A Summer on the Brink

August 3, 2010

Forget Gulliem Balague’s A Season on the Brink that told the incredible story of Rafa’s first season at Liverpool and the Champions League glory that followed. In the past few days Liverpool’s assumed disastrous summer could somehow turn around in an incredible way. The following month, and especially next 10 days may be the most important period in the club’s history for a long time.

Just weeks ago Gerrard and Torres were assumed casualties to the debt and poor season. Then the signing of Joe Cole, followed by quick succession of Gerrard recommitting to the club brought a few of the more optimistic heads out of sand. Now with the news that Insua’s deal has collapsed, Fabio Aurelio resigning, and some Spanish striker named Fernando Torres claiming he is happy at Liverpool the feeling around the club has certainly turned around quickly.

Even more positive news is that at least one bidder is making a serious offer to buy the club. Kenny Huang, known for his sports-related business exploits across the world(including helping to engineer the move of Yao Ming to the NBA) has taken an interest in Liverpool, and is presumably backed strongly by Chinese investors.  Many outlets are reporting Huang has given the Liverpool board a 10 day “take it or leave it” bid. This would allow him time to invest in the club before the closing of the transfer window. There’s been no more telling sign that he is extremely serious than him going straight to RBS to discuss the situation. It sounds hostile, but that may be what it takes to finally force the Americans to lower their valuation of the club.

Kenny Huang, Thanks to Soccernet

It’s hard to get overly optimistic about the situation with the past years of ownership and potential new owners turmoil. I can admit I know nothing except what outlets are reporting about Huang, and he is certainly a businessman and not just a fan, but almost any possible way to replace Hicks & Gillett would be welcomed. Also, it’s certainly far from a done deal. Liverpool have denied any board meetings discussing Huang and the latest developments.

But we do know it’ll be up to the panel of five to deal with the bid(Hicks, Gillett, Broughton, Purslow, and Ayre) and possibly, if reports are to  be believed, five other offers. Whether the bids are a fabricated story to stall or bids that were forced by the aggressiveness of Huang is uncertain, but regardless things are heating up very quickly.

From no left-backs, to two. From no Gerrard and Torres to both. And the dream of H&G out of the club and a new owner with serious ambition and funds taking charge, things are looking up. Many things still have to fall in place, and there is still the precarious month of August to go. As we all know these things change almost hourly, let alone what could change in a month, but for now it’s great to see how things may be shifting in Liverpool’s favor.

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Kop Talk: Yeah, Royyyyy!

July 5, 2010

(Pardon my absence,  folks: I’ve been mourning the heart-stomping defeat of Ghana. But, I’m back now. You can step away from the ledge.)

Like the lot of you, the World Cup has consumed most of my being since June 11. After a slow start to the tournament, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that it hasn’t turned into one of the most exhilarating World Cups in a while. That said, it’s been easy to get wrapped up in all the drama in South Africa and forget about the non-World Cup side of football.

But despite all the international excitement, it’s hard to ignore the headline, “Roy Hodgson takes over at Anfield,” which is why it’s more than necessary I squeeze a Kop Talk in amidst all the World Cup fever.

When the rumors were swirling around that Mr. Hodgson may replace Rafa Benitez at the helm of Liverpool, I was skeptical. Even when it became official I still wasn’t sure he was the right man for the job, and here’s why.

I was afraid the signing was largely based on Hodgson’s dream run with Fulham this past year to the Europa League finals. While I’d never shake a stick at a run to a European final, I was of the opinion that Fulham’s journey there seemed so spectacular in light of their own expectations.

When Liverpool were in the semi-finals of the same tournament, most of the Reds’ faithful were shrugging and saying, “We’ll win this thing – though, we should still be in the Champions League.” That’s because a mammoth club like Liverpool expects that much. It seemed that Fulham, inversely, were stoked to to be there because, no disrespect, they’re a much less prestigious club that doesn’t find themselves in European football too often.

I was afraid that Europa League run wasn’t at all expected, so it seemed dazzling in the eyes of the Fulham faithful and the managerial staff at Liverpool alike. I was afraid the run was being overrated and thus too was Hodgson.

However, after hearing his initial interview as front man at the club, I’ve not only calmed down quite a bit, I’m actually excited to have Roy at the reins. One of the most admirable things about Hodgson is he brings no smoke and mirrors with him. He can always be counted to save the excuses and deliver his honest opinion. Surely this approach can help address some of the teams more pressing problems and get ‘Pool back to their deserved pedestal.

When interviewed, he didn’t showcase some forced, phony abundance of excitement to be appointed Liverpool boss. Not that he isn’t thrilled to be there, but it’s Roy Hodgson – he’s been around the game for a couple years and knows he has a lot of work ahead of him. Instead, he focused on being up front. He called upon the fans to support him in a harmonious effort to get their Reds back to the top of English football.

Maybe most importantly, King Roy (too early?) proclaimed the first item on his long agenda is to keep two guys around you may have heard of – Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. If that doesn’t get the Liverpool masses behind the man, I’m not sure what will. Granted, a lot of work will have to be done to keep the two superstars, but it’s nice to see where his priorities lie.

He’s also already started glancing his way around the transfer market to shore up some holes in the squad that may have been responsible for the team’s seventh place finish last year.

The most calming thing about appointing Hodgson may be his resume. He’s been in the managing business for years and brings an abundance of experience with him to Anfield. While at Fulham, he rescued the Cottagers from certain relegation. The following year he brought them to seventh position on the table and into European competition. And this past year coached them through to the Europa League finals in a season that was highlighted with some high-profile wins including a 3-1 victory of his now very own Liverpool (and 4-1 over Juventus and 3-0 over United, anyone?).

If nothing else, I foresee Hodgson’s experience will provide a stabilizing force at Liverpool, which is something the club needs. Even if the current of the transfer market doesn’t flow our way this summer, I still can’t see Hodgson doing any worse than Benitez last year. I’m not shooting for a “on par with Rafa” year – I think few are – but I think things will only go up with the seasoned Hodgson.

As I put it, I’m completely swept away with World Cup fever; however, I can’t wait for that first kick of the ball in August to not only see how Roy Hodgson fairs as a Liverpool man, but to see what familiar faces are left in the squad.

Until next time, You’ll Never Walk Alone.