangles that get the geeks foaming at the mouth but so what?
Barca do it better – they score and get regular results.
And forget whining about refs, Arsenal got spannered in Spain, Van Persie knew what he was doing and Wenger made a holy show of himself when he claimed his side would have won it if the Dutchman hadn’t been sent off.
Wenger could still end a trophy drought dating back to 2005 by winning the Premier League.
But what price them cocking that up, too? Whatever it is, I’ll take it.
The Gunners have great young footballers but they’re not winners. There’s more fight in the post office on pension day.
They don’t have players who by sheer determination alone can grab a game by the scruff of the neck and win it.
I’m thinking Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Carlos Tevez, Rafael Van Der Vaart, Ryan Giggs.
Instead Arsenal have a bunch of players who shit their kecks when they see the finishing post. They’re football’s answer to Devon Loch. Wenger can point the finger and dream up excuses but there’s only one person to blame and he’s in the mirror when the Frenchman brushes his teeth every morning.
Wenger has had 15 years to drum his philosophy into the club and six years to build a winning side.
If he looks at the teams that brought home the bacon in the past, they’re chalk and cheese against the class of 2011.
Wenger’s winners played decent footie but they could fight, too.
Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Martin Keown – none of them ever shirked a tackle.
Can the same be said of Arshavin, Rosicky, Chamakh and the rest?
For f*ck’s sake, Nicklas Bendtner owns pink boots and was once scared by a balloon on the pitch – what does he think when he’s facing a burly centre-half?
Wenger bought those players and what about the ones he didn’t buy?
Where’s the top-class centre half, the reliable keeper and the dominant central midfielder?
Where’s the striker who can regularly net 20-plus goals a season?
Rumour has it Wenger CAN spend. That he’s sitting on a kitty of £80m. If that’s true it should be another nail in the coffin.
The whole point of quitting Highbury for the Emirates was so Arsenal could compete financially.
Yet in the five years that spanking ground has been their home they’ve spent less than Sunderland and Villa.
It’s all well and good growing your own and buying them early but it's just not working.
Time for Plan B, Arsene. Otherwise the Arsenal board will be thinking about a new engine for its posh car – and a taxi for Wenger.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Problems for Ferguson cut deeper than Nani's leg

FOR once the Nani gash was nothing to do with Wayne Rooney.

And instead of being an embarrassment to Manchester United, it was a convenient smokescreen.

Phil Dowd got it wrong when he failed to dismiss Jamie Carragher for his shuddering tackle on Nani that left the cry-baby winger with, er, a cut, in United’s deserved defeat at Anfield.

He also got it wrong when Rafael was allowed to stay on for doing a passable impression of Bruce Lee.

But talk of Nani’s gash and Alex Ferguson’s toys out of the pram reaction to defeat (or lack of it) was a veil over a string of problems at United.

That may sound mad when they top the league and are still alive in the Champions League and the FA Cup. But anyone with eyes can see all is not right at Old Trafford.

United must be the least convincing table-toppers in a lifetime. The Glazers continue to ignore pleas to leave and bids to buy and they and their debts remain.

And as average players like Michael Carrick and Anderson are handed new deals, it’s hard to shake a feeling that it’s because they can’t afford to buy anyone better.

Rooney is still far from being himself and Dimitar Berbatov remains an enigma, capable of the sublime – see his jaw-dropping control of a hoofed ball on Sunday – and the ridiculous (his general levels of effort).

And leading the madhouse is Ferguson, or the silent Knight as he is now known after his laughable “media blackout” following the Anfield humiliation.

He may be 69, but he really needs to grow up.

United match-goers sing: “We’re Man United, we’ll do what we want.” And it appears the fans are not the only people associated with the club who believe that ditty.

Managers are supposed to speak to broadcasters after a TV match. Ferguson didn’t and he ordered his players to keep it shut, too.

Even Ryan Giggs had to shrug and say ‘no’ when asked to talk about passing Bobby Charlton’s appearance record. Must be a real lift for his morale that.

So Ferguson will be hit hard now, right? He’ll face a fine, a ban? Nah.

The Premier League will only act if a broadcaster complains. And guess what?  No-one at Sky, BBC or talkSport has got the balls to take him on. Not that his behaviour should come as any surprise.

He still doesn’t speak to the BBC just because of some perfectly reasonable journalism. And he regularly bans press men just because he doesn’t agree with what they write.

Ferguson even once banned the club’s own TV channel because a presenter said United should play 4-4-2.

And he’s fallen out with the FA again of course.

