With everything that’s happened in the last few years it’s sometimes easy to forget how far we’ve come in just 12 months under the new ownership. Reading an article in the Echo today brought it all back to me though – ‘Ex-Liverpool FC owner Tom Hicks sued by former club Texas Rangers for allegedly ‘enriching himself at team’s expense’. It seems our illustrious former benefactor is being accused of using the baseball team as a means of securing loans to enable him to build a real-estate empire, rather than investing in the actual team and playing staff. Sound familiar? You bet it does.
Remember the era of Hicks and Gillett? Not that long ago, was it? Remember four consecutive transfer windows with a negative spend, remember losing our midfield maestro and not being allowed to spend the money on a replacement, remember having to bring in Maxi and Kyrgiakos at a combined cost of £1.5m because that was our budget? Remember dreaming of Pellegrini or Sanchez Flores and getting Hodgson? Remember all that, and then remember how lucky we are to have the current owners and management team.
I can’t quite believe looking back just how bad things were this time last year; the Cowboys were still clinging on to the club with their fat, greasy fingers, we’d lost a manager who in my opinion is one of our all time greats, and in his place we were treated to a man whose record paled in comparison. Much as the press tried to talk him up, a cursory look at Hodgson’s ‘achievements’ revealed that he’d only done well when bringing structure and predictability to relatively weak teams, and that when taking charge of teams with good players and higher expectations he’d failed at every attempt. At Inter for example the fans disliked him so much that they pelted him with coins and lighters. At Udinese he gave bizarre interview after bizarre interview, blaming everyone but himself until the owners were forced to sack him. At Blackburn he spent a fortune on utter dross and doomed a team that had been Champions just two seasons previously to relegation, again blaming everyone else and steadfastly refusing to resign despite a run of results that saw just two wins in fourteen games and Blackburn languishing bottom of the league.
Many of us felt he wasn’t up to the job but we were admonished in the press for our ungratefulness and our undeserved sense of entitlement. We were told that we were getting a gentleman, a distinguished and decorated coach who spoke five languages fluently don’t you know (my wife speaks as many but I wouldn’t want her in charge either, although if you’re reading hon I’m sure you’d do a cracking job) and a man who would ‘steady the ship’. And steady it he did. Sadly he’d set a course to mid-table rather than the top half, but by God he was determined to stick to his mission at any cost. Suddenly we were being told to lower our expectations and accept mediocrity, that Hodgson’s tried and trusted methods which had served him so well for 35 years would eventually start to kick in, that the players just weren’t trying hard enough to adapt and that no other manager could do a better job with that group of players. Suddenly we were sliding down the table and with each lifeless, uninspired performance we were greeted by a manager trying to convince us that there were positives to take, and that the situation he’d inherited was far worse than we’d been led to believe.