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Liverpool fans must temper spending expectations

10 April 2011

Liverpool owner John Henry will spend wisely, despite the wishes of Roy Evans (Flickr: Vietmoment)

“Long term” has proved to be the phrase of the season for everyone associated with Liverpool Football Club. New owners Tom Werner and in particular John Henry have stressed that they want to implement a lasting strategy to win trophies, rather than engage in carefree spending on the world’s best players.

So I was surprised to read this week that ex-manager Roy Evans has urged the new owners to splash their cash in the summer transfer window.

Speaking on Talksport, Evans expressed his desire to see significant sums spent after a zero net spend in the January transfer window.

People were saying the owners done fantastic when we sold Torres for £50million but we still haven’t seen any of their money yet.

At the end of the season if they realise the plight and have got a real feeling for this club they’ve got to spend a decent amount of money.

I was surprised by Evans’ comments on two counts. First, Evans was instrumental in coaching and managing the likes of Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Steve McManaman; young, local players who cost the club nothing in transfer fees. It strikes me as odd that Evans would highlight the need for large spending without emphasising the benefits of youth development.

Second, the new owners have repeatedly placed importance on living within one’s means. John Henry made this particularly clear in an interview with the Guardian in February:

We’ve always spent money we’ve generated rather than deficit-spending and that will be the case in Liverpool. It’s up to us to generate enough revenue to be successful over the long term. We have not and will not deviate from that.

Our goal in Liverpool is to create the kind of stability that the Red Sox enjoy. We are committed to building for the long term.

There it is again: “long term”. Whilst Liverpool fans are more aware than anyone of the dangers of broken promises following the disaster of Hicks and Gillett’s reign, Henry and Werner have a proven model in the Red Sox.

With the introduction of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, best explained by the BBC’s David Bond, it appears Henry and Werner have a plan that is already more developed than their competitors’.

We can talk about Moneyball and Soccernomics, but the Americans’ strategy comes down to sustainable spending from self-generated revenue and not debt-financed transfer binges.

Evans believes the owners should have a “real feeling for the club,” but this attitude is dangerous; it will encourage needless spending in a bid to gain instant success. It is fair to suggest Roman Abramovich has real feeling for Chelsea, but spending £50m on Torres may not have been his wisest move.

Inflated transfer fees and wage bills produce roller coaster rides rather than sustainable success, and with roller coasters you end where you begin – at the bottom. Just ask Leeds and Portsmouth. Even without debt concerns, Chelsea and Man City fans must be wary of their long-term approach.

This is perhaps particularly topical in the wake of Arsene Wenger’s recent comments. Wenger feels Arsenal have not received enough credit for staying in the top four  since 1997. I think most Liverpool fans would take Wenger’s model for the time being, particularly after the tribulations under Hicks and Gillett.

Later in the discussion Roy Evans acknowledged the role of Damien Comolli, but encouraged the owners to quickly resolve Dalglish’s contract, because “they are not going to let you spend £50, 60 million if you’re not permanent.” This ties in with one of the biggest fallacies of the January transfer window – that Dalglish was entrusted with the signings of Carroll and Suarez.

Whilst Dalglish probably had a say in the transfers, the responsibility lay on Comolli. It will be the Frenchman, rather than the manager, who will have the money to spend.

And judging from the owners’ public stance, there almost certainly won’t be “£50, 60 million” in the kitty, or at least not without selling players first.

New owners at any football club always arouse huge amounts of excitement, but Liverpool fans – and even fans of other clubs – must not expect ludicrous net spends under Henry and Werner.

It may take a few seasons to challenge for the title, but this would almost certainly be better than the highs and lows associated with the sizable spending encouraged by Roy Evans.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 10 April 2011 1:42 pm

    People have short memories. Does Roy not forget how close the club went to bankruptcy (or worse)? The club should be run on a profit-and-loss basis. If that means not winning things, so be it. At least we’ll have a club!

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