By Stephen Adams
The current plight faced by Liverpool Football Club...
For every team looking to challenge at the top of the Premier League, there comes a tipping point at which the club either kicks on or falls by the wayside. Spurs have improved the old-fashioned way, employing an experienced management team and buying shrewdly in Bale, Modric and more recently Van Der Vaart. For others, a more stratospheric rise has been made possible by foreign millions arriving at the door, in keeping with the current fashion for every oligarch to have their own sports 'franchise'.
The big four has become the big six, and the clubs heading in the right direction won't pause for one moment to worry about those struggling to keep up with the pace of change. Of the big six, Liverpool fans have the most to worry about. A club famous for looking at former glories may have to continue doing so for some time as the immediate and long-term future looks increasingly unsettled, and therefore unsuccessful. The American ownership has been an unmitigated disaster and the Moores family must rue the day they allowed their legacy to be handed over to such cowboys. For all of their posturing, holding the scarf in front of the Kop, touching the Anfield sign after signing the deal, it meant nothing - they signed up in order to drive up the cost of their new asset and flog it to the highest middle-Eastern bidder.
The credit crunch put paid to that idea so the acrimonious duo of Hicks and Gillett are left holding a baby they never really wanted, and can't get rid of. The inevitable friction has dripped down to the management team, and the players on the pitch who seem to have accepted the idea that regardless of their efforts, the club can't move forward without new secure ownership and a clear direction. Mediocrity has crept in, and the long line of club legends such as Hansen, Souness, Keegan, Dalglish, and Rush is being continued by Lucas, Ngog, Maxi and Jovanovic. Benitez bought some world-class players in Reina, Torres and Alonso, but he also bought a lot of duds and left the club horrendously over-staffed when he was forced into handing the reigns over to Hodgson.
But regardless of troubles at the top and some questionable names on the team-sheet, Liverpool still have some stellar players who are playing well under their maximum at present. Although no player avoids a patch of bad form, the likes of Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Gerrard, Kuyt, Cole and of course Torres would get into almost every Premier League team, so surely they can lift 4 other team-mates to a standard more befitting of the club's stature? The point being made is that Liverpool fans deserve more from the players wearing the shirt. It is easy to complain about the unsettled ownership, or how much money everyone else has, or the lack of Champions League football, but this is largely the same squad that came within a couple of points of winning the title in 2008/09; of so nearly achieving the holy grail for those sat on the Kop every week.
Home and away wins against Manchester United that season counted for nothing in the end, two home draws against Fulham and Hull City before Christmas counted for a whole lot more in May. The attitude changed after that season, rather than taking huge confidence from pushing Man Utd so close, a feeling of 'we're never going to win it' was allowed to settle and take hold of the players. The departure of Xabi Alonso was also central in clipping the wings of Gerrard's barn-storming runs and goals, and he has proven to be a very difficult player to replace. Liverpool fans will be hoping that Meireles can inject some much needed vision and impetus into the pedestrian midfield of Poulsen and Lucas.
Hodgson has a very difficult task on his hands, one far more complex than he perhaps first imagined when signing off at his Motspur Park training ground for the last time. His hands are tied in one respect whilst Purslow and Broughton seek the best deal for the club, but he does have every right to demand more of his players who are all incredibly fortunate to be wearing the famous red shirt and collecting substantial salaries to boot. If Liverpool are to avoid falling by the wayside it is going to take a lot of effort, but also fewer excuses.