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The Liverpool Orioles!
So what happened in both1991 and 2005? Well, Prince Charles got married, England won the Ashes, the Pope died and Liverpool won the Champions League, an impressive probability quirk at the best of times. Now some are saying it will be another 14 years before Liverpool win anything again in Europe the way things are going with the new American owners and the muddled Benitez. It's getting so bad the Everton fans are singing Jose Beneathus, as Moyes team are looking the more likely for champions League on Merseyside. The top league is a different world to the one were Bob paisley and the boot room boys supped tea after wining 4 European cups and I don't think Liverpool fans can deal with it.
I do feel sorry for Liverpool; coming from a Manchester United fan that wasn't easy to say. A once successful multiwinning trophy side with a winning ethos has sold its sole to the devil now and effectively in 'hock', Hick and Gillette refinancing the loan this week to keep control of the club. This week Liverpool fans also learned that any profits made will go to repaying the interest. No money will be available to buy in fresh talent. Unless you can get an Abramovich or Randy Learner style owner to wipe out your debts and release money for good players then your are really just a cash sponge being squeezed for that lucrative TV money. With the credit-crunch biting you do wonder what type of new deal they signed and how big the interest is. You can pay that interest if you are winning things like Man United, 87% of their 200m profits last year used to service their current Glazier debts. It seems you can't help but borrow to stay with the likes of Abramovich now.
Hicks and Gillette have borrowed all the money they have purchased Liverpool with and their personal wealth is just a guarantee. They aren't really risking much here for their controlling 51% stake. This latest refinancing deal was not a move to raise capital to by a new stadium so much but to load the debt on to the Liverpool board and so the club, meaning they will make more profit when they sell it on. These guys are not in it for the football.
Hicks has a history of this, he and George W Bush moving a baseball team from one city to another, a franchising system now not out of the question
in the Premiership as foreign ownership spins out of control. Hicks and Bush and two other businessmen were persuaded by the City of Arlington in Texas to move the Texas Rangers team to Arlington with the City buying the purpose built stadium for them, just to secure a major league team in the Dallas twin city. The deal saw Hicks and co get a free stadium, all the franchise rights and utilities paid for, only having to find the wages of the players from substantial TV and gate money. With Andy Appleby being the fifth American to buy a Premiership team this week at Derby County (once the Baseball Ground) English football will have to consider its destiny if the clubs continue to go abroad. Fans seem to think the FA can stop what the owners want to do in the future by being the F.A. Wrong. These guys own the clubs and even now will be forming their own committees to shape the future of 'soccer' in the U.K- if it's in the U.K. With Manchester United having 700 million fans worldwide then why wouldn't they play a premiership game in Thailand? We saw an American football league game at Wembley only last year, the first time an NFL game had ever been played outside of America, I'm sure as equally sacrilegious to gridiron fans.
The Liverpool saga has also highlighted the BBC woeful tabloid reporting style they see to be deteriorating into. They told us thee different guys were going to take over Newcastle United, yet nowhere on the Keegan and then the Wise story, then they said Liverpool would be taken over by a Dubai based financing company last week. This deal never got close and made their ethnic quota filling and mumbling sports correspondent Mihir Bose look silly, he continuing to claim the deal is still on even today. Hicks did tell Gary Richardson that he and Gillette had offered the Dubai people 15% of the club some 17 months ago but that's no evidence that the Americans want to sell in 2008. The BBC sports people keep trying to cover their tracks on these speculative stories but it's a sign the corporation is ready to go commercial. Report the facts or not at all please! You would have thought the Financial Regulator would have something to say about a TV station constantly trying to talk up a deal like this with little evidence.
Team and performance wise it started well for Liverpool, just one defeat in the league going into the Christmas period where squad strength really shines. But facing a critical Champions League qualifier on the following Tuesday to prem game Liverpool went down 3-1 to a modest Reading side, pulling off their star players to save them for the game. Liverpool fans were incensed and felt that was the point Liverpool gave up on the Premiership for another year. Most top mangers face this situation with Europe but they usually put the guys on at the end of the game to try and secure points that way. Since that game Liverpool's league performance has been poor and indecisive over the last 2 years.
Benitez was clearly bought in to not only do well in the Premiership but to win European trophies, which they did in 2005 of course, memorably turning around a 3-0 half-time deficit to win on penalties against a Milan side that would be later implicated in a match fixing scandal. UEFA claim it was a legitimate game to this day whilst others disagree. It was an extraordinary game. Liverpool's European pedigree is unquestionable but they haven't won the league since the 80s.When Torres came in through the Spanish connection you could immediately see a Robbie Fowler style goal scorer scenario here, a guy able to score spectacular winners in games Liverpool weren't dominating. He's clearly a twenty five goal a season guy and maturing quickly. But if Benitiez is ousted or walks away he will probably take Torres with him. If they keep him and Benetez, regardless of the behind the scenes chaos, this guy can take Liverpool close next year in the premiership. But with no money for new players that could be seen as constructed dismissal moves by the owners to force his hand.
Captain Gerard is Liverpool through and through and with Benayoun and Alonso alongside there's a nucleus of a premiership winning midfield. When Liverpool are playing well their defense seems to be the driver, again plenty of class in the back four. An easy home Cup draw against Barnsley and the Champions League rebooting next month should sharpen the team in the Premiership and the challenge reinforced.
The problem in the league has always been that consistency, again down to Benetiz favoring Europe over the top two spot in the Prem. But to me they don't have the gumption and respect proven winners like Arsenal and Manchester United have, meaning teams lie down against them away from home and so they get more wins, something Liverpool can only earn by wining the Premiership. It doesn't really matter how many quality guys Houllier and Beneitz bring in because there just doesn't seem to be a get stuck in quality at Anfield. That's not Gerard's fault, an excellent motivational captain for Liverpool and leader that he's clearly not for England, but the foreign legion around him who are not prepared to get stuck in away from home in the league. This is why Sir Alex likes to go with an English nucleus to his sides that he can take aside and read the riot act to. Liverpool have only won 7 times in 32 encounters with the other big four teams compared to Manchester Uniteds 17. That's how you win the league, those six-pointers at top the pile...