Thursday, 21 April 2011

Kenny and Henry- Restoring the Liverpool Way

Liverpool are famous worldwide both for their tremendously successful and decorated past and the distinctive, definitive character engendered within the squad and ingrained into the culture of the supporters. The values of respect for the opposition, complete commitment to the cause and supporting the side through thick and thin attract interest as much as the traditional pass and move style of football and trophy winning philosophy.

This aspect of the club, known as the "Liverpool Way", is fundamental to the Reds' makeup, and forms the heart and the soul of the club. Without it the unique appeal and inescapable magnetism of Liverpool Football Club would be lost, and the Merseysiders would become just another run of the mill Premier League outfit.

However, over recent seasons the Liverpool Way has been scandalously disregarded and ignored by warring owners and a clearly inept manager alike, leaving the club on the brink of financial meltdown and footballing mediocrity.

The ill-fated Hicks and Gillett era was characterised by civil war in the boardroom between manager, chief executive and co-owners. Former manager Rafael Benitez faced a constant battle against two owners who clearly cared nothing for Liverpool and only wanted to rape and pillage the club in an unsuccessful attempt to generate an undeserved profit.

Hicks in particular continually aired the club's dirty linen in public, calling for chief executive at the time Rick Parry to resign in a television interview as well as admitting that he and George had approached Jurgen Klinsmann about the job of manager behind Benitez's back.

Following four agonising years in which the Liverpool Way had been forgotten by the men in charge and unacceptable lies, crippling debt and repeated broken promises had brought the club to its knees, Hicks and Gillett were eventually ousted by a boardroom rebellion inspired by the legendary Martin Broughton, and new owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) took control of the club.

The collective response of the fans was one of obvious joy and unmistakable relief, however this was later tempered by on-field problems, as Roy Hodgson's time in charge went from bad to worse. Abysmal results left Liverpool floundering in mid-table and, coupled unfavourably with a rigid, ineffective formation and dull, defensive football, eventually earned Hodgson the sack.

The 63-year old former Fulham manager simply never understood or appreciated the Liverpool Way, with his style of play not in keeping with the traditional, attractive brand of football promoted at Anfield.

Perhaps most significantly though, he failed to establish any sort of rapport with the audibly unsatisfied supporters. The link between manager and fans is essential, with any Liverpool boss receiving full backing if they are seen to be acting in the best interests of the club.

However, Hodgson's bizarre media comments marginalized himself from the Kop and his unproductive, unexciting tactics were evidently and inevitably unpopular. Complaining that he hadn't received the legendary support of the Kop after the humiliating home defeat to Wolves was the final straw. There was no way back for Hodgson from that point on and it was only a matter of time before he was fired.

After the arrival of new American owners FSG, fronted by John W Henry and Tom Werner, and Kenny Dalglish’s remarkable homecoming, the club's fortunes have rapidly changed, with the observance of the Liverpool Way a key factor in the Reds' recent on-field resurgence and the return of stability to the boardroom.

Football, rather than debt repayment, has become the top priority once again for everyone concerned, with both Henry and Werner stressing the importance of winning trophies for the club's footballing and commercial development. This change has been reflected in the transfer window, with FSG moving quickly in January to reinvest the considerable sum generated through the sale of Torres and Babel by purchasing the phenomenally talented Suarez and the eminently promising Carroll, as well as pledging further investment in the summer.

A refreshing, logical and traditional desire to keep all important or controversial information private has also returned, as Kenny Dalglish has, in his inimitable style, rebutted journalists who seek to glean headline writing material about either his future or the future of his players.

Crucially, Dalglish has changed our style of play to a free flowing, enterprising brand of football, without eroding the defensive rock upon which every successful side is built. This was demonstrated against Arsenal, where Liverpool's solid back line was only penetrated during the dying stages of injury time via the penalty spot.

That back four consisted of two teenage full backs in the form of John Flanagan and Jack Robinson. With Flanagan also impressing against Manchester City and Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing featuring regularly for the first team, a clear road through to the first team has been established by Dalglish and FSG, who share the Scot's vision for the flourishing Academy starlets.

The players' never-say-die attitude earned the Reds' a well deserved point from that encounter, as they epitomised the commitment and passion displayed so prominently by Dalglish, who hasn't been afraid to ship out players who show anything less than the total dedication demanded by the Liverpool Way.

This was most starkly illustrated when Fernando Torres was sold to Chelsea after 18 months of below par performances and questionable commitment. The King's brave decision has since been proven correct, as Torres has failed to score a goal in 13 games for Abramovich's Blues while the Spaniard's replacements have been on top form for Liverpool.

Most importantly Dalglish and FSG have the support of the Kop, who have never deserted the time-honoured principles of the Liverpool Way despite the complete and utter disregard for them both on and off the field in previous seasons. With the owners, the manager and the Kop now adhering to the Liverpool Way that has helped develop the Reds into Britain's most decorated club, the success we all crave finally appears to be a realistic prospect.


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