An Open Letter to Liverpool Owner John Henry

By Bill Farnham

Editor’s Note: This post is in response to the letter John Henry published to the fans on Sept. 3, 2012.

“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

I’ve been here before, and you probably have as well. The anticipation of a new season and the hopes and dreams that come with opening day have been replaced by cold, hard reality: Liverpool will not achieve as much as hoped for, or finish as highly as anticipated. This doesn’t mean I will stop cheering or care any less, but there is a bit of sadness in having to rein in my expectations for the team a mere five games into the season.
Here’s the frightening part: if I changed Liverpool to Boston and five games to 24 (15 percent of a Major League Baseball season), the statement would still hold true, which brings me to the topic of Fenway Sports Group, the owners of both the Liverpool FC and the Boston Red Sox. FSG are poised, rather precariously, at the start of what will be their defining period as owners of the glorious institution that is Liverpool FC.

Let’s examine the facts:

John W. Henry’s open letter was filled with worthy passages and phrases, and was clearly the work of an ownership group concerned that its messaging is full of good intentions, but it was short of answers (something that is embodied, rather ironically, in LFC’s transfer policy this season and last).

The clearest definition of the two major themes contained in the letter comes when Henry says, “Most of all, we want to win. That ambition drives every decision. It is the Liverpool way. We can and will generate the revenues to achieve that aim.” This is where skepticism kicks in.
The future is now, not in three more seasons. Yes, Liverpool needs to be financially sound, but it also needs wins. While there is clearly a balance to be struck between the two, FSG has not struck this balance, yet. The transfer spending from last season, large though it was, was ultimately wasted. FSG opened its checkbook and bought lavishly, but the net result was a striker who is gone out on loan (Andy Carroll), a midfielder who now plays for Stoke City (Charlie Adam), a substitute winger/fullback (Stewart Downing), a default left back who still has plenty to prove (Jose Enrique), a substitute midfielder (Jordan Henderson), and a backup keeper who has rarely played (Doni). The major positive to come out was young center back Sebastian Coates, who still has plenty to prove as well. Imagine for a moment if Liverpool had signed only two players with a smaller amount of money: Radamel Falcao (£ 32M Athletico Madrid from Porto) and Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain (£ 12M – £ 15 Arsenal from Southampton). How different would Liverpool be?

The squad this season is smaller and further from “success” as a result of this profligate spending. Yes, “young, but significantly talented starters” have been brought in. Joe Allen and Fabio Borini look to be good business, but Nuri Sahin only counts if he signs for LFC permanently. Yes, “exciting young potential stars” — Samed Yesil, Oussama Assaidi — have arrived at the club as well, but that is only half of the equation. Success is the other half, and that eludes FSG despite all their fine words, well received ideas, and profligate spending.

In his open letter Henry writes, “After almost two years at Anfield, we are close to having the system we need in place.” I would respond with some words from a Brendan Rodgers press conference aired on The Anfield Wrap on September 9, 2012. Rodgers said, in response to a question regarding the lack of depth in the squad and the potential for young players to establish themselves, “You cry for an opportunity. You actually might now get an opportunity. And then you’ve got to take it. You’ve got to take it.” After two years at Anfield, now is the time for FSG to take that opportunity. There might not be another chance.

“Potential is just another way of saying that you haven’t done anything yet.” – various

Post Script:

So what happens when the opportunity is there and not taken? One need only look as far as FSG’s other notable sports franchise, the Boston Red Sox, who, after replacing an iconic manager because of a miserable end of season collapse and muddling through the replacement process, are now saddled with one of the most unpopular managers in team history and a team that is all about future potential at the expense of results. Just be glad the Premier League season is only 38 games long; a baseball season is 162 games.

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22 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Liverpool Owner John Henry

    • Further thoughts or even an explanation of the “out of touch with reality” part would be appreciated if it’s not too much trouble. I have an opinion. You don’t like my opinion. Let’s have a debate and make arguments in favor or against each other’s positions and respond in a manner that expands the discussion. The ball’s in your court…

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  1. Good Lord. Five games under a new manager implementing a new system and you are already writing “Open Letters”? Learn some patience. Alex Ferguson didn’t get his first win with United until November 22nd in his first year. Learn some patience, man.

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    • I felt that there was something that needed to be said and I said it. As for patience, well I don’t have a hell of a lot with FSG lately. I am not satisfied with their stewardship of LFC, which is not the same thing as saying they stink (they don’t) but rather a way of saying that I see areas where they need to improve. Should I wait to say that if they are under performing right now? Maybe. But I want LFC to succeed now. I’ll support them no matter what, but I also want them to win.

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  2. This article sucks. Since you are an editor, you should have edited yourself right to the round file.

    FSG has taken all of the steps they think possible to improve the situation. They have brought in “world class players” over the past few seasons, managers with different philosophies, have been pretty accommodating to the fans and steadied the stadium situation behind the scenes. Now its time to sit back and just be a fan. You don’t have to be a happy fan but choose your targets more efficiently than “an open letter to blah blah blah…).

    Results on the field miraculously tend to fix things off the field. At this point, the fans can help the on-field effort more than any other method. These stupid open letters a month into the season do nothing but whip up the drama queens into a frenzy. LFC are in good financial hands. The owners are trying to bring about positive change. The play on the pitch is improving daily, the highly touted young players are starting to get regular playing time and the new manager is both respected and seeing some luck in getting his ideas implemented.

