'Gillette-Hicks', the reason for Liverpool's fall from grace?
It was the same old story once again for Liverpool, as they went down 1-3 away to Stoke City- the latest loss in a not-so-great season for the Reds so far.
Though the Reds had earlier taken a lead in the second minute through a Steven Gerrard penalty, goals from Jonathan Walters and Kenwyne Jones ensured that Brendan Rodgers’ side will now have a mountain to climb to even challenge for the top three.
This was Liverpool’s sixth defeat of the season and they now lie in 10th spot, below Swansea.
Though Liverpool do not look like winning the league any time soon, the club faithful have had a long and agonizing wait (22 years since they last won the league!), with the 2008-09 season being the closest Liverpool have come to winning the league (second to Manchester United despite finishing with 86 points- a club record).
Footballing pundits have come up with many theories regarding Liverpool’s fall from grace, which range from the selling off of important players like Xabi Alonso to frequent managerial changes(Rodgers is the fourth Reds manager after Rafael Benitez’s exit).
With the exception of the Europa League (Liverpool have qualified for the knockout stages as group winners), the current season looks likely to be an encore of the previous four for the Reds.
It all started when American owners George Gillette and Tom Hicks took over after Liverpool’s stunning 2005 Champions League win, in mysterious circumstances, as Anfield was then dreaming of Gerrard and manager Rafael Benitez bringing back the glory days of yore.
Steven Gerrard had established his name as a club legend after the sensational win over AC Milan in Istanbul and the Reds looked like a team rising from rivals Manchester United’s shadow with a spectacular FA Cup win over West Ham United to add to a great EPL season where they finished third.
Gillette and Hicks beat off stiff competition from other competitors like The Dubai International Capital Group to become owners of Liverpool.
That probably started the club’s rapid slide in both English and European football as the new owners had little experience in managing a professional sports outfit.
Their failure to connect with the Anfield faithful, plus differences with then-manager Benitez, meant the Spaniard had a hard time during the American owners’ regime.
The main aim of Gillette and Hicks was probably to make profits by buying out the club, and it backfired miserably.
Benitez, who was looking to build on the momentum of Liverpool’s sudden success, was not given a reasonable wage budget during the transfer window, which meant the Spaniard could not buy the players on his radar, such as Slyvian Distin and Stevan Jovetic.
This prompted Benitez to sell off midfield stalwart Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid for a huge amount(30 million pounds) to ensure a reasonable wage budget for some big signings (read Gareth Barry).
It is a different matter altogether that Benitez failed to bring in Barry to Anfield and also had a host of other players leaving the club (Craig Bellamy, Andreas Dossena), which left the squad considerably weakened.
Alonso’s departure was probably the turning point for the club, as it left a huge gap in the midfield, for Benitez could not bring in a player of the Spaniard’s quality.
Despite his differences with the club owners, Benitez almost won Liverpool the league in 2008-09, and was sacked after a mediocre 2010(7th place).
The Spaniard later revealed that he felt like a ‘bank manager’ during his time in the ‘Gillette-Hicks’ era, and was relieved to have been sacked.
Liverpool almost went under administration after a High Court battle in 2010, which resulted in Gillette and Hicks’ ouster from the club for financial issues.
Fans led a sigh of relief when John Henry of the Fenway Sports Group(FSG) took over later, and now hope that the club can rise again from the financial mess caused during the ‘Gillette-Hicks’ era.
And the current season under coach Rodgers may just be the perfect time to launch a comeback!