He's done a great job, but is he a legend?

He’s done a great job, but is he a legend?

According to Kop verse, Brendan Rodgers built a team like Shankly did so that kids would have a story. The man from Ulster is rapidly becoming a hero among Liverpool fans.

He has overseen an astonishing improvement in both performance and achievement. In addition he has surmounted every challenge thrown his way and embraced the clubs history and ethos. Such is the esteem in which he is now held, some fans are referring to him as a legend.

Towards the back end of last season I counted three banners in the ground specifically dedicated to the boss. That was more than for both Shankly and Paisley.

Rodgers Banner

Rodgers Banner

As a huge fan of Brendan Rodgers, I am certainly not knocking this. However, it does make me wonder. Is he a legend? More importantly what does it take to become one?

It has always felt a very straight forward process in my eyes. All you need to do is be successful over a long period of time and Bob’s your uncle.

That worked for me as a Liverpool supporter, because all of our legends were successful over a long period of time. Today though, that theory doesn’t really stand up to close scrutiny.

Forget Liverpool for a moment. At Everton ‘Big Dunc’ is considered a legend, despite not winning a single trophy at the club. I’m certain fans of other clubs have similar stories.

Perhaps that’s fair enough. If the criteria for becoming a legend in the game were restricted to my narrow definition, then they would be very few and far between. Only a small number of teams would ever have legends.

Matt Le Tissier is a legend for Southampton. Aside from being a Full Members Cup finalist in 1992 and a string of player of the month awards, he hasn’t exactly had a glittering career. However, he was a loyal servant of the Saints over sixteen years. He could have moved to a more successful club but chose not to.

So, is that it then? Is loyalty the defining characteristic of a legend? Using that as our benchmark, we could certainly crown Carragher, Gerrard and Hyppia as legends. However, we couldn’t offer the same honorific to Keegan, Souness or McManaman.

Then we come to our managers. In this arena there are two men who can lay claim to being undisputed legends of the club. These are of course Shankly and Paisley. Both won major honours and were, over a sustained period of time, successful in their jobs.

Sadly this doesn’t help either. What about Ronnie Moran and Joe Fagan? Are they not legends? They were also part of a dynasty of unparalleled success. So too was Roy Evans. Sadly we refer to him as a servant, rather than a legend.

Skip forward a decade or two and we come to the clubs first two foreign managers. Houllier won six major honours for Liverpool in six years. Is he not a legend? If not, why not?

Is Gerard a Legend?

Is Gerard a Legend?

What about Rafa Benitez? He won the greatest prize in European football for us. He nearly did it again two years later. Some call him a legend, while others would strongly disagree.

There must be a common denominator, some yardstick we can use to objectively judge. For me there might be and it’s wrapped up in the definition of the word. Legend comes from the latin legenda or things to be read.

We are back to the kop song about kids and stories here. Are legends people who provide us with tales to pass on to our offspring? These could be tales of glory or of failure. Often they are stories of falling and rising again. That’s it then. It’s about success and stories. We’ve cracked it. Or have we?

Yes all of these men have given us stories to tell our kids. There are books dedicated to our disasters and triumphs under them. Alas though there others who have done the same, yet failed to become legends.

After all Djimi Traoré was successful. His Champions League winner’s medal proves it. He gave us stories too. That spectacular Bambi impression against Burnley in the FA Cup was a doozey. He was hardly a legend though. So what is that missing ingredient?

By now you will have noticed that there is one glaring omission from this piece. His is a name that has become synonymous with Liverpool Football Club. He is an undisputed legend and we call him King.

To my mind, Kenny Dalglish has that missing ingredient that alongside the success and the stories means he truly deserves the title legend. I would say that Shankly, Paisley, Fagan and Evans have it too.

True Legends

True Legends

They are each icons of the club. By this I mean that during their time they have become representative symbols of the club and what it stood for. They understood the values of the club and tried every day to embody it. You will undoubtedly think of others who match this criterion.

In the case of Houllier and Benitez it gets a bit tricky. Certainly both can claim to have restored the clubs pride. They both strongly identified with the supporters and history of the club. They brought success and stories, but were they icons?

It is said that under these two managers the club ditched its football philosophy. The free flowing attacking football, that had become the hallmark of Liverpool Football Club, was gone.

