FSG: Good Owners or Lucky Opportunists?

by John O'Sullivan
14th Sep 2018

Which are FSG?

Anyone who knows me from my time on Twitter is fully aware where I stand on this. I thought I’d outline my thoughts once and for all.

I, like everyone, was delighted to see the back of Hicks and Gillette. Owners that had us near administration; something I don’t think would realisitcally have ever happened because if the state-owned RBS put us into administration it could have affected the value of the club, and the liquidation argument put forward by some is ridiculous.
Unlike others, I didn’t automatically think NESV were the saviours at the time; the fact that John Henry made his money in hedge funds and that inner circle had advised NESV on the purchase of Liverpool as they had advised Hicks and Gillete didn’t sit well with me.

I didn’t like the attempt to manage expectations and John Henry’s praise of the Arsenal model, which seemed to be based more on success off the pitch then on.

I wasn’t impressed either by the appointment of Damien Comoli, a figure of ridicule from his Spurs days. It showed their recruitment policy would be stats led similarly to what they had done in baseball with The Red Sox, “moneyball.”

“Bottom of the barrel” it didn’t help when Christian Purslow’s email came out in court re. NESV. It was extremely unflattering and helped sowed seeds of doubt in my mind.

The treatment of Kenny Dalglish towards the end of his tenure left a sour taste as well. The picture of John Henry seemingly ignoring him after the 2012 FA Cup Final didn’t go down well, or the way he was ‘summoned’ to Boston to get his marching orders. A massive lack of respect for a Liverpool legend.

Another thing that irked me was their managerial search in 2012. Their main targets were Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers, two managers who didn’t appear to have the credentials to manage a club the size of Liverpool. Neither had achieved anything remarkable in the game that would suggest they were ready for a top club. It looked more like they were young impressionable managers who could be controlled by the Liverpool ownership.

They settled on Rodgers because Martinez suggested he wouldn’t work under FSG’s new cobbled together transfer structure.

The years under Rodgers brought initial hope, especially in the 2013/14 season before the project was derailed when not for the first or last time FSG decided to cash in on one of their prized possessions, selling Luis Suarez for £65 million; not for the initial £75 million told to placate the fans.

The transfer committee which included Michael Edwards and Rodgers himself managed to spunk most of the money on dross trying to be clever.

2015 saw the arrival of Jurgen Klopp – a truly world class coach who had battled German’s Bayern with a limited budget; something FSG clearly like. While people praise them for this appointment, I think it was a no-brainer and most owners of Liverpool at the time would have recruited him. Klopp was available and clearly attracted to Liverpool, as evident from the previous Summer when he brought his Dortmund side to Anfield for a pre-season match.

Initially Jamie Carragher said from what he was hearing behind the scenes at Liverpool they were unsure about Klopp, but they couldn’t have missed the overwhelming fans support for his potential appointment. Eventually they went with what the fans wanted.

Klopp has since shown what a top class coach he is. He has achieved miracles on such a low net spend. Even he himself recently referenced how conservatively the owners run the club. I won’t bore you with the net spend figures and for those who say it means nothing, check who wins most trophies across Europe and their net spend.

In 2016, FSG promoted Michael Edwards ‘Prozone Eddie’ as Head of Recruitment, showing their continued commitment to the stats led recruitment policy; something I’m not personally behind. I think there is an actual skill to spotting a player and some are blessed with that skill.

The re-development of Anfield, whilst welcome, as it stands with the Anfield Road question still up in the air, they’ve done the bare minimum. Remember the reason David Moores sold Liverpool was for a new stadium to be built so Liverpool could properly compete with the other top sides. It was also part of any sale agreement in 2010. While FSG loaned Liverpool the money, it wasn’t interest free as was initially reported in the media. And if you look now, most clubs are improving their stadiums due to them being awash with money from the TV deal.

I keep hearing how John Henry has improved Liverpool finances, which I agree with to a point, but the single biggest person to have improved Liverpool finances is Richard Scudamore and his TV deals. Without this FSG would be long gone.

The lack of trophies is also a big bone of contention. It’s our longest run without a trophy since the 50’s, coinciding with our worst consecutive finishes since the 50’s. 4th is now deemed a success to some Liverpool fans. Anyone long-term Liverpool supporters would understand that prior to 2010 this would have been ridiculed.

This is just a brief article on why I’ve misgivings about FSG. John Henry is clearly a brilliant business man and I’m sure FSG’s investors are delighted with the purchase vs the club’s value now, but as football owners and, actually, in creating success on the pitch, they have been mediocre.

It’s possible to be a Liverpool fan and not a massive fan of FSG. That’s the bracket I’m in. Personally, I think FSG have been extremely lucky with Klopp and the ever-growing TV deals; without either they’d be history.

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