Could it be that the grumpy grandad’s bullying tactics are finally going to fail? As United played out the final minutes of their defeat at Anfield, the Kop taunted their rivals: “You’re Man United, you’ll do as your told.”

Maybe it’s time Fergie did just that and stopped making up his own rules.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Roy Hodgson: Not so great expectations

AS people who still believe Roy Hodgson is the right man for the job at Liverpool are finding out, defending the indefensible is nigh on impossible.

Hodgson's crime sheet while in charge at Anfield is long and well-known: his signings, his football, his treatment of players, his public gaffes and his cringe-worthy press conferences. Not to mention results, or rather lack of them (although there's plenty of players who have underperformed under two different managers who should shoulder a share of the responsibility).

But of all the things Hodgson has got wrong, most annoying is his constant attempts to play down expectations and create a culture where mediocrity becomes acceptable. He was at it again when talking about Fulham.

At the time of the press conference, Hodgson's old club had won two games from 17 in the Premier League.

They hadn't won away (surprise, surprise) and won only once on the road last season under the man now in the hotseat at Anfield.

The Cottagers' record in terms of points gained away from home when Hodgson spoke out was the same as Liverpool's: five.

The goals scored away record was the same, too: six. Fulham were only keeping their noses out of the relegation zone because of a superior goal difference compared to Wigan.

All in all, they are a team Liverpool should beat.

The Reds' home record this season is better than Arsenal's and Fulham haven't won at Anfield in 29 attempts. Yet Hodgson can't help himself.

It seems it is part of his make-up to prepare for the worst, to pave the way for failure, sow the seed of doubt: “I’m very wary of the game because they are a hard team to beat. In fact they have lost even less games in the league than we have so we know it’s going to be tough.”

Can't the manager of Liverpool concentrate on the positives of his own team? Isn't the Liverpool team, even in its current state, a class apart from Fulham's?

Stifling negativity

Hodgson just does not exude confidence in public and fans can only hope he is not the same behind closed doors at Melwood and Anfield. His stifling negativity is in stark contrast to, for example, Bolton manager Owen Coyle.

Ok, Coyle is at a club where expectations are lower, the pressure is less and the spotlight is not quite so glaring. But nevertheless, he has turned a Bolton side that was struggling near the relegation zone into one that is challenging for Europe. And with a minimal outlay in the transfer market.

Some of Coyle's recent line-ups have been identical to those fielded by predecessor Gary Megson aside from Stuart Holden (a freebie signing from the MLS). But what is refreshing about Coyle is his approach.

There's no face-rubbing, scowling, or playing down of expectations, Coyle just tries to win – whoever his team is facing. Most of the time he does it with a smile on his face and he's got a good relationship with the media, too.

I'm not saying Coyle should be Liverpool manager – he's still relatively inexperienced and has no pedigree in European competition. But it would be nice if Roy could take a leaf out of his book when it comes to his general approach (I won't be holding my breath).

When Coyle first took over at Burnley one fan commented on his impact: “Eleven points from his first five games and fans were already shouting his name! All the games we were clearly dominant.

“Compared with Cotterill's tactics he had switched a moderately defensive team into one hell of an attacking force overnight and not just against the average bunch of relegation strugglers. Wolves, Watford and Charlton were in the first five and they were top six when we played them!”

Players too, have been quick to praise Coyle after working with him. Andy Cole, who played under Coyle while on loan to Burnley, said: “I cannot say enough superlatives about him. His enthusiasm made me feel like I was 21 again.”

But Coyle himself summed up his approach: “Each and every game we enter we try to win - and to do so by playing a style pleasing on the eye with chances being created and goals being scored.”

Could Hodgson put his hand on his heart and say the same? Of course he couldn't.

Liverpool players are known to be disillusioned with Hodgson's approach, fans have long since grown tired of the safety-first tactics (laughably instilled even in the dead rubber against Utrecht) and Hodgson is yet to hear his name sung by the Kop.

Those that advocate persevering with Hodgson are quick to highlight why Liverpool's current plight isn't his fault – he inherited the majority of the squad, the team had a poor away record last season, he hasn't had a real opportunity to spend and so on. All true, but missing the point.

Hodgson isn't the only reason for the failures this season, just as Rafa Benitez wasn't the only reason for the failures last season. But Hodgson was supposed to get more from the players at the club – organise them, improve them – that was the whole idea behind his appointment wasn't it?

Hodgson is now also benefiting from a stabilised off-field situation. Yet all he has done is verse Liverpool players in a style unsuited to many of them and an approach that long-term only seems to lend itself to a lowering of sights.