In its place was a more pragmatic style of play that, while achieving success, didn’t sit well with the clubs purists. Therefore can they really be described as the embodiment of the club that Shanks built?

In fairness to Benitez, he was the only one within the club speaking out against the Hicks and Gillett reign. In this sense he could be seen to be embodying the spirit of the club. This is why he continues to be held in high regard by the majority of fans. Is he an icon and a legend though?

I’m going to leave that to the comments section and skip, conveniently, over the non-event that was Roy Hodgson. Here we arrive at the current incumbent, Brendan Rodgers. Is he deserving of legendary status?

In his short time at the club he has certainly made strides to imbue its spirit and ethos. Most of us would happily say that Brendan speaks for us, understands us and believes in the football we believe in. His speech at the 25th Hillsborough memorial could have been delivered by one of the clubs grandees.

For me though Brendan hasn’t had time to be successful or become an icon at Liverpool. He needs both of these attributes to merit being hailed a legend. I think he may go on to achieve this, but until he does we should spare him the baggage that comes with those titles.

Brendan’s story is just beginning and we should give him space and time to weave it. If we don’t we do him and his predecessors a huge disservice.

Dalglish the Icon and Legend

Dalglish the Icon and Legend

The giant that captivated a city

The giant that captivated a city

Yesterday the city of Liverpool bid farewell to a spectacular piece of street theatre. It spanned three glorious days, in which sun baked crowds lapped up all that was on offer.

They came to commemorate the advent of WWI and the finale was particular poignant. Leading the giant grandmother along The Strand (a road that runs along the city’s waterfront) were men dressed in civilian period costume. Uniformed officers led them to battle. Their widows in black followed behind.

These men represented the PALS, friends and neighbours who had been recruited together by Lord Kitchener to fight in Europe. The theory was that men, who lived, ate and drank together as comrades in peace, would fight for each other in war.

It was an interesting idea in theory. Sadly it also meant that whole communities would be decimated when, en mass, those same comrades failed to return home. Liverpool, though not alone, was particularly affected by this policy.

It is no surprise then that our city was chosen to lead the nation’s commemoration of that bloody conflict. It also seems perfectly natural that we should turn to France, and specifically Royal Deluxe to help us find a way to pay our respects.

The city and Jean-Luc Courcoult, the company’s creative director, have formed an amusing and surprisingly affectionate bond in recent years.  Given the reaction of the throngs, it’s a love-in that seems destined to flourish.

However, all is not sweetness and light when it comes to the weekends festivities. There have been dissenting voices. Grumbles range from disruption to transport to the cost of the event.

The former complaint seems extreme. It’s not as if events like this are a daily occurrence. Indeed given the benefits to the city’s image and economy, surely we can suck it up for a few days. This was a message delivered, far more subtly I add, by a station announcer yesterday at Fazakerley.

As I stood on the platform early Sunday morning, the lady on the speaker system pleaded with me to be patient “during this very busy period.” She needn’t have bothered. I got it.

As a veteran of the 80’s, I often went to London to either demonstrate or watch my team win a cup. I had seen how even the capital could struggle with large numbers. Liverpool is a city with a much smaller population, which had more than doubled this weekend. Disruption was inevitable.

However, perhaps the economic argument is more understandable. The city council recently voted through £156 million worth of cuts over three years. This is as a result of a reduction in government funding. Such cuts can only mean hardship for the most vulnerable in society.

Against this back-drop, the largesse of the Giant Spectacular seems obscene to some. Is this fair? I don’t think so.

Let’s look at how much this event cost to stage. Reports suggest a figure in the region of 2 million pounds. This seems a lot. However, the contribution from council funds was a fraction of the overall sum, coming in at three hundred thousand pounds.

This amounts to around £1.55 for every person in the city. The rest of the funding came from European and Government grants. Of course we are still entitled to ask if it was all worthwhile.

Before I explore the intangible benefits to the city, of which there are many, let’s look at the cold hard economics. Or to coin a phrase – ‘show me the money.’

The last time the Giants came to Liverpool, in 2012, they attracted up to 800,000 people. It is estimated that this earned the city a staggering £35 million. A third of this income went to the hotel industry with the remainder spent in bars, restaurants and shops.

This year’s attendance is expected to reach 1.5 million. In the context of these sums, our £1.55 per person investment doesn’t seem like much.

