2010/11: A Historic Season For Liverpool FC

by Michael Healey

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

The parallel between the start of the 2010/11 season for Liverpool Football Club was drastic, immense and vast. Starting the season with a new manager who was completely unwanted by the majority of supporters, who were still angry at losing fan favourite Rafael (Rafa) Benitez and having seen club icon Kenny Dalglish been looked over by the clubs decision makers.

Instead they opted for Roy Hodgson, a man who had performed miracles by keeping an un-fancied team in Fulham in the Premier League and then the unthinkable by taking them into Europe and all the way to the 2010 Europa League Final in Hamburg.

This achievement was all that was needed to convince Martin Broughton the chairman of British Airways PLC, who was brought in to oversee the sale of the club, and managing director Christian Purslow to appoint the 63 year old. At this time the club were in complete disarray as owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who are best described as disgraceful, where actively looking to rid themselves of the club in return for a healthy profit.

Ever since having an offer accepted of £435million (£135 million borrowed from the Royal Bank of Scotland) by then owner, David Moores, in February 2007 the pair started making promises they were unable to keep. George Gillett famously or infamously quoted as saying “The spade has to be in the ground within 60 days” in reference to a proposed new stadium. That summer, the Reds signed Fernando Torres for a then club record fee of £26.5million having reached the Champions League Final, before losing to AC Milan in Athens, the season before.

The unfortunate thing for Liverpool supporters was the good times stopped there when it came to the gruesome twosome. Manager Rafa Benitez was consistently undermined by the two Americans, in particular when it came to funds for transfers. It all came to a head when Benitez attended a regular media day in November 2007 prior to a league game and answered every question stating “I am concentrated on coaching and training my players”.

The signs of friction were starting to show and were apparent to all. At this point in the Hicks-Gillett nightmarish timeline manager Benitez was worshipped by all supporters and the fact he was being undermined publicly infuriated Reds supporters all over the globe, none more so on the famous Kop Grandstand. Shockingly in January 2008 Tom Hicks admitted meeting Jurgen Klinsmann about taking over from Benitez which shocked and appalled the faithful on Merseyside. Further lies, a lack of leadership and a debt that was spiralling out of control with the club dropping into over £300 million worth of debt (ironically with debt ravaged banks Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia) finally provided the final straw as administration came into view.

This was the moment a man rode into the club, not on a white horse but more of a BA Airplane, as Martin Broughton arrived to ensure the sale of the club to the right buyer and not to one that would line the pockets of the hated Americans. Foreign consortiums, including a Kenny Huang fronted bid involving the Chinese Government and an offer from Syrian businessmen Yahya Kirdi, made their bids public but nothing materialised. Then in September 2010 Royal Bank of Scotland placed the clubs loan with themselves into toxic acids. This seemed to be the end of the devilish duo but still Hicks attempted to refinance a deal to keep him in control, which he was unable to gain.

As the deadline to administration was gaining ground fast, a bid was made, and ultimately successful one from NESV (New England Sports Ventures) fronted by John W Henry, an American businessmen who was also the owner of famed Baseball team the Boston Red Sox. The bid was rejected by Hicks and Gillett but was accepted by Broughton, Purslow and Commercial Director Ian Ayre. This gave a 3/2 vote in favour of the bid. Finally the club had rid itself of the cancer that was destroying it from the inside.

Finally the club could breathe again. Even though the sale was at the process stage, Hicks and Gillett attempted to gain an injunction to halt and stop the sale which was fruitlessly rejected. The end was nigh. Hicks called the sale as an “epic swindle”. But it was useless. NESV had taken over to the delight of the Liverpool faithful.

Whilst the club off the pitch was beginning to find its feet, things on the pitch were going the complete opposite direction. Hodgson’s Liverpool team were lacking direction, belief and played with a distinct lack of potency. Victories against West Ham, Aston Villa and Chelsea were coincided with defeats to Blackpool, Everton and ultimately Blackburn Rovers as Hodgson’s Liverpool career came to a stuttering halt.

The veteran manager’s record at Anfield was dismal for such a huge club: 29 games, 12 wins, 8 draws and 9 defeats leaving him with a 41% winning rate during his Liverpool tenure. A 3-1 defeat at Hodgson’s former club Blackburn (another team he failed with) at a wet and windy Ewood Park signalled the end of his reign.

It also started the beginning of a bright, new reign for the Reds.

The next game was an FA Cup third round tie with arch rivals and the old enemy, Manchester United at Old Trafford. Cue the club to make an inspired appointment. Cue ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish. The Scot, and Anfield icon, was given the job until the end of the season to help steer the club to a reasonable finish.

Dalglish has an iconic image at the club and rightly so. Having amassed 8 league titles, 3 European Cups and 2 FA Cups as player and manager at the club he is truly a club legend. With a status with Liverpool that compares to Maradonas association with Boca Juniors and Napoli and Johan Cruyff with Ajax and Barcelona, it was an inspired appointment from the new owners.

Dalglish’s appointment was pivotal in bringing the supporters and playing staff at the club together again. Where there had been anger and frustration there was now a smile on everybody’s face. The defeats to Blackpool, Everton and Blackpool were replaced with wins against Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Along with Dalglish’s appointment the new owners made another key appointment: Damien Comolli as Director of Football Strategy and latterly as Director of Football, working exclusively to help bring fresh faces to the club and to work alongside Dalglish. Comolli’s memo when coming to the club was to help attract fresh, young promising talent to the club like he did with Tottenham (he was key in bringing Gareth Bale and Luka Modric to the club).

Although Liverpool lost their FA Cup tie with United, the club managed to turn their form around and finished the season strongly, narrowly missing out on Europa League qualification to Tottenham Hotspur. But the improvement in form meant that Dalglish was offered a new deal to stay on permanently. The team’s performances on the pitch were helped significantly during the January transfer window.

With star man Fernando Torres leaving for Chelsea, the reds pulled off a coup to sign Luis Suarez from Ajax (a transfer which was happening either if Torres was staying or leaving) and the club record £35million deal for Newcastle striker Andy Carroll. The board, along with Comolli and Dalglish, showed their desire and fantastic initiative to pull off a deadline day double swoop to delight Liverpool supporters. The early signs for Suarez and Carroll are promising.

So to analyse the 2010/11 season for the reds is quite simple: Terrible first half, promising second half. A team that was hopelessly failing under Hodgson was playing free flowing football under Dalglish. The transition was startling. Players who were under performing (i.e. Maxi Rodriguez and Glen Johnson) were now contributing at a higher level, let alone the influx of young talent being brought into the team in Martin Kelly, Jack Robinson, Jay Spearing and John Flanagan.

The club had finally rid themselves of the disease that had plagued them. With the new ownership and structure in place the Reds finally have their medicine.

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  • http://www.liverpoolfc.news.au.net Ik uwakonye

    If d right players ar injectd,i tel u dir ‘ll b an instant turn around.

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