    FSG has set up a structure that isn’t going away anytime soon. Brendan Rodgers is the man you should be sending an open letter to because he is the only person with the active ability to fix things this season. Players are hit and miss daily but the program Rodgers sets up will speak for itself at the end of the season.

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    • First off: read who the article is by. I have to question how good of a reader you are if you cannot read the byline.

      With that out of the way, I agree Rodgers is perfect for this job, but Bill wants some wins and re-investment into the first team. I can’t argue with that either. How were you feeling on transfer deadline day when another sriker wasn’t brought in? This team desperately needs a goalscorer and needed to invest in one this summer or it was going to have a hard time fighting for a mid-table spot, which it is right now. You can play all the beautiful soccer you want, but results are what matter and the only way to get results is to score goals. The youngsters Rafa brought in are doing great, but you can’t rely on them for the full season. I will say it is nice to finally see Pacheco and Suso get a few games, but you can’t think Stelring at 17 is going to stay in this kind of form, can you? Someone needed to be brought in to score the chances being created.

      I think FSG is a good ownership group and will do well by the fans. I also think Bill has some fair points to think about. This was in response to Henry’s open letter to the fans, it just took a few weeks to come out because of editing.

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    • Kevin didn’t write the article – I did, and I think you’re confusing “sucks” with “is something I don’t agree with.” The only thing that is clear regarding FSG’s tenure is that they have cleared LFC’s debt and made good and bad moves. I’m simply pointing out that this is a pivotal time period for LFC. I’d love to hear which LFC players you’re referring to when you say “world class players”, BTW

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  3. what a joke writing stuff like this. have you been watching the games? we have been playing great, the results will come. we have loads of fantastic young players coming through. we are liverpool not man city or chelsea, this is the right way to achieve success and sustain it long term. i am sick of these short term views of so many of our fans it really is pathetic and embarrasing and you do not speak for the vast majority of fans i speak to who are very positive about the way the club is being run. There is always room for improvement but for god sake let fsg and rodgers get on with it and back them… or go and support man city/chelsea

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    • Not sure why you see it as a joke – I wasn’t trying to be funny. If I look at the way FSG has handled ownership of the club I see areas where improvements can be made. It’s that simple. As a supporter I want to see the best for LFC and I back the club completely but just because someone owns the club doesn’t mean they get a free pass. The Man CIty and Chelsea comments are just classless.

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  4. I agree with Steve this letter is way to soon. Yes your facts are not to be argued with but FSG is thinking long term and trying to be responsible with finances. We all want to win FSG included, but with the disarray the club was left in they are making the most of a bad situation. I’d rather see them devolp the youth like they have been; this way we can have a reign of success and not just a year or two and then have to buy more players. As far as the Red Sox go please don’t even mention that situation you obviously don’t fully understand it A LOT more happened then a collapse and a firing. This year has been a result of terrible play on the field and injuries for the Red Sox (most DL trips in franchise history). As for lfc just show some more patience its unjust to judge Rodgers and FSG so quickly

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    • I agree Rodgers needs time, but to be fair, I do not judge Rodgers at any point in the article. I’m as excited about his appointment and what he is bringing to the club as anyone. As for the Sox, how well do you feel FSG handled the firing of Tito and the search for a replacement? Seriously.

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  5. Not sure if you watch the midweek games (Europe and League Cup) or not with this article. The “exciting young potential stars” scored more goals at Young Boys for the Europa League than the first team has all season. Even better to see was that then players like Assaidi and Sahin proved that it wasn’t just a lucky day against a weaker team by going out and completely outplaying West Brom (another Premier League team), something that the regular first team couldn’t get done on opening day of the season. Quite frankly, I’m enthused about the new summer signings regardless of their age because they’ve shown up so far and have proven that age doesn’t matter if you go out there and score goals. Also note that Joe Allen was clearly the best signing for BR and he didn’t even play in those games (He’s only 22 so he’s still an “exciting young potential star” who is already a star really as the future of Welsh football).

    I also think to say Coates has been a success already is a bit of a stretch. He’s talented and can not only defend but score goals because of his size (as a threat on set pieces), but he won’t be able to break into the first team as a starter with Agger and Skrtle ahead of him (even Carra’s experience may arguably outweigh Coates’s skill).

    The results will come, I just think a great transition to the youth is in place as John Henry says and the future of LFC is looking really bright, so long as we can keep them in the club (i.e. sign Sahin and not sell out when someone comes offering something like “Andy Carroll money” for a player like Sterling or Jonjo).

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  6. Forget the Bloody Red Sox. They’re irrelevant to the discussion. The consensus at the moment is that the LFC is better than its record, is playing well, offering attractive footy and is improving. Everyone was disappointed that the Summer transfers didn’t bring more. Perhaps Brendan’s negotiating skills need refining. Three managers in three years is discouraging. The supporters didn’t want Roy. Kenny started off well but had an awful second half and the standard on the pitch wasn’t high. The current squad has included a number of inexperienced players and Brendan’s system is a work in progress. There’s reason for optimism. Let’s see what happens.
    One question John Henry might answer is how much control he exercises over the operation. I have the impression his interference is minimal. He selects people he thinks can do the job and lets them do it. If he thinks they aren’t capable he gets rid of them, but they are the decision makers. (I think he was a little piqued at Brendan when he didn’t come up with a striker this summer, but what do I know.)

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    • I brought up the Red Sox because I saw two teams owned by the same group enduring what I believe are similar situations. I agree that there are reasons to be hopeful for the future under BR and I like what I see on the pitch. I am optimistic, certainly.

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