If I have any criticism at all, it is that so many of the businesses benefiting from this spending are national chains. This means that the money spent in the city doesn’t necessarily stay here. Yes those chains employ local people who spend their wages here, but the profits go elsewhere.

Perhaps the council should look at increasing the number of local independent businesses occupying prime locations in the city centre. This may help ensure the local economy benefits more.

However, the council and organisers are to be praised for taking the giants into the neighborhoods. Just as they did in 2012 Royale Deluxe also visited some of the most neglected areas of the city. The joyous scenes in Newsham Park on Friday night suggested that this paid off.

For me though the economic and political argument, whilst important, is missing the point. Yes the council and the people of Liverpool should resist the cuts they are expected to endure. Yes we need clothes on our backs, a roof above our heads and food in our bellies.

These are the stuff of life, the basis of existence. However, surely life is about more than mere survival. What of the city’s self belief? Isn’t a confident and assertive population also a healthy and prosperous one?

Too long negative stereotypes have pervaded. I once welcomed a visitor to the city who proclaimed how astonished he was at how ‘modern’ it all seemed. What was he expecting – horse and cart? He probably was.

Surely all such notions have now been dispelled. Liverpool is once again seen as an international city. We are not just capable of hosting these types of events, we excel at them. This weekend’s carnival was beamed around the world. We remain part of the global psyche.

Events like the Giant Spectacular, The River Festival, Liverpool Sound City and The Matthew Street Festival are all important factors in achieving this. As well as bringing in cash they change perceptions. They energise, inspire creativity and motivate people. Life, after all, should be more than just an endless cycle of work and rest.

Imagine there’s no giants? I’d rather not. This was Liverpool in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Yes back then we regularly had thousands on the streets. Trouble is they were either protesting or welcoming their victorious hero’s home with a trophy.

I am not saying we shouldn’t still be protesting. Of course we should. There is still much injustice about. Food and shelter remains the stuff of life. However, events like this weekend and the joy they bring thousands, are what make life worth living.

 

 

lallana

Adam Lallana: are we finally signing the right quality?

 

I love science me. I get excited by the unexpected and bizarre avenues it can take me down. I love the fact that apparently random and chaotic symbols on a chalk board can describe the world and everything in it; even though they are like hieroglyphs to me.

I am often perplexed an amazed by them. Rumour has it the Liverpool squad felt the same way about Roy Hodgson’s tactical scribbles.

Science also tells us that when we gaze at star light, we are often looking at celestial objects that are no longer there. It takes the light so long to reach us from these distant bodies that the source has often winked out before it hits our eyes. Amazing huh?

Our players’ Brazilian odyssey felt a bit like that for me. By the time I got round to watching them, their hopes had already vanished from view. Never mind.

The problem for me though, is that my brain isn’t really equipped for the heavy mathematics that goes into working all of this stuff out.  I might know that E=MC2, but I couldn’t tell you how Einstein got there. Instead, it’s the weird theoretical stuff that really floats my boat.

I love those crazy thought experiments that just blow your mind, like if a player falls down in the box and he’s not a foreigner; is it really a dive? We may never know the answer, but doesn’t it make you think?

Then there’s the Daddy of them all, the ‘Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox.’ Stick with me here; you’ll see what I mean soon honest.

Erwin Schrödinger suggested that if you trap a cat in a box with some poison, you can’t know if it’s alive or dead until you open the lid. In fact, he went further and said that it is the act of opening that lid that forces the cat into one of the two states.

It’s actually far more complicated than that and I’m hoping no actual scientists are reading this. Anyway, the point is that it’s because of the musings of this Austrian physicist in the 1930’s that I love this part of preseason.

You see, to me, Liverpool right now are just like that moggy trapped with the poison. It’s only when we open the lid and get a look at them in action; that our season becomes either alive or dead.

Until then there is just as much chance that we will be champions come May, as there is of us enduring another trophy less ‘lap of honour’.

To be honest though, this summer’s optimism feels a little less theoretical. Even for me, one of footballs eternal optimists, this is the first time in 20 years that I can see some evidence that we might actually push on.

Of course we have been here before. Three times in the last fourteen years to be precise. In terms of how we managed that important ‘next step,’ history doesn’t bode well. We begin our analysis in the summer of 2002.

Bruno Cheyrou: The New Zidane?

Bruno Cheyrou: The New Zidane?

