Liverpool FC: How NESV and John Henry Will Bring Back Glory Days at Anfield
John Henry and New England Sports Ventures' purchase of the iconic English football club Liverpool FC last summer was a more than welcome event in the history of this great club.
The record of Liverpool speaks for itself; the Reds are one of the most successful clubs of the 20th century in England and one the most successful in the history of football.
They sit at the top table of English and European football with 18 domestic league titles, seven FA Cups, seven League Cups, 15 Charity/Community Shields, five European Cups, three UEFA Cups and three UEFA Super Cups.
But in recent years, the Reds have come under threat of losing their place at this top table of football. The league title has eluded them for 20 years and this used to be referred to as the club's "bread and butter."
The other trophies were a bonus and icing on the cake, but the real prize was always the league title. Liverpool's history is synonymous with the league title and to win it once again is at the very top of Henry, NESV and all Liverpool fans' agendas.
Furthermore, what is probably as important, if not even more so, would be to ensure that there is a plan in place for long-term future success at Anfield. For all those involved at the club and those that love it, winning the league again would be a memorable day in their lives, but to go another decade or two again without it would be disastrous.
Every team that has won the league title in its latest guise of the English Premier League has gone on to lift the trophy again, except one. The Blackburn Rovers won the title in the third year of the Premier League, the 1994-95 season, but never went to win it again.
The manager that led them to this solitary success was none other than Liverpool's very own and current manager Kenny Dalglish.
If Henry and NESV were asked what the primary goal is for Liverpool Football Club under their stewardship, they would no doubt reply, "To bring the Reds back to their former glory." This means not just winning the Premier League title, but to win it over and over again.
Liverpool Football Club want what was almost their property in the 1970s and 1980s back!
But in order to achieve dominance again there are critical issues that must be addressed at Anfield. These include the following, in no particular order of importance, but rather to be worked on simultaneously.
Retain Stable Ownership of the Club
During the years of success in the history of Liverpool Football Club, it would have been difficult for fans to have identified the owners of the club. They remained in the background, allowing their managers and players to forge the identity of their club.
But above all else, the key issue was stability. Liverpool FC has, in recent times, not been a club where owner and boardroom stability could be said to have prevailed.
As in all successful enterprises, stable, clear and focused leadership is vital and this always comes from the top.
One of the recipes of success in any venture, and football is no exception, is stable ownership, as this leads to leadership that is so vital.
In the summer of 2010, Liverpool Football Club became part of New England Sports Ventures and John Henry's sporting empire.
This followed tumultuous years of George Gillett and Tom Hicks, when the club was simply a pawn for banks in high-powered business deals. The words and phrases such as "debt," "loan repayment schedule" and "administration" sadly became part of a Liverpool fan's daily vocabulary.
But new owners NESV have come into the club and removed these issues, hopefully forever. The club is now looking into the future with stability and under the guidance of experienced and successful sports venture owners.
The Boston Red Sox were the Liverpool of Major League Baseball and under the guidance of NESV have now returned to their former glory days, with World Series wins and a solid and bright future.
Henry has provided Liverpool FC with the solid foundations upon which to rebuild and bring back the glory days to Anfield. But more importantly, it is the long-term future stability that NESV brings to Anfield that is a must for Liverpool to return to their position of dominance.
Secure the Long-Term Services of a Top-Class Manager
One of the major pieces in the jigsaw to long-term success for Liverpool FC is to secure the services of a top-class manager on a long-term basis.
It was 25 years ago that Manchester United took on Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson and put their faith in him. It is well documented that United and Ferguson did not instantly gel—there was no bidding ties between manager and club to re-tie.
But Ferguson was a proven winner and the club's support for their choice was never faltering. Indeed, it is also known that Liverpool give their managers time to establish themselves and do not believe in early sackings.
However, previous manager Roy Hodgson did not last long, as he was not brought in by new owners NESV (and it is unlikely he would have been on an NESV shortlist if he was not the one being replaced) and was simply the wrong person for the football club, no matter what point in time it was.
Roy Hodgson and Liverpool Football Club were quite frankly never a match and should never have been paired with one another.
The long-term success Liverpool are aiming towards will be easier achieved with the installation of a proven winning man in charge and then him being given the trust and backing of the club and its management.
The appointment of Liverpool playing and managing legend Kenny Dalglish by NESV was almost a no-brainer. Here is a man that has Liverpool Football Club tattooed on his heart. This is his club and despite the Liverpool and Dalglish mantra that no one person is bigger than the club, Liverpool without Dalglish is just not Liverpool.
In the time that he spent after his retirement, Liverpool have wandered in the desert of the Premier League looking for that title and have never attained it.