Good track record?

On appointing Hodgson, then chairman Martin Broughton said: “We weren't looking so much for somebody who was just emerging, we wanted somebody who could, first and foremost, command the respect of the players, who had a good track record and could take us forward from where we are now.

“He wanted to focus on how he could get more out of the existing players. His focus wasn't on 'how much money can I have?' or 'I want to bring this person in or that person in' - he was really focused on 'I believe, and I've got a track record that demonstrates it, that I can take the existing players, get much better performances out of them and buy constructively to build for a better future.'”

Well whereas Liverpool still clung on to hopes of a top four spot until the end stages of last season, that feat is already looking out of reach this campaign. Only the poor quality of the league this season offers a chink of hope that Liverpool can sneak in with a late run.

That of course would require an improvement away from home, a more balls-out approach coupled with more consistent effort from the players. Going away and trying not to get beat is not good enough for Liverpool - it's not even good enough for Bolton.

Coyle once said he would try and beat his kids if he played them at tiddlywinks. You get the feeling Hodgson would settle for a draw.

Liverpool need a manager who can instil players with confidence, motivate his stars, convince fans with his rhetoric and make the most of the resources available to him. A new manager, the right manager, can make a difference. Hodgson was never the right manager – his CV says so.

Returning to the Bolton example for a final time, look at Johan Elmander. Labelled a expensive flop under Megson, all of sudden he is a player reborn under Coyle. He said himself when comparing the two managers: “It doesn't help to stare and scream at me. I got tired the more of it I heard.

“Owen Coyle is a great coach, who I really enjoy working with. As soon as he came to the club I started to play well, even though the goals didn't come right away.”

Gretar Steinsson, another Megson signing, said: "It's totally different from the first years when I was here, being in a team that actually believe they can get points against the strong sides instead of just hoping for a draw."

Inspiration and positive approach

Liverpool and NESV do not have to accept mediocrity. They shouldn't be happy with a plucky defeat at Spurs or progress in Europe's second-rate competition. The squad is capable of more – 11 of the 23 players that achieved Liverpool's best away record in the past 20 years are still on the books.

And while Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano have left, Raul Meireles and Glen Johnson have joined. The wage bill alone at Liverpool should dictate a certain level of success.

Perhaps inspiration and a positive approach could make the difference. Sadly, the likelihood is we'll never know the answer to that question under Hodgson.

Asked about Liverpool's poor form away, he recently said: “If you ask me why, when we have such a good set of quality players, then the only true answer is I wish I knew. There should be no reason, because we have a team that can win away from home.”

So Roy is looking at the players, knowing they're good enough, yet puzzled by why they are not performing. Perhaps the players are looking at Roy, knowing he's not good enough and that's why they are not performing.


Dalglish v Hodgson - It's no contest.

Kenny Dalglish Liverpool 2010/11 Liverpool V FC Steaua Bucharest (4-1) 16/09/10 UEFA Europa League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom


by JOHN ANTHONY

AT the press conference to announce Roy Hodgson as new Liverpool manager, chairman Martin Broughton went to great lengths to explain the long, considered process the board had gone through when deciding who should get the job.

He talked about the track record, reputation and experience that all pointed to Hodgson being the right man.

Yet if the board went through such an extended process, how could they miss the chance to bring the most successful football manager in recent history to Anfield? No, Alex Ferguson didn't apply for the job – but, according to a respected football statistician and economist, the best manager of his generation did.

There are many ways of measuring the best manager. The easiest is to count up league championships won – and Ferguson has won 11, at least double his nearest current challenger.

But it's taken him 25 years to win those titles. How many would Bob Paisley have won if he'd managed us for 25 years instead of just nine? After all he won it seven times in his comparatively short time in charge. Read that again – seven in nine years.

Ferguson had been United manager for seven years before he won his first title.

How about looking at how often managers win the title and the average finishing position of the clubs they manage. This can at least make it a more level playing field for bosses that haven't been around since football was in black and white.

Take Ferguson, on average he wins 0.44 top-flight championships per season. You can't win 0.44 of a championship but his record of 14 top-flight titles from 32 seasons with Manchester United, Aberdeen and St Mirren works out at 0.44 championships per season.

Look at his finishing positions in those seasons: 8, 4, 1, 2, 2, 3, 1, 1, 11, 2, 11, 13, 6, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 3, 1, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 2. That's an impressive run of form and equates to an average finishing position of 2.8.

Again, you can't come 2.8th in the league but you get my drift. So a championship roughly once every two seasons and an average of finishing in the top three makes SurAlex a pretty good yardstick.

