Henry's open letter gives mixed messages
Posted by guest on September 5, 2012, 06:13:31 PM
It has become the done thing for people closing the final chapter of their Liverpool career to write an open letter on the official club website. When John Henry’s name appeared printed underneath one on Monday morning, you would be forgiven for assuming the same fate had befallen the club’s American principal owner. It’s been one of those weeks for everyone involved.
But the letter was crafted with other intentions in mind. Supporters demanded communication - here it is. To some it’s already too late, and Henry knows the battle with them is already lost. Promises and boasts from the mouth of chairman Tom Werner have gone largely unfulfilled so far - no wonder more boasts and promises from the ownership will be met with trepidation. FSG also, of course, handled the Suarez situation with disinterest and the sacking of Kenny Dalglish with disrespect. The American owners would still struggle to find favour if Lionel Messi strode through the Shankly Gates atop Pegasus as the club’s new No. 9.
That battle has gone; this is for those with whom they can still win the public relations war. That’s not to say Henry’s letter was disingenuous, but just two years into their tenure they look to heal wounds with the club’s supporter base; just three league games into Brendan Rodgers’ tenure as Liverpool manager, FSG must do the same with him. The letter itself is a mere band-aid, but nevertheless thorough, meticulous and business-like, reading like the responses to a question and answer session. If only they had shown that efficiency on Friday.
A lot of the statement is hard to argue with. Liverpool did buy talented young players this summer while retaining prized assets Agger, Skrtel and Suarez. The financial situation of the club is also remarkably healthy given they were haemorrhaging £110,000 per day in interest repayments and teetered on the brink of administration just two years ago. Henry’s words also herald his first public admittance of accountability in last season’s calamitous transfer business. "It has been a harsh education but, make no mistake, the club is healthier today than when we took over,” he said, inadvertently damning with faint praise.
There are also a few contentious points from Henry; a few contradictions quite easily challenged. He spoke of the dedication to nurturing the club’s youngsters ahead of quick-fix solutions, yet the continuously improving Jordan Henderson, 23, was a potential makeweight in the deal for Clint Dempsey. The spectre of Financial Fair Play also lingers, with FSG refusing to partake in the exorcism. Spending money within the club’s means is admirable and sensible, but to do so at the behest of a fictional rule conjured up by Michel Platini’s UEFA is lamentable, though it did provide a lucrative manufacturer deal with Warrior. Either Henry finds a loophole in FFP to exploit, much like the Gazprom-sized one Zenit St Petersburg found to fund a £75 million double swoop for Hulk and Axel Witsel, or he ignores it like most of Europe and makes the club self-sufficient on his own terms.
His love for Financial Fair Play provides the crux issue of FSG’s ownership. Their intentions are good, Henry’s words of not being part of the ownership for profit entirely believable – but is the ability to succeed at the club prevalent through the hierarchy? John Henry is not Tom Hicks and Tom Werner is not George Gillett. Hysterical comparisons between the two ownerships should be filed alongside the cries for the club to reconsider Rodgers’ position after three games. But attitude does not always attribute towards accomplishment.
The naivety of the ownership in its first two years of incumbency has continuously startled; the feeling is that the task of running a Premier League football club has startled them, too. FSG bought the club with the promise of FFP a catalyst in that decision - witnessing the ostentatious spending both in England and Europe as a whole must be enough to consider whether it was worth pursuing in the first place. At first, they tried to match others stride-for-stride, but it was a tactic written off as an expensive mistake. This summer, their attempts to reverse it went well until the final 48 hours of madness, which leaves Liverpool’s squad, according to Brendan Rodgers, at least two forward players short.
Supporters have dealt with FSG learning on the job over the past two years. As Henry alludes to in his letter, the edification has begun. It simply has to, and soon, if Liverpool are to compete for major honours in the future. It has to for the sake of their relations with supporters and manager alike, too. Though communication is something that’s been asked of them, it is a two-way concept. Henry would be wise to converse over issues elsewhere other than the club’s official channels, truly making his letter an open one.
He must also back Rodgers in his judgement. Strikers out-of-contract still exist, and if one that suits the club becomes available, the opportunity must be presented to the manager. That striker won’t be Michael Owen, who signed for Stoke City on Wednesday – much to the relief of most Liverpool supporters.
Behind the promises, finger-pointing and personal admittance of culpability laid one simple message: John Henry, and Fenway Sports Group, is going nowhere. “We are not just looking at the next 16 weeks until we can buy again,” the letter read. “We are looking at the next 16 years and beyond.” With Liverpool in the bottom three and most of the club’s ails currently attributed to them, FSG will hope the next 16 years won’t be as unpleasant as the next 16 weeks could prove to be.
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