This was a world cup year. Kopites had gone into the summer basking in a second place finish. It represented yet more progress under Gerard Houllier, who had followed up the treble season by finishing just seven points adrift of Arsenal and pushing United into third. We were standing on the brink of history, or so it seemed.

When it comes to transfer windows, Liverpool has had its share of turkeys. However this one, for me, was the mother of them all. This was the window that brought us Bruno Cheyrou. He was heralded as the new Zidane. He wasn’t.

Liverpool signed six players in total that summer. Between them they managed 178 appearance and just 10 goals. This included Alou Diarra. Remember him? If you don’t, you can be forgiven because he didn’t manage a single appearance in a Liverpool shirt.

The following season was sadly the beginning of the end for Gerard. Despite defeating the ‘Mancs’ to lift the League Cup, there was familiar gloom in the league. From finishing 7 points short the year before we now languished in 5th, 19 points adrift of champions United.

You can’t keep us down for long though. You don’t need to be a scientist to recognise where the cream always ends up and in 2009 we came damn close again. What a season of contrasts that was, full of Infuriating draws and sublime victories. Two draws and four points dropped against Stoke robbed us of number nineteen.

The football we played in the second half of that season meant that, once again, we jetted into the summer with high hopes. What we couldn’t have legislated for was ruinous effect of the ownership problems and political infighting. There was to be no silver linings.

This was the summer of Alonso and Aquilani. It was also the transfer window that saw our central defensive linchpin leave. Of all the players that joined that summer, only Glen Johnson remains. Aquilani managed only 1 goal and 18 appearances.

Alberto Aquilani: failure to launch

Alberto Aquilani: failure to launch

 

The following season our fall from grace was astonishing in the context of the highs we had experienced under Rafa. With the team in 7th place and 23 points adrift, the writing was on the wall for our Spanish manager.

So here we are again. After a season in which the title came so close we could taste it, we are once again riding a wave of optimism. Is history about to repeat its self? Or are we on the thresh-hold of a momentous breakthrough?

For me the club seems to have learned from the mistakes of the past. Einstein said madness was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This summer I am genuinely excited that the club are finally ‘going for it.’ They seem to recognise what a golden opportunity this is for us to crack on. Our activity in the transfer window has been swift, decisive and for once successful. One by one the targets have been hit and there are more to come. Finally all seems harmonious off the field too.

The fact that I feel so optimistic, even in the face of losing our star player, tells its own story. The progress the club is making is far from theoretical. There is hard evidence all around for me.

Of course we won’t know if I am right until we lift the lid on the 2014-15 season. That’s the beauty of the now, according to Schrödinger anyway.

Yes the detractors will paint this as yet another Liverpool fan saying “next year is going to be our year.” Our rivals may seem like immovable objects but I’ll quote another scientist in reply.

Archimedes said there was no such thing as an immovable object. You just need a good place to stand and you can move the earth. This summer we look to be in a very favourable position to me and we don’t need to move a world, only Manchester City.

Is this man fit to replace Luis Suarez

Is this man fit to lace Luis Suarez’ Boots

It’s official now. We knew it was coming but despite the huge fee there’s a tinge of sadness and a little anxiety in the air. Luis Suarez is undoubtedly irreplaceable. There are literally just two players in the world who would be fit to lace his boots. We know who they are and £75 million would not prize them away from their respective clubs.

In order to deal with this problem the club should look back to when Luis arrived. In January 2010 we were facing up to losing Torres, who was very much the finished article. Suarez on the other hand was not, but importantly he had the potential to become a superstar.

Liverpool parted with a relatively modest £22.8 million for his services and he chipped in with four goals in 13 games. The following season he managed eleven and was criticized by many pundits for having a very poor shot to goal ratio. We were also treated to commentators claiming he ‘was not a natural goalscorer’. Of course, such claims seem ridiculous now, but there are lessons for us to learn in all of this.

The club are reportedly looking at a number of striking options to replace Luis Suarez. One name that has caused uproar among a section of our support, is Wilfried Bony. The objection seems to be that he is not of the quality of Luis Suarez. Well, no he isn’t, but neither was Luis himself three and a half years ago.

What we can say with confidence is that Bony is a natural goalscorer. After joining Swansea City in 2013 he has plundered 25 goals in 48 games. This is better than a goal every other game. He has achieved this with a team that finished 12th, winning just 11 games.

