Monday, 18 July 2011

Why buying British is best for the Reds

Like almost every area of the club under the 'stewardship' of former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, the transfer policy was illogical, haphazard and directionless. The pair's failure to invest in the Reds' paper-thin squad was all too painfully demonstrated during the final transfer windows of Rafael Benitez's reign, when the Spaniard either made a profit or had a total net spend of precisely zero consistently.

In order to keep up with the excessive interest payments on the gargantuan debt that they had imposed on the club, Hicks and Gillett employed a "sell to buy" transfer policy, which left Benitez having to sell players in order to buy others, meaning that no substantial squad development could occur. Moreover, when the banks eventually became restless and the realistic prospect of administration loomed ominously in the background, their transfer policy changed to "sell not to buy", severely hampering our efforts in the transfer market even further and stalling any on-field progress.

Ultimately, the tenure and transfer policy of Tom Hicks and George Gillett was fatally flawed because it prioritised debt repayment over football, ripping the very fabric of the Liverpool Way to shreds in the process.

Conversely, since their arrival in the autumn of last year Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have reverted the focus back to footballing issues and improving the playing squad, wisely believing that off-field success will follow naturally from on-field success. Encouragingly, FSG have displayed a desire and ability to pay top dollar to secure talent in the transfer market, with the £57 million spent on Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll instantly showing their financial clout.

Perhaps more importantly, alongside team manager Kenny Dalglish and Director of Football Damien Comolli, they have constructed a coherent and concentrated transfer policy, providing a vital structure and framework to our summer transfer dealings. Liverpool are targeting young, British talent, preferably with Premier League experience, while also aiming to remove some of the deadwood that has assembled in the squad due to the previous owners' asset stripping forcing Rafael Benitez to gamble on unproven players.

This transfer policy reflects Dalglish's successful strategy whilst last in charge, when the King purchased only two players from outside the British Isles, with the average age of his 24 signings amounting to just 22.7 years of age. Gems unearthed employing this approach during Kenny's first spell at the helm included John Aldridge, John Barnes and Peter Beardsley and led to three League titles and two FA Cups being added to the already packed Anfield trophy cabinet.

With time, patience and investment similar stars and success could be heading to Anfield in the not so distant future, as the Reds' policy of recruiting young, British talent could see the club reap similar rewards to those enjoyed previously under the guidance of Kenny Dalglish.

One major positive of buying British is that they understand the culture and importance of the club to the city and the country. They are much more likely to be attracted to the prestige, history and tradition of Liverpool FC compared to overseas signings, who may not appreciate the club's gravitas following our failure to qualify for Europe. This has been evident with Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing as they both explicitly stated their first choice destination was Anfield.

Consequently, this often leads to increased loyalty, a value so dearly treasured on the Kop yet so clearly lacking in many foreign imports, who have come to personify the modern day mercenary, kissing the badge one week and jumping ship the next. With the likes of Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres providing recent examples of where foreign mercenaries have displayed an outrageous lack of loyalty, the Kop have experienced the sting of betrayal and understand that buying British this summer will, in all likelihood, reduce the possibility of being stabbed in the back yet again.

Most importantly, the Reds' focus on acquiring domestic talent will help the club to conform to recently introduced Premier League rules stipulating that at least eight of a side's 25 man squad must be 'home-grown', meaning that they were trained for at least three years under the age of 21 by someone within the English and Welsh professional system. Moreover, with UEFA attempting to introduce similar rules for European competition, it is crucial that Dalglish, Comolli and co. continue to build a British core in the summer transfer window.

As a result of these new rules, demand for 'home-grown' British players has markedly increased, with the big-movers in the transfer market so far (namely Liverpool and Manchester United) showing a clear intention to sign domestic stars, as Ashley Young and Phil Jones have moved to Old Trafford while Henderson, Adam and Downing have arrived at Anfield. Many have bemoaned the resulting hike in prices for young, British talent, with critics claiming that fees such as £16 million for Jordan Henderson and £20 million for Stewart Downing are excessive.

Although legitimate concerns can be raised as to the obviously inflated fees the Reds are paying to secure their transfer targets, it seems that is the only option if we are to compete once again with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. Also, Liverpool have tied down all new arrivals to 'long term' contracts, ensuring that we can achieve value for money by keeping promising players at Anfield for a significant spell. Moreover, youngsters such as Henderson, Suarez and Carroll will all have a sell on value if they eventually decide to depart, as they are still many years from reaching their peak.

It makes a refreshing change to be in the position where we have the ability to over-pay for some players if necessary, as opposed to lamenting another summer of prudence and asset stripping. It is also positive to see a logical, well thought through transfer policy being actively fulfilled quickly and efficiently, as opposed to a misguided and fruitless transfer policy dragging the quality of the squad down further.

If the Reds continue to concentrate on purchasing young, promising British talent while also complimenting the squad with the occasional foreign starlet and Academy graduate then the future under FSG and Dalglish should certainly prove to be bright and successful.