Okay. I’ll be honest. There’s been a bit of me smirking like a third-rate Eastenders villain at the plight of Liverpool Football Club. I’m as ready as the next Englishman to wallow in the misfortune of the mighty.
Old Ollie said he got tingles just reading the ‘This Is Anfield’ sign on his way on to the pitch. Me too Ian. I get a frisson when I know you’ve got three points in the bag even before the game’s begun. Thing it’s all gone a bit unbelievable now. Like the most blatant plastic surgery, Liverpool’s gone tits up.
There are five tits in question. Though I think quite possibly the American tits (strictly speaking, chickadees) are the ones with most to answer. From what I can gather, Martin Broughton responded to Hicks’s intransigence over decent offers for the club by just huffing off to the press and leaving the poker-faced Yank billionaire playing Texas Hold ‘Em (Till a Playboy Oil Baron Comes A Calling).
At the present rate Hicks and Gillett stand to lose 140 million – not sure if that’s pounds or dollars – like it makes a flamin’ difference. Basically, it’s shitloads. Even Georgie Osborne might blench at taking that much cash off someone in one fell swoop. So in a way you can understand their resistance.
And in another way – just take the money and eff off, lads. It’s not like it’s the first time for Tom. No, he’s done this with other sports franchises in the States.
He seems to have the capacity to get other people’s money to buy him into new businesses without ever making making a decent fist of any of them.
Why are these people he’s borrowing from still chucking cash at him? And why, when he was making such a patent mess of US franchises like the Dallas Stars and the recently bankrupted (sound familiar?) Texas Rangers, did LFC think he was such a good catch? The only connection I can find between the two is that they both spend a lot of time in the red.
At least in the other two instances Hicks was shitting on his own doorstep. Texas. The Lone Star State. Or should that be Loan Star? I don’t reckon it’s a part of the world we Brits have ever felt that enamoured of. JR Ewing, George Dubya, Tom Hicks... there was the Texan bar in the 70s which I liked but I do blame it for the fact I’ve now got so many fillings the dentist uses cavity wall insulation to keep the teeth from crumbling altogether.
I looked up a site of Famous Texans. Here’s the bloke who invented Star Trek. And Jayne Mansfield. That’s about your lot.
Hicks’s response to the crisis was straight out of Southfork too. The Brits on the board go blabbing. They’re not on the board anymore. According to Tom. Possibly not according to law. He’s replaced them with two objective people. His friend and his son. Meanwhile Martin Brought-In reveals he signed up on the understanding that the owners would not frustrate his attempts to find a buyer for the club. Unless that buyer costs the owners the GDP of Belgium. Maybe.
It’s carnage. Like two lions fighting each other while the press vultures pick at the Anfield carcass til there’s nowt left.
Still, like in all good Texan yarns, the cavalry have just appeared on the horizon. Reday to ride to the rescue is... another yank.
This one, and his pals own the Boston Red Sox. That’s right. They spell ‘socks’ that way in the US of A. They tell the time by their clox, their ships are moored in dox, and their geese gather in flox. What a bunch of Cox.
Except they’re not. And this bloke, John Henry, doesn’t appear to be all bad either. Given that his predecessor will be Hicks, even Nick Flaming Leeson would look a decent bet.
From what I can glean – and remember I’m about as financially literate as Wayne Rooney is... well... literate – he doesn’t rely too much on piling loads of debt onto his acquisitions at the first possible opportunity. And he doesn’t seem to be too much of a bullshitter either. His consortium saved a famous sports stadium rather than building a brand new utterly soulless slightly out of town facility with all the buzz and atmos of a Trappist monks karaoke night.
If Hicks can have the club wrenched from his cold dead hand (and here I paraphrase Charlton Heston who may not have been Texan but would have fitted in dead well there) there may still be an Anfield to go watch football at. And despite the piss-taking earlier on, it is a great stadium and I doubt a new ‘un in the centre of Stanley Park would have nearly the same resonance.
Were it not for the fact of John Henry’s birthplace I reckon Liverpool fans might be able to see a glimmer of light.
But the trouble is, once you just let the nearest billionaire take a hold of your football club you are at the mercy of whoever the hell might want it next. And hellfire that person could be anyone... Thaksin Shinawatra, Sulaiman Al-Fahim, Malcolm (Shudder, United fans, Shudder!) Glazer... any Johnny-come-lately basically.
'Yes sir, I'm tellin y'all, Ewe-nah-ted are next!'
Abramovich set the benchmark. But even he won’t just sit around coughing up tenners like a malfunctioning cashpoint. I hope this rich man’s plaything of a League rights itself sooner or later and we just have a bunch of similarly endowed institutions all battling it out on a level playing field (not that there are any bloody playing-fields left in this country) and all will be right with the world.
Although we’d still have Man Friggin’ City.