For a man who was so keen to be involved in the process of appointing him, it does seem a bit odd that John W Henry has yet to see Brendan Rodgers manage his Liverpool team in England.
Back in July the cameras were clicking and James Bond himself was even in attendance as Henry made his presence felt in Liverpool’s glamour friendly against AS Roma at Boston’s iconic Fenway Park (Daily Mirror), but the Boston Red Sox owner hasn’t watched the Reds in a competitive game since last May’s FA Cup Final defeat to Chelsea at Wembley. A few weeks later he sacked Kenny Dalglish.
At a time when Liverpool are craving leadership off the field in a bid to offset the troubles they are facing on it, Henry’s absence can be seen as inconvenient, although not crucial.
The American admitted that he had a lot to learn about football when he and Fenway Sports Group―then referred to as New England Sports Ventures―completed their takeover of Liverpool in October 2010 (Daily Telegraph), a time when Reds fans welcomed their new owners with open arms simply because they were anyone other than the hated, borrowing, bank-bothering Tom Hicks and George Gillet.
Henry arrived with a background of winning and a backstory which included restoring the Red Sox’s famous old stadium and leading them to a World Series title following decades in the wilderness in 2004. It may have been a different sport on a different continent, but Liverpool supporters could relate.
What has followed has often looked like a painful work in progress though.
As Liverpool’s fortunes have stood still on the pitch, they have been lacking the knowhow, credibility and quality off it that the club was once a byword for.
A series of PR gaffes―errors ranging from the downright silly to the deadly serious―often placed the club in laughingstock territory, and when they needed some leadership to lean on it was sadly lacking.
Boston will always be Henry’s home and where he feels most comfortable, Liverpool fans both know and accept that, but the failure of the Liverpool owner to appoint a strong chief executive who would frequently make his presence felt at Anfield is at best a puzzling question and at worst downright negligent.
In managing director Ian Ayre, a man who clearly loves the club and is desperate to see it succeed, Henry has leant on someone who is clearly over-promoted.
His strong work in securing sponsorship deals and promoting Liverpool’s brand abroad will have clearly attracted Henry, Tom Werner and the Fenway group to the idea of making Ayre their man in Liverpool, but there are other, key characteristics that that man is missing. A new figurehead is needed.
Should he be so inclined then Henry could make himself that figurehead, but no-one is realistically expecting him to abandon his family and his business interests in America and move to Liverpool full-time. The same can be said for Werner.
Would the sight of Henry in the Anfield stands―something that, ironically, he’s been accused of doing too much by Red Sox fans (Daily Mail)―reassure Reds supporters a little bit more? It probably would, but the decision to appoint someone to oversee matters on a day-to-day basis would add so much more security.
Right now Liverpool appear trapped in a position in which they can only look back to former glories in a bid to deflect attention away from current deficiencies. They are a world-class football club with a middle-of-the-road football team and an often non-existent hierarchy off the pitch.
Rodgers is doing his best with the resources at his disposal and should be backed to continue doing just that, but he needs help higher up and needs Henry, who was his biggest fan seven months ago, to put someone in place to oversee matters and be a visible presence at Anfield.
He needs him to do it sooner rather than later, too.