John Henry and FSG have kept the forgotten promise they made to Liverpool fans
Criticism of Fenway Sports Group was reaching a crescendo from Liverpool supporters. And John Henry felt it was time to act.
A summer of indifferent transfer incomings had left the Anfield faithful disgruntled as the deadline passed without a new, top-line striker having been acquired.
And with the natives restless, Liverpool owner Henry penned an open later to defend the club’s business.
“We have no fear of spending and competing with the very best but we will not overpay for players,” he wrote, a clear reference to the spree of recently-jettisoned duo Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish.
“We have only one driving ambition at Liverpool and that is the quest to win the Premier League playing the kind of football our supporters want to see.”
That was in September 2012, mere months after Brendan Rodgers had taken over from Dalglish in the hotseat.
With Liverpool having now ended their 30-year wait to be crowned champions of England, much will quite rightly be made of Henry’s initial comments when stood outside the London offices of law firm Slaughter & May.
利物浦现在已经结束了对英格兰桂冠30年的等待，亨利当初站在伦敦事务所Slaughter & May的言论是十分正确的。
“We are committed first and foremost to winning,” said. “We have a history of winning, and today we want LFC supporters to know that this approach is what we intend to bring to this great club.
“We’re here to win, we will do whatever is necessary.”
Given Liverpool were in the relegation zone at the time with Roy Hodgson in charge of a team stripped of a team of many leading players due to the ruinous regime of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, it was a bold claim.
But it’s those comments a few years later that perhaps resonate most. Under FSG, Liverpool had already won the League Cup – ending the club’s six-year trophy drought – but it was clear the owners knew matters weren’t quite right. They had to learn.
Within two years, the Reds thrillingly came close to winning the title under Rodgers. But it was to be a false dawn, a season where the stars aligned and almost, almost produced glory that, in retrospect, clearly would not have been sustainable.
Another approach was required. And so came the two key decisions that have shaped Liverpool into the conquering force they are today.
The first was to coax Jurgen Klopp out of his self-imposed sabbatical as replacement for the axed Rodgers in October 2015. The second was to appoint Michael Edwards as sporting director 13 months later.
With FSG president Mike Gordon managing day-to-day operations, the foundations were finally in place for a long-term project that demonstrated the experience and know how the owners had acquired over their first five years in control.
And Liverpool, as Henry had insisted, were starting to win. The finals of the League Cup and Europa League were reached – admittedly without silverware to show for it – and Champions League qualification was assured.
Transfer business, previously often a battleground between manager and recruitment team, was now focused. Liverpool started to sell as well as they bought, with FSG refusing to spend over the going rate. During the Klopp reign, the net spend per transfer window is roughly £20million.
“Other clubs have different ways to do it, we have our way,” said the Reds boss. “I know people don’t want to wait. We cannot change this.”
Patience, though, would prove a virtue. The return to the Champions League saw Liverpool reach the final, and while Kiev saw another agonising defeat, it gave the club the confidence and profile to take the next step that had started with the £75million signing of Virgil van Dijk by bringing in £65m goalkeeper Alisson Becker, £52.75m midfielder Naby Keita and £40m man Fabinho.
FSG, as Henry had said in 2012, have no fear of spending – provided the targets are worth it.
They have also capitalised on the team’s progress in other areas. The revamped Main Stand was opened in 2016, a new state-of-the-art training facility in Kirkby is close to completion. And while the coronavirus outbreak has put matters back 12 months, the owners are committed to a new Anfield Road End, taking the capacity of the stadium beyond 60,000.
Revenue has gone from £184m in 2011 to a whopping £533m last year, leaving the club well placed to cope with the undoubted financial fallout from the new football landscape.
But what fans craved most was tangible reward. And after again agonisingly missing out on the Premier League title despite earning a club-record 97 points, a sixth European Cup was secured in Madrid last June.
The floodgates had opened. The UEFA Super Cup and a first-ever FIFA Club World Cup followed, leading to at last being crowned champions of England.
“We’re only going to get stronger,” said Tom Werner last year. “Ninety-seven points, it’s a remarkable year.
“We obviously didn’t win the league but we’ll be back next year and we’ve got a lot of motivation to win the league next year. I’m excited.”
Werner was right to be. Henry, almost a decade after his initial declaration, has been true to his word. Liverpool are Premier League champions, playing the kind of football supporters want to see.