Why Liverpool Are Still Recovering from the Nightmare Gillett and Hicks Era

Matt LadsonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 06:  American businessmen George Gillett (L) and Tom Hicks talk to the media after their takeover of Liverpool Football Club on February 6, 2007, in Liverpool, England. Gillett and  Hicks have reached a deal, thought to be worth GBP470m, to buy the football club.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

On this day in 2007, a storm began to brew at Anfield. At the time it was all sun and smiles, but eventually a dark cloud descended, turning the air toxic for three long years.

"We have purchased the club with no debt on the club," vowed the bullish new co-owner of Liverpool FC, George Gillet, as per BBC Sport.

"The spade has to be in the ground within 60 days," he proclaimed, discussing the club's new stadium plans, as per The Guardian.

Three years later, Liverpool's debt stood at £237 million and no spade had entered the ground on the proposed Stanley Park site, instead £50 million had been spent on stadium plans after Tom Hicks demanded a lavish redesign with Dallas-based architects HKS.

Lennart Preiss/Associated Press

Eventually, following a high-profile court case, Gillett and Hicks were forced from Anfield by Royal Bank of Scotland and New England Sports Ventures (now Fenway Sports Group) purchased the club in October 2010.

"This very valuable asset has been swindled away from me in an epic swindle. I’m very angry about it" declared Hicks in one of his infamous Sky Sports News interviews, as per The Metro.

Hicks and Gillett got their comeuppance but refused to go quietly, instead insisting upon another court case, one which they finally were forced to walk away from only last month, as explained in The Liverpool Echo. The American duo didn't receive a penny for the sale of the club.

When Gillett and Hicks took over Liverpool, they were managed by one of the highest-rated managers in European football and were about to qualify for their second Champions League final in three years.

Initially, the signs were good—Javier Mascherano's loan spell was made permanent, Fernando Torres became the club's record signing and Rafa Benitez's squad began to challenge Manchester United at the top of the Premier League.

However, the club became riddled with political unrest caused by a civil war between Gillett and Hicks themselves, as per The Daily Mail.

Benitez explained to Sports Illustrated magazine how in 2009 he attempted to sign Stevan Jovetic but "we didn’t have the money."

By the time Gillett and Hicks left Liverpool, Xabi Alonso had departed for £30 million, Mascherano went for £17.25 million, Benitez had been sacked and the club weren't in Champions League football for the first time in seven years.

Salvatore Laporta/Associated Press

The Liverpool squad that FSG inherited were managed by Roy Hodgson and featured Paul Konchesky, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Christian Poulsen, Milan Jovanovic and "marquee" free transfer signing Joe Cole on a reported £92,000-per-week salary.

In between times, Gillett and Hicks had approached a man without any experience managing in the Premier League, Jurgen Klinsmann, to replace Champions League-winning Benitez.

Supporters were realising the poisonous era needed to change and were protesting against the owners, knowing that at one stage " the club was paying £100,000 a day in interest repayments on the debt" as per Jay McKenna of the Spirit of Shankly supporters group.

The man who played an influential role in selling the club to Gillett and Hicks, former chief executive Rick Parry, finally broke his silence on the American duo's reign speaking last August.

"You'd do a million things differently with hindsight, but that's not an option. We all wish passionately that they hadn't owned the club," he explained to BBC Radio Merseyside.

Parry explained how the club dropping out of Europe's elite and no longer being in the Champions League is still hampering the club today.

Which further enforces how important it is for the club to achieve qualification this season—which represents by far the best opportunity to do so since they dropped out in 2010.

Only once Liverpool are back in the Champions League will they truly be able to close the door on the Gillett and Hicks era.