Five Stages of Grief – Liverpool’s Transfer “Woes”

By Jim Kostecki

As the transfer window slammed shut at 11:00 pm GMT, I couldn’t help but think to myself: “Did that just happen?” Within a matter of a few hours, Liverpool loaned out their £35 million pound England striker to West Ham and failed to secure either Clint Dempsey or Daniel Sturridge as a replacement. To make the situation even more difficult to swallow, details emerged that Liverpool only offered £4 million for Clint Dempsey. For those keeping track, the American scored 23 goals for Fulham last season.

How could Fenway Sports Group (FSG) allow this to happen? How could they fail to replace a striker with the squad already lacking goal-scorers? There were many emotions burning through me in the aftermath of this transfer day deadline debacle – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I quickly realized I was suffering from a clear cut case of the five stages of grief.

My saving grace was the clarity I gained once reaching the fifth and final stage: acceptance. “What’s done is done” I said to myself over and over again. The transfer window is shut until January 1. As I realized I had overcome a lot to achieve this “acceptance” stage, I began to remember what had already been achieved during the transfer window: the purchases of Fabio Borini, Oussama Assaidi, Joe Allen, Samed Yesil, and the loan capture of Nuri Sahin – not to mention the offloading of Alberto Aquilani and Charlie Adam. I lost sight of these positives because of the various stages of grief I was experiencing. But once I accepted the reality, I was able to move on.

So why are most fans still stuck in the anger stage? It’s clear social media has not helped the grieving process. Now that fans have a platform to have their voice heard by millions, the bile that is spewed from some “fans” is endless. The media has not helped either. For the past few seasons, Liverpool has been the “club that couldn’t,” and journalists jumped at the opportunity to poke fun at England’s most prestigious club.

This brings me to an article published in the Liverpool Daily Post written by Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson. In this poorly thought out Op-Ed piece, Lawrenson makes a number of claims that are either misguided or blatantly wrong. While his intentions are virtuous, as he can often shed great insight on the activities surrounding Liverpool Football Club, the former center back dropped the ball completely (no pun intended).

Mr. Lawrenson begins the piece by claiming FSG has let Brendan Rodgers down and demands an answer for an important question, “Why on earth would Liverpool sanction the departure of Andy Carroll if they didn’t have a replacement lined up?” By asking the question in such a manner is oversimplifying a very complicated process. As a club, when there is only a short period for acquiring players, there are many moving parts that need to be coordinated. Sturridge’s refusal to be loaned out, a prime example of complications that arise. There’s a difference between “lining up” a replacement and “securing” a replacement.

He continues the article by questioning Liverpool’s rather small bid of £4 million for Clint Dempsey and links this with the financial constraints at the club, offering proof to this conclusion by stating “…everything inside the ground has gone up in price, from bottles of water to the pies.” I find it irrational and naïve to link the price of stadium food and beverage to the financial constraints surrounding a club. Lawrenson fails to mention Liverpool’s desire to become financially sound – i.e. zero debt and revenue diversification. It is also not uncommon for clubs to raise prices on consumer items such as food and beverages to adjust for the current economic climate.

Furthermore, the comparison Mr. Lawrenson makes with FSG and the Hicks and Gillett is utterly absurd. He states, “Tom Hicks and George Gillett were rightly castigated for what they did to the club, and the danger is Fenway Sports Group are taking Liverpool down the same road.” Tom Hicks and George Gillett were masters at leveraged buyouts and burdened Liverpool Football Club with hundreds of millions of pounds in debt, a failed stadium project, and dozens of broken promises. FSG have been clear on their vision from day one. They have supported both Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers in the transfer markets, they continue to pursue viable stadium options, and are increasing the global brand of LFC. Inciting ill feelings towards an ownership that is genuinely striving for success by comparing them to Hicks and Gillette is irresponsible and pitiful.

Continuing through Lawrenson’s carefully thought out article, he claims “[n]ot replacing Carroll is the biggest mistake FSG have made during their ownership. I’m baffled. Totally and utterly baffled.” Many would argue the purchase of Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson were the biggest mistakes made by FSG. Even the purchase of Andy Carroll, oddly enough, could be argued as ‘baffling.’

Finally – and this is my favorite part of the article – Lawrenson uses his 77-year-old mother to support his position that Liverpool were foolish to let a striker leave without securing a replacement. He said, “My mother, who is 77, was watching Sunday’s game against Arsenal on television and she commented ‘well, this team aren’t going to score many goals.’ Talk about stating the bleeding obvious.” While it is adorable thinking about an elderly woman drinking tea while watching her favorite football club, this statement is far from supporting the main point. Let’s pretend FSG successfully purchased Dempsey – it is highly unlikely he would have started against Arsenal. Mr. Lawrenson’s mother was also commenting on a starting eleven that had three of Rodgers’ signings – Joe Allen, Nuri Sahin and Fabio Borini. If it is “bleeding obvious” that this team will not score many goals, then perhaps FSG shouldn’t be the only ones criticized.

While I fully support former players speaking their minds and shedding insight on matters related to football, I do not support opinions that are detrimental to a mentally recovering football club. Lawrenson’s irresponsible and farfetched claims do not help heal, nor provide clarity, to the confusion that surrounded the transfer day deadline. My only hope is that future articles written by Mr. Lawrenson are more thoughtful.

You can follow Jim Kostecki on twitter @jim_kostecki

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