Liverpool principal owner John W. Henry today moved to reassure supporters of the 18-time English soccer champion following its worst start to a season for 50 years and to explain its failure in the transfer market.
Liverpool lost 2-0 at home to Arsenal in the Premier League yesterday, leaving it with just one point from its opening three games. The defeat came two days after the club was left with only two senior strikers. Andy Carroll, who Liverpool signed as the most expensive British player, left to join West Ham on loan and the Reds failed to sign a replacement before the trade window shut.
“I am as disappointed as anyone connected with Liverpool Football Club that we were unable to add further to our strike force in this summer transfer window,” Henry, whose Fenway Sports Group also owns baseball’s Boston Red Sox, said in open letter to supporters published on the team’s website.
“That was not through any lack of desire or effort on the part of all of those involved,” he said. “They pushed hard in the final days of the transfer window on a number of forward targets and it is unfortunate that on this occasion we were unable to conclude acceptable deals to bring those targets in.”
Liverpool supporters have started to express concern about FSG, which was handed control by the club’s lenders when a previous U.S. ownership group failed to meet deadlines to repay debt. The Reds replaced manager Kenny Dalglish with Brendan Rodgers in June after finishing 8th in the league. The owners said at the time the former Swansea coach would be backed in the transfer market.
Liverpool paid 25 million pounds ($39.7 million) to sign Italian forward Fabio Borini and Wales midfielder Joe Allen on permanent deals. The Reds also brought in Nuri Sahin on loan and added youngsters Samed Yesil and Oussama Assaidi.
Yet it was the failure to replace Carroll, a U.K. record 35 million pound signing in January 2011, which led to fan criticism on message boards and social networks. Rodgers said he’d be “crazy” to allow the player to leave if he couldn’t be replaced. Yesterday Rodgers said he felt “very confident” club executives would sign a striker, and that’s why he let Carroll leave.
The club didn’t succeed with a proposal to replace Carroll with Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge, while U.S. attacker Clint Dempsey, who the club had pursued throughout the offseason, ended up joining Tottenham. Liverpool failed to meet Fulham’s asking price, even though it cleared Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing from the roster to raise funds for Dempsey.
“The transfer policy was not about cutting costs,” Henry said, reminding fans that several senior players had signed contract renewals. “It was - and will be in the future - about getting maximum value for what is spent so that we can build quality and depth.”
Rodgers has spent the summer trying to sell players bought to the club by Dalglish and former Director of Football Damien Comolli. Carroll, Adam, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Luis Suarez and Jose Enrique were purchased for more than 100 million pounds. Of those only Enrique and Suarez are regulars and while Adam was sold for 4 million pounds to Stoke, there were no takers for Downing and Henderson.
Liverpool is in the process of completing recruitment for a technical team who will form an advisory body to discuss player trades.
“Our ambitions do not lie in cementing a mid-table place with expensive, short-term quick fixes that will only contribute for a couple of years,” Henry said. “Our emphasis will be on developing our own players using the skills of an increasingly impressive coaching team.”
Henry said he’s trying to balance the team’s finances to meet new break-even regulations being established by European soccer’s governing body UEFA and also help the club recover from its previous ownership, and correcting mistakes made after FSG arrived in October 2010.
In May Liverpool posted a club-record loss of 49.4 million pounds for the fiscal 2011 year. The loss was mainly related to costs associated with the previous owners’ plan for a 70,000- seat stadium that has since been scrapped.
“We are still in the process of reversing the errors of previous regimes,” he said. “It will not happen overnight. It has been compounded by our own mistakes in a difficult first two years of ownership. It has been a harsh education, but make no mistake, the club is healthier today than when we took over.”
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