Liverpool Football Club stands at a crossroads. A club blessed with the most illustrious of histories, struggling to find success in the modern game. No longer the dominant force domestically, let alone amongst Europe’s elite. Are we a club livid in the past, our history clouding expectations over reality? Or are we just the perpetual underachievers, not making the most of our talents to succeed in the modern game?
Whilst supporters hopes have steadily fallen in recent years, the dreams of such a large global fan base cannot dissipate altogether. As a consequence there remains a level of expectation, which has rarely been met over the last quarter of the century. There are of course a few notable exceptions. The famous treble under Houllier, the most historic of nights in Istanbul under Rafa and other cup glories along the way. What’s been missing however and what supporters crave is a league title and sustained success.
When a manager joins the club, talks are firmly fixed on the illustrious history, the past achievements and the legendary former managers that walked the halls. When a player joins it switches to the iconic players, which once graced the club and showered it in glory. Whilst I respect the past, with more adulation than I can put into words. I also long for success now, in my era. I want players to want to join the club, to play with current great players, to play for a talented and assured manager with a clear vision, to play for a team succeeding on and off the pitch and whose history whilst vital, is a side note with sustained success consistently on the horizon.
In my lifetime as a supporter we’ve won the league once. It was in 1990 and I was just 5 years old, I can’t say I remember it well. 25 years on and I’m impatiently awaiting another. However, I’ll happily wait that little bit longer, if it means the club become can reach a point where they challenge regularly. As a supporter, I’ve often wanted to skip what are the required steps for that one shot of glory, much like we did in 2013/2014. However, in truth we weren’t ready, we let naivety and inexperience block our path to glory. That’s not to say we didn’t deserve to compete, we were explosive, dynamic and exhilarating, all traits a modern Premier League craves. Ultimately though we fell short, we’ve subsequently fallen much further.
I can’t describe quite how much excitement I had as a Liverpool supporter on that famed 13 game run. My life became all about the next match. The title surge ignited my hopes of a vitriolic rise, putting Liverpool back to the top. I got carried away with the momentum, which made last season all the more heart wrenching. The simple black and white truth to me is that we’re the fifth best club in the league, both financially but crucially with the talent that steps onto the pitch. I’m not going to use the ever so controversial word ‘par’, because the simple truth of last season is that clubs who finished in the top four under performed. If we’d performed to our capabilities, we would have capitalised and be competing in the Champions League this season.
Since FSG took over in 2011, the club have made great strides in developing and enhancing the commercial side of the club. A redeveloped Anfield currently in construction, financially beneficial sponsorship deals and lucrative pre-season games, will help us keep up with the opposition financially. Whether this is to build success on the pitch, or grow the club to a position of sale is another point altogether.
We now stand as the eighth richest club in the world. So before you make arguments that we can’t financially compete, perhaps consider that we can pay more in not just transfer fees but also wages, than many of the clubs you admire; such as Juventus, Dortmund, Porto, PSG, Atletico, Napoli, who strongly compete in the Europe consistently. Look at our recent transfers of significant value. Carroll £35 million, Benteke £32.5 million, Firmino £29 million, Lallana £25 million, Downing £20 million, Lovren £20 million, Markovic £20 million, Suarez £23 million. Anyone questioning FSG’s commitment, needs to study that list above. Not only have we spent significant amounts on over 7 players in 4 years, you can see for yourself quite how much of it has been squandered.
Part of what’s holding the club back is the transfers failings. When we’ve spent significant sums, much of it has been focused on the wrong players in the wrong areas. When we’ve got it right, you can see the positive impact it has on the team. The question is have FSG given those significant funds to the hands of the right people. The simple answer is no, one Cup win and one top 4 finish isn’t good enough under the owners tenure, especially because of the lack of distinct and measured progression.
This summer has seen a shift at the club, we may finally be looking to restore some identity. A change in back room staff and crucially in the recruitment policy, a sign of changing times perhaps? We’ve brought our first choice option in each position we wanted to strengthen and not only that, we’ve done it efficiently, skipping the notorious monitoring faze. Whether those players are the right choice, is a question once we’ve seen how they perform, but I hold out hope that we may surprise, especially now expectations are lowered.
The second place finish spiked hopes. We essentially jumped the queue, skipping what I hoped would be a natural progression into a team consistently finishing in the top four; making progress in Europe and building a team capable of competing for titles. To become that side, we desperately need to move forward from our history. We must never forget it, but it’s time to embrace the future, create new memories and I have faith that we will rise again. Why? Simply because talent shines through and despite the pessimism, there is potential coursing through all aspects of the club.
Next week I’ll explore the players, which give me hope, with a particular focus on the future stars.
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