The return of King Kenny has galvanized Anfield and the air of optimism is infectious and almost touchable.
But as Dalglish has stated on many occasions, his appointment was a temporary one and a permanent manager will be appointed at the end of the season. Dalglish has also always maintained that he will do what is best for the club, and if that means that there is a man out there that is better suited to manage Liverpool FC, then he would gladly support such an appointment.
What is very clear is that come the end of the season, one of the most pivotal appointments that NESV will ever make in their tenure at Liverpool will be their selection of the permanent manager of the club.
Once this choice is made, then the owners must support this appointment 100 percent and never waiver from it, unless the circumstances are dire and extremely severe and require a further reconsideration.
John Henry has made several comments in the recent past that it will be difficult to ignore the candidacy of Dalglish and that his performance to date has been superb.
It would be ironic if the huge steps needed to take Liverpool into a successful future were guided by one from their past.
Dalglish, without a doubt, will be the front-runner and favorite in the race of the hot seat at Anfield, but he will not be the only runner.
Whomever NESV appoint—Dalglish or another world-class, proven, winning manager—to hopefully lead Liverpool to future success will need to be a long-term appointment.
New Stadium or Renovations to Anfield
It is a little-known fact that Liverpool's Anfield stadium was originally the home of city rivals Everton. In 1884, the first league match staged at the stadium was between Everton and Accrington. However, following business disputes, Everton vacated Anfield for their current home of Goodison Park and Anfield was left without a home club.
The owners of Anfield decided to form a new club to play at the stadium and Liverpool FC and Athletics Grounds Ltd were born. In 1892, 200 spectators saw Liverpool beat Rotherham Town 7-1, in the new club's first home game.
Anfield has gone on to become part of English football folklore and home of the beloved Kop. The stadium is iconic and has played its part, and a vital one at that, in the success of the club over the years.
The folklore was that the Kop could, quite literally, suck the ball into the net at the Kop end, which Liverpool traditionally love to attack in the second half of games. The legend of the Kop was born and it became feared by opposing team, but not in any menacing manner, for Liverpool fan have always respected good play and it is more than often that opposing teams and fans get applauded by Liverpool supporters.
No, it was feared for the intimidating atmosphere it helps to create within the stadium, with its banner, flags and scarves. But more than anything it is the vocal support, in the form of songs, cheers and sheer volume it belts out that defines this unique environment.
European nights, with the Reds playing under the floodlights, became the stuff of myth and legend—such were the atmospheres created within this old stadium on such nights. Historical matches against Olympiakos and more so the matches against Chelsea in the Champions League were memorable nights for the stadium.
But with a capacity of just over 45,000, it now cannot provide the revenue needed from match days for Liverpool Football Club to compete with the other financially stronger clubs. And with the new regulations coming into force, controlling the amount of money that will be permitted to be pumped into a club, revenue generation will become all the more significant.
The Reds lag behind the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, whose larger stadia provide far larger match-day revenues than Anfield can currently provide.
So to produce more match-day receipts, the capacity must be increased. This can be by either completely renovating Anfield or by constructing a new, larger stadium.
NESV had the same issues with the Boston Red Sox, whose iconic baseball arena was an integral part of the club and its history. So rather than tear it down, they completed refurbishments and renovations and created an unrivaled match-day experience, which generated cash on par with far larger venues.
John Henry has witnessed, and now recognizes and accepts, the part that Anfield will play in Liverpool's long-term success. Plans for an entirely new stadium seem to have been shelved and the redevelopment of Anfield now looks more likely.
Most fans would love this; Anfield is home and always should be for Liverpool Football Club. But what is vital and accepted is that it needs to become more of a revenue generator than it currently is. Therefore it is likely that Anfield will see a major face-lift and additions to the stands in the coming years.
All in all, once it is complete, Anfield will become a far larger and more lucrative asset to the club than now but will still retain its unique and very special Liverpool feel.
As the sign above the players' tunnel at Anfield says: "This is Anfield."
Bring in Top European and World-Class Talent
To be a top team, competing for top honors, requires top-quality players in the squad.
NESV's pledge to bring in Europe and the world's top-class talent to Liverpool Football Club has already begun. During their first transfer window in charge, Liverpool's transfer fee record was broken twice in rapid succession and the record for a transfer of an English player was smashed.
But as so much has been made of these records, it should be remembered that the last time Liverpool broke the record for the transfer of an English player was when current manager Kenny Dalglish bought Peter Beardsley for £1.9m from his boyhood club of Newcastle United.
The coincidences border on the remarkable; the next time Liverpool breaks the record is again under Dalglish, when Andy Carroll is signed and again from his boyhood club of...Newcastle United!