More importantly, from Liverpool’s point of view, he has done it in one of the toughest leagues in in European football. Therefore signing Bony,  means no frustrating period of adaptation. This is surely crucial if the club are to kick on quickly and take that important next step to the title.

Another argument against signing Bony is that the club needs a ‘marquee signing’ in the aftermath of the Suarez sale. Aside from PR, I really can’t see why this should factor into Brendan’s thinking. Of course a big name signing can work wonders. It can also sell shirts.

They can also spectacularly back-fire. Ask Chelsea fans. I am sure they were jubilant with the signings of Shevchenko and Torres, who cost a combined £85 million. It remains to be seen whether Paris Saint-Germain fans will be pleased with their recent Marquee signing, David Luiz. The only thing a marquee signing guarantees is an empty transfer kitty.

In any case such talk ignores the tremendous progress of other players in the squad. Sterling, Coutinho and Henderson will all improve next time out. I would expect them to contribute more goals. Sturridge will also relish being centre-stage. His 21 goal haul last season was nothing to be sniffed at.

There will also be improvements in defense. We may not need a 30 goal a season striker if we were to concede 20 goals less than we did last year. We may be better served, if we spent the  bulk of the Suarez windfall addressing our obvious defensive frailties.

In the end Liverpool may or may not take Bony to Anfield. There are also links to Benzema, Martinez and Griezmann among others. The point is none of these players are at the level of Suarez. What matters is what can they offer the first team now? Can they improve under Brendan Rodgers? If they can and are able to reach even half the level of Suarez, they will be worth every penny we spend.

This article by me was also published by http://www.live4liverpool.com

Lucas: On his way out of Anfield?

Lucas: On his way out of Anfield?

Speculation is rife that we are about to lose our Brazilian number 21. He has removed Liverpool FC from his Twitter profile and rumour has it his former boss is waiting to take him to Napoli. He has always divided opinion, but should we be in a rush to let him go?

Lucas was born in 1987. At around that time I was about to start my first full time job. I didn’t sleep much the night before my first day. Would I be any good at it? How would I fit in? What if I was no good and I got the sack.

I was only a bus ride away from my place of work and pretty much the only thing I had to worry about, was getting there and back. I had a ready-made network of friends and family all around me.

Twenty years on and the story for a young Brazilian kid, Lucas Leiva, was very different. At 20 he was travelling 5 ½ thousand miles to take up a new job at Liverpool Football Club.

He was entering an entirely new culture to the one he was used to. He didn’t speak the language and worse still he was very far away from his family and friends. It was a far greater challenge than I ever faced.

Rafa Benitez had scouted the young midfielder, who had begun his career at Gremio. He looked an exciting prospect. He had already played at International level and had become the youngest ever player to win the prestigious Golden Ball Award. Previous winners of this accolade included Zico and Falcao. It’s hardly the Golden Samba, but still…

At the time his new manager spoke of his goal scoring ability, but also his character and tenacity. We haven’t seen many goals from Lucas during his spell at the club. However we have seen character and tenacity in spades.

Adjusting to a new time-zone, culture and language was actually the least of his problems. In order to break into the team he had to compete with the likes of Mascherano and Alonso. His problem was made worse by the fact that, rather than see him as a young understudy, many unfairly compared him to those two midfield maestro’s.

Despite this he put in an impressive 39 appearances in his first season (19 coming from the subs bench). Like many young players, particularly those desperate to make an impression, he was prone to errors and lunging into tackles recklessly. This saw him booked 5 times and receive 1 red card. A certain Steven Gerrard, no stranger to this in his early career, would doubtless sympathize.

However, fans and pundits quickly grew impatient with him. Not many of us, myself included, fully understood that he was also adjusting to a new tactical position. At Gremio he had been a box-to-box player. Benitez seemed keen to deploy him in a holding role.

In his second full season, 2008-09, those frustrations boiled over during a terrible 0-0 draw against Fulham. In what was, to my mind, an unprecedented step, a section of Liverpool fans actually booed one of their own as he came on as a sub.

It would have been entirely understandable if he had folded at this point. It’s bad enough living half way around the world and trying to learn a new language. Throw in trying to adapt to a new position and getting stick off your supporters and most would at least consider their options.

