The Best and Worst of John Henry's Reign at Liverpool
It is has been two-and-a-half years since American billionaire John W. Henry and the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) bought Liverpool Football Club from previous owners and compatriots Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr.
And, in the intervening period there has been a mixture of the good, the bad and the downright ugly as the Boston-based businessman has attempted to return the Merseyside giants to the summit of English football.
So, we at Bleacher Report are here to look back on both the highs and the lows of the American’s reign at Anfield so far…
Many of Henry’s most important decisions since buying the club in October 2010 have centred around who should be managing the team, with the American faced with an immediate test of his character just months into his reign as Liverpool plummeted towards the relegation zone under recently installed coach Roy Hodgson.
Henry and his cohorts acted swiftly and decisively by axing the soon-to-be England boss, before making the popular choice of asking Kenny Dalglish to take over, initially on a temporary basis and then in May 2011 on a permanent three-year contract.
However, if that decision went down well in the red half of Merseyside, the sacking of the legendary Scot 12 months later after Dalglish had just guided Liverpool to their first trophy for seven years was generally greeted with dismay by the club’s supporters.
And then, after a rather protracted and much-publicised search to find Dalglish’s successor which at times resembled a beauty parade, Henry eventually got his man last summer when Swansea City head coach Brendan Rodgers agreed to swap the Liberty stadium for Anfield.
But, it is fair to say that the jury still very much remains out on the 40-year-old…
Good and Bad Buys
Henry and FSG were forced to invest heavily in bringing new players to the club right from the very off, and to initially help them with this exercise they decided to appoint Damien Comolli as the club’s Director of Football Strategy, with disastrous consequences.
While the Frenchman’s very first foray into the transfer market in January 2011 did result in the arrival of world-class attacker Suarez from Ajax for just £22.7 million, his next purchase following the sale of Spain international Fernando Torres to Chelsea for a British-record transfer fee of £50 million was not quite so successful, as the Reds splashed out a club-record £35 million on striker Andy Carroll from Newcastle United.
And what’s more, that folly was then further compounded later that summer when Liverpool yet again spent carelessly by signing the likes of Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing for more than a combined £45 million.
So in total, Henry sanctioned almost a £100m outlay on Carroll, Adam, Henderson and Downing. Carroll is currently out on loan at West Ham United as Liverpool seek a permanent home for the England international this summer at a price of about £10 million, while Adam was sold to Stoke City last August for just £4 million.
Henry did react to these disastrous buys by inevitably sending Comolli on his way in April 2012, however, things only appeared to get worse last summer under new coach Rodgers when the club became entangled in an embarrassing transfer saga involving the on-off purchase of Fulham attacker Clint Dempsey, who FSG deemed too expensive to buy at just £5 million.
Matters then came to a head when Henry wrote an open letter to the club’s long-suffering supporters in September explaining their limp display in the previous summer’s transfer window.
But to the Bostonian’s credit, he did appear to learn from these catalogue of errors in January with the addition of arrivals of the calibre of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea and exciting Brazil international midfield schemer Philippe Coutinho from Serie A giants Inter Milan.
The Suarez Affair
In October 2011, just a year after buying the club, Henry faced the biggest test of his leadership skills when controversial star striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches and fined £40,000 by The Football Association after having been found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
However, instead of taking control of matters by leading from the front, Henry kept his counsel from across the Pond, with his silence only serving to further exacerbate what was an already explosive and highly delicate situation.
And the American’s failure by that point of his tenure to appoint a new managing director to help run the club from the UK also further complicated matters, culminating in the decision of the entire team to wear Suarez T-shirts in support of the front man that was an unmitigated PR disaster, which will haunt Henry and Co. for years to come.
Cup Half Full or Half Empty?
Last February under previous manager Dalglish, the club made its first-ever visit to the new Wembley for the Carling Cup final, and what’s more, they enjoyed it so much that they then returned to the famous venue for the FA Cup final three months later.
However, while the former trip saw Liverpool win their first trophy since 2006 after beating Championship outfit Cardiff City on penalties and Henry, who was in attendance, claim his first piece of silverware since taking over the club, the latter only ended in heartbreak after a painful 2-1 loss to Chelsea.
Home Is Where the Heart Is
Exactly two years after Henry bought the club, new managing director Ian Ayre announced plans to redevelop their existing home of Anfield rather than build a new stadium in Stanley Park, as had previously been mooted, subject to the club receiving planning permission from the local council.
This momentous decision has generally been well received by the club’s fans, and in conjunction with some of the impressive commercial contracts that Henry and chairman Tom Werner have managed to secure this all bodes well for the future financial health of Liverpool.
Since FSG's arrival, the Reds' finances have been bolstered by a six-year deal with American kit supplier Warrior Sports, which will see them take £25 million each season. Agreements have also been made with signed with American car manufacturer Chevrolet and airline Garuda Indonesia.