Semi-pro title

Arsene Wenger is another manager talked of in hushed tones. Yet in 24 seasons of top-flight management it is surprising he has won just four titles, meaning he wins 0.17 titles per season.

On that count Ferguson is more than twice the manager Wenger is. Looking at his top-flight formline, Wenger teams have finished: 11, 18, 19, 1, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 6, 3, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 4, 4, 3, 4, 3 for an average finishing position of 4.2.

There wouldn't have been many complaints had Wenger been sitting next to Broughton in a new LFC tie at that press conference. But what of the man who did get the job?

It's tricky to assess Roy Hodgson's career in the same way as the “Big Two” because much of his top-flight experience has come in semi-professional leagues.

It's ridiculous to value a mid-1970s Swedish semi-pro title alongside winning the Premier League. To make a sensible comparison we can look at the seasons when Roy managed in the top flight in England and Italy at Blackburn, Udinese, Inter Milan and Fulham.

Some allowances have to made in these figures as he has been sacked in mid-season by three of those clubs. Hodgson's finishing positions in the English and Italian top-flight reads: 7, 3, 6, 19, 14, 17, 7, 12. That's 0 titles per season and an average finishing position of 10.6.

Even allowing for the small sample those are not particularly impressive figures. So the candidates for Liverpool manager this time around must have been a modest bunch if someone who has yet to win a top-flight title and whose teams finish mid-table got the job. Not so.

According to respected football statistician and author Stefan Szymanski, the best manager of the past two decades and more had thrown his hat in the ring.

Szymanski compiled a database of football statistics from 1974-1995 and calculated that Kenny Dalglish has the best record of all managers in English football.

Modest resources

He looked at factors such as spending on player wages, the number of players used in a season and the proportion of home-grown players in the squad. Dalglish was particularly good at getting the best out of relatively modest resources.

Szymanski said: “The assumption is that anyone can buy their way to the top of the league, but you have to be Kenny Dalglish to do it cheaply.”

How useful those skills could be for the current Liverpool manager in these cash-strapped times. Granted, his study was completed in the mid-90s before Ferguson had really got going at Old Trafford.

And it came just before Kenny's “disastrous” - © all newspapers - spell at Newcastle United. A spell so disastrous it featured a second-place Premier League finish and an FA Cup Final in less than three seasons.

So I applied the manager test to Kenny Dalglish and the results were something of an eye-opener. In completed top-flight seasons as manager, his finishing positions were: 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1, 2, 13, 2. The fourth came in Blackburn's first top-flight season and the 13 was his second term at Newcastle when Alan Shearer suffered the injury that he never really recovered from.

Even with that blip, Dalglish has won 0.36 titles per season with an average finishing position of 2.8. So a very similar record to Ferguson even after his run of success in Kenny's absence.

It's twice the title return that Wenger has managed and is in a different league to Hodgson. This excellent record seems to have been forgotten – when the editor of this very magazine was interviewed on Radio Merseyside, the presenter asked him about “Dalglish's average record last time he was Liverpool manager”.

Why didn't the club roll out the red carpet when Dalglish said he wanted the job? Just look at his record again – not only did he keep the Liverpool dynasty rolling, he took a midtable second division club and won them the league.

He spent a few quid doing it but considerably less than Alex Ferguson did to bring success to Manchester United.

And is it a coincidence that Ferguson was only able to dominate English football when Dalglish was out of the way? His mind games didn't seem to work in those days.

The reason given was Dalglish's “10 years out of football”. This is a reasonable caveat but it's not like he's forgotten what to do – he wouldn't have come in on day one to ask when we were playing Coventry and Sheffield Wednesday.

The passing over of Dalglish for Hodgson was a puzzling one but Kenny hasn't gone away. Would he be happy to hold the fort until the next permanent manager is identified? Could he provide the short-term boost that could secure a place in Europe or even a cup win?

It could be a gamble worth taking. And on the evidence of the statistics, not actually that much of a gamble.



Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Dear Mr Hicks..

Monday, 27 September 2010

Well Red's new website...

 

Unlike Liverpool FC under Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Well Red now has a new home. Visit us at www.wellredmag.co.uk

Please do not post comments here as they will be deleted. Visit the new site and join the debate.
 
Thanks for your support. YNWA.
 
Robbo

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

LIVERPOOL FC: There's Klingons on the starboard bow

From the new Well Red magazine website: liverpoolfc.wellredmag.co.uk

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 BenĂ­tez 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: liverpoolfc.wellredmag.co.uk