Best posts of the week:
As chosen by Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes.
1 – Bob Pearce on the only topic in town, the proposals for a new European Super League
Here’s my prediction. 10 years from now, what is currently called ‘Women’s football’ will be more popular than the football we watch today.
I’ll go and make a diary note to come back here on 19/4/31 to see how well that aged.
2 – Stevenson1988 on the same subject:
There is undoubtedly an element of the tails wagging the dogs in a lot of what goes on in football and there is no question that the dogs are finally losing patience. I can think of few other businesses where the most successful ones are deliberately held back to help those who perform less well and, of course, that is the main point: football is now a huge business and needs to be run as such. The blazer and clipboard brigade are fighting a losing battle but rather than accept that and try to adapt, they are sitting Canute like on the shoreline – hoping that the tide won’t in fact come in.
The European Cup/Champions League hasn’t been around forever – so why should it be sacrosanct? Similarly, the World Cup etc. So many things in life have changed beyond all recognition in recent years, yet apart from the PL and the changes to the CL – going from pure knockout to groups – not much has changed. Jimmy Hill led the revolution to ensure that players got their fair returns – who is now leading the revolution to ensure that the top clubs now receive their fair returns? Villa should have been relegated last season, yet the ref and goal line technology failed to pick up the Sheffield Utd goal at Villa Park – how much has that benefitted Villa financially and how much has it cost the relegated club? Why are LFC still scrapping for a top 4 spot when we should have another 10 or 12 points where it not for incompetent officialdom – in all its guises.
Let’s be honest, if anyone was setting out to design a system of how to run football and how it should be organised, they almost certainly would not start with what we have now. They would certainly change the financial set up, the competitions and the officiating – other than that, what’s left not to change? Why should clubs, who are wholly responsible for their players, have to loan them out for internationals that do not suit the clubs’ timetables at all? Why are the number of internationals increasing so much and why is there not a limit as there is in rugby union? LFC faces the ludicrous situation that, in theory, each of their longterm injured stars could be selected to play in the Euros having missed the entire domestic season – and there is nothing they could do about it!
They say that every dog has its day, well in this respect those dogs being wagged by their tails are determined to have theirs. As I say, I’m still not 100% certain about this direction of travel, but it is clear that there is a huge amount of exasperation on the part of the big clubs and they are looking for big changes. FIFA and UEFA may well currently run the game, but as Kerry Packer and the IPL have showed in cricket, the money will ultimately dictate what happens. How much will be paid by the TV companies and social media to the watch the PL without the big 6? Who will bother about internationals that don’t feature the top players? The top players will not boycott the ESL for fear of missing internationals because they know where the serious money will lie – they also know that the internationals will fall into line behind the ESL. Money talks very loudly and the big clubs and top players will ensure it heads in their direction.
If we compare with the NFL, it is around 1,400 miles from Dallas to New York as an example but quite a bit less than 1,000 miles from Liverpool to Madrid or Turin. Players and clubs are used to all the travelling nowadays and if they don’t need to worry about domestic leagues (because they are kicked out) then they will either extend the ESL still further or find other games to play. What is certain is that the genie is well and truly out of the bottle and no amount of tub thumping by Boris or Macron will change their minds – do you really think John Henry particularly gives a toss what a couple of here today, gone tomorrow, populist politicians have to say? He has bigger fish to fry – as do the other members of the gang of 12. How many other clubs who are jumping up and down and protesting at the moment are doing so purely and simply because they weren’t invited to the party? Let’s say they want to increase the numbers to 30 – do you really think Leicester, West Ham or Everton would turn their noses up at the chance to join in the fun?
It is undoubtedly a seismic shift in the way football is run, but as has already been pointed out, it’s not as though this is the first time such a move has been proposed. The difference this time is that, given the people involved, you can see it sticking. Either the existing bodies move very quickly to adapt to the brave new world, or the clubs involved will impose it themselves. The writing was on the wall for long enough, yet nothing was done about it – if anything there was almost a perverse pleasure in snubbing the requests of the big clubs – witness the vote in the PL on the number of subs.
Put simply, the big boys have had enough of the snotty nosed kids ruining their games and they have finally decided to do something serious about it. Either the snotty nosed kids grow up fast and adapt, or they will be left playing their own, inferior, game. We might not like it, but John Henry and his ilk clearly do and, crucially, so do their backers.
3 – Tony Mckenna (macattack) on Gary Neville’s intervention in the ESL debate:
To be honest, I am already sick of the commentary surrounding the ESL debate, from notable high profilers in the game. Mainly on the issue of the hypocrisy accusations and ironic high morale ground claiming. But Gary Neville, for my own part, has been totally disrespectful towards Klopp.
I felt for our Manager yesterday. Less we forget, he is a bereaved human being. Compounded by the inability to pay