Not Lucas. Where some would have called it a day, he chose to get better. He used that experience to drive himself on and prove his critics wrong. Here was the character and tenacity Benitez had spoken of.

Lucas will never be regarded as a world beater, but all the best teams have a player like him. Back in 1987 we had one just like that. Always the fans whipping boy, Ronnie Whelan was regarded by his fellow professionals as an indispensable member of the team. Most fans only really knew what they had, when he was gone.

Lucas’ team mates certainly appreciated what he brought to the team. Eventually he won the supporter sover too, picking up the Kop’s Golden Samba award in 2011.

The following season we were given a graphic illustration of his importance to the team. Under his new manager, Kenny Dalglish, Lucas started in his now familiar position in front of the back four. This was a transitional year with Kenny still picking up the pieces from Roy Hodgson’s ill fated spell at the club.

Just as he was getting into his stride, Lucas sustained a season ending knee injury in a League Cup game against Chelsea at the end of November. He had been one of the best players on the pitch; in a game the Reds won 2-0. The injury would prove to be a huge blow to Liverpool’s league campaign.

Prior to this Liverpool lost only 11% of their matches, conceding 0.88 goals per game. Following his injury they were defeated in 37% of the remaining fixtures, conceding 1.15 goals per game. In the first half of the season Liverpool consistently hovered around the European places. By the end they were a dismal 8th.

In typical fashion Lucas battled back from this, but further set-backs and a change in playing philosophy under Rodgers have seen him fall out of favour.

To make matters worse he now has another world class player ahead of him in the pecking order. Steven Gerrard’s switch to a deeper role has restricted his opportunities for playing time. Still, are we right to let him go?

Next season, Liverpool will be battling on four fronts. There will be many more games and rotation will become a greater factor than it was last season. For me, Lucas could offer much needed depth in that position. He would also offer a defensive option when looking to close games out.

However, it seems he is now available for transfer, if the right offer comes along. Will prove the right thing for the club in the long term? I can’t help wondering if we’ll only come to realise the player we had, after he is gone.

This article by me was also published by http://www.thisisanfield.com

Lovren has shown a lack of class

Lovren has shown a lack of class

John W Henry gave us a great insight into the world of player  transfers and get out clauses recently. He was talking about Arsenal’s embarrassing pursuit of Luis Suarez last summer.

“We realised contracts in football don’t really mean anything, so we chose to ignore it.” I paraphrase slightly but this was the gist.

We all hailed his approach. Here was a player showing us the ultimate disrespect by demanding to leave us after all we had done for him. Then to add insult to injury we had some club from London taking the proverbial with a ridiculous bid. How dare they? How dare he?

Of course we forgave Suarez and the adulation he received from the Kop rose to new heights last season. Now we are back where we started and we really don’t like it. There is so much cynicism in football today that you can’t blame supporters for tiring of it.

Apparently the average wage in the UK is around £26k per year. Therefore, it should come as no surprise, when fans ‘kick-off’ in the face of such disrespect.  After all it’s their hard earned cash that helps to inflate those supersized salaries.

Of course Liverpool fans are not on their own in this respect. What must Southampton fans be thinking this morning? They have already watched three of their stars leave the club and now they have another agitating for a move.

They may have forgiven Lambert. After all he left for his hometown club. Who could begrudge him that? He also spoke glowingly of Saints fans. Lallana also left with dignity, paying for a full page thank you letter in the local paper.

Sadly the same can not be said for Reds target Dejan Lovren. We woke this morning to read reported comments the player made in an interview with ESPN. He spoke glowingly about Liverpool and The Kop but not of the team he is under contract with. He did claim a change of direction and broken promises were behind his rant, but that will cut little ice with Saints fans.

Many of our supporters have taken to social media to register their approval.  Is this not a little hypocritical?

The ‘Saints’ were a revelation last season, playing some great football. Nobody could have predicted their final league position last August. It’s because of this that their key players received international call ups. It’s also the reason that Liverpool noticed Dejan Lovren.

This is a fact apparently wasted on their central defender. He owes his club and supporters far more respect than he has shown them. Southampton have every right to hold him to his contract if they so wish.

It is also their duty to maximise any potential fee if they choose to sell, just as Liverpool are seeking to do with Suarez. His head might be in Liverpool but he owes Southampton some respect, at least until a deal is done.