Sure, some would say that this would not have occurred if Fernando Torres had not exited the club, but prior to this, Liverpool had earlier broken their own transfer fee record when they signed Luis Suarez for £28m from Ajax.
So the owners have been true to their word and spent what has been required to bring to Liverpool the cream of footballing talent.
Fans and supporters are assured, and now with evidence, by the owners that the summer will see even more top European and world-class players brought into the club.
There are already established stars and the most promising talent in football being linked with summer moves to Anfield, and it is expected that many of these links will be solidified into transfers.
Much has been speculated upon and rumoured, but one thing is for certain: Players that are brought to the club will only be those that the management believes can be moulded into the Liverpool way.
But what is more than certainly true is that if Liverpool are to re-establish themselves as a genuine title contender again, then investment on players is a must. NESV has already shown their recognition of this and their intent to deliver.
Bring Through the Top-Quality Youngsters from the Academy and Reserves
Liverpool's Melwood training ground and its academy will play a vital part in the re-emergence of Liverpool Football Club as a force in the game again.
In the past Liverpool has had players in the first team that have made their way through the ranks of the academy and youth systems. Players of the likes of Ian Callaghan, Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, to name but a few.
Local lads or youngsters that have the club running in their veins from an early age have always had a special place at Liverpool and with the fans and supporters.
Players whose hearts swell when they pull on their Liverpool shirts and run out in front of the Kop at Anfield.
There is a current crop of extremely talented young players that are in the first team squad or on the verges of it. Their breakthrough and establishment in the first team is critical for the long-term success that the club craves.
Manager Kenny Dalglish, who probably knows Liverpool better than anyone else in the game, has installed Martin Kelly (aged 21) at right back in his team, ahead of England's first-choice right back Glen Johnson. This is based not on sentimentality but on merit, and Kelly has taken his chance and looks to have made the position his own.
Others such as Jay Spearing (aged 23) and Conor Coady (aged 18), who are Liverpudlians, along with academy stars such as Daniel Pacheco, Raheen Sterling, Tom Ince, David Amoo and many others not mentioned here, are the future of Liverpool Football Club.
Their successful integration into the first team and with new signings into the club must be managed carefully and by one that is considerate to both, all for the best of the club.
Those making their names in the reserves and the academy must see a future in the first-team squads or else they will not see Liverpool as the team they aspire to represent, but as a stepping-stone to move on to teams where they will get an opportunity to show their talents.
As in the past, Liverpool need to have a healthy mix of those who have come through the ranks as well as those transferred into the club, if the Reds are to re-establish themselves as a top-ranked team in domestic and European football.
Establish Liverpool Football Club as a Global Brand
It is a fact of modern football that finances, money, revenue and profits are now as much a part of the game as scoring goals.
The generation of revenue is vital for a club if it wishes to compete for trophies. With new rules regulating the amounts that rich owners and benefactors can pump into the club, the amounts that the club must generate itself become ever more crucial.
Of the English clubs, Manchester United lead the way in revenue, followed by Arsenal, Chelsea and then Liverpool. Much of United's revenue comes from its aggressive marketing campaigns of brand awareness worldwide.
These are areas where Liverpool Football Club will need to establish itself as a global brand.
Already hugely popular in the Middle East and Asia, "Brand Liverpool" is an ever-growing enterprise with fan shops opening in cities across these regions and fan clubs emerging.
Regular access to matches and players is also important. Liverpool make regular offseason visits to Asia, where they play exhibition matches, sign autographs and engage with their legions of fans. These visits can be the highlights of some of these young fans' lives and there have been known to be frenzies of activities when Liverpool are in town.
It is here where NESV's expertise of sports franchise management will really assist Liverpool. Their network will no doubt expose Brand Liverpool to potential fans that it would otherwise never have had access to.
The football (soccer) market in the United States is currently a largely an untapped resource for English clubs. Manchester United with their owners have begun to take a foothold there, but still many fans are expatriate British who still follow the game and their favorite team. New fandom is where the real untapped potential for revenue generation lies.
Most Americans will know more about the Spain's La Liga with Barcelona and Real Madrid than English clubs.
But NESV will heavily market Liverpool throughout the U.S. market. It would not be a surprise that in Boston, home of the Red Sox (also part of NESV), that Liverpool Football Club is being marketed in that city, region and within their hoards of fans.
Without doubt, this modern aspect of the game is vital for success on the field, and with NESV at the helm, Liverpool Football Club look well placed to battle with Manchester United and Arsenal on the financial battlefield—which should go a long way to overcoming them on the playing field too.