This may all sound a little naive. After all sometimes we benefit from it sometime we lose. Maybe this is just all part of the dance, but I have to say I’m not Lovren it.

This article by me was also published by http://www.thisisanfield.com

Ayre faces first real test as CEO

Ayre faces first real test as CEO

Ian Ayre has faced many challenges since joining the board of Liverpool Football. Often vilified by sections of the clubs fan-base the Liverpool Chief Executive has remarkable staying power.

This is a man who, operating as the clubs commercial director escaped the fallout from the disastrous Hicks and Gillett regime. It’s interesting to note that following the sale to New England Sports Group (who later became Fenway Sports Group) that both Purslow and Ayre offered their resignations. Only Purslow’s was accepted. Ian Ayre was eventually promoted to Managing Director.

Then came the Suarez-Evra controversy. Many, including myself felt that some of the crap that ultimately hit Kenny probably should have rolled uphill to Ayre.

Whatever your views on whether our number 7 was guilty of racism, what is beyond doubt is that the club could and should have handled it better. Surely Ian Ayre bore some responsibility for how the club responded in the immediate aftermath and the subsequent FA hearing. Yet our MD escaped the brunt of criticism.

For supporter their major gripe is his handling of transfer business at the club. In this department he is viewed in much the same way as Rick Parry was.

The general feeling is that he is too slow to act, and ultimately inept at negotiating, often low-balling the selling club and then refusing to ‘go the extra mile’ to get the managers targets.

To be fair to his critics we have had a couple of disastrous transfer windows under his stewardship. The deal that took Carroll to West Ham without a viable alternative secured was one that upset all, including the manager.

The club has also missed out on targets such as  Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Diego Costa, Willian. The ultimately futile attempt to sign Conorplyanka at the eleventh hour of the January transfer window, was seen by many as the last straw.

Suarez may be about to give Ayre a big headache

Suarez may be about to give Ayre a big headache

Were all of these failings entirely his fault? Only those at the top of the club really know. We can only speculate as to how much of a free hand Ian Ayre has in transfers. He will certainly have limitations placed on him by FSG.

Before moving for a player he will be told how much he can spend. He will also be working to clear terms of reference as to the structure of any deals.

Then there is the target himself and his demands. Ayre will not, I imagine have the final word on how far he can go in terms of wages etc. There are so many variables in a transfer deal and a club with limited resources will always win some and lose some.

FSG clearly don’t share the supporters doubts and have recently promoted their MD to Chief Executive, abandoning their ‘worldwide search’ in the process. Ayre has had his share of success.

Commercially the club is in much better shape thanks to numerous sponsorship deals. Yes he will have been aided greatly by the teams improvement on the field, but he has also worked wonders in more difficult circumstances.

The Standard Chartered and Warrior deals were rightly hailed as master-strokes. Liverpool were hardly a by-word for stability when these deals were struck, so securing such levels of investment under those conditions is worthy of praise.

FSG & Henry have put a great deal of faith in Ayre

FSG & Henry have put a great deal of faith in Ayre

We also seem to be seeing movement on the stadium and Ayre has played a big role in getting this moving. None of this could have been achieved if the man was the complete buffoon he is painted to be. Could it?

I am undecided, but I am certain that our Chief Executive is about to face one of his biggest ‘acid tests’. Today Sky Sports News revealed, albeit two days after it was revealed on Twitter, that Ayre is locked in talks with Barcelona chiefs.

In transfer terms he is going toe to toe with the ‘big boys’. The transfer of Luis Suarez (one of the top three players in world football) to Barcelona with Alexis Sanchez possibly coming the other way is one of the biggest deals in the game. There will not be a bigger transfer this window for sure.

Barcelona may have felt they had the upper hand. The fears of most were that the FIFA ban could be used in an attempt to drive down the fee. However, Liverpool know the player and the buying club are desperate to get the deal done. We also have an ownership who have shown they can play hard-ball when needed. Ask Arsene Wenger and Stan Kroenke.

Early indications are that talks are progressing smoothly and it appears that all parties will end up with a deal they can live with. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Ayre will be pilloried if he fails to get this right. However, a more interesting question may be what if he get’s it spot on? Will we as supporters be prepared to give credit where it is due?

These are certainly testing times for Ian Ayre and he just might be about to pass them with flying colours.

Article by me also published on http://www.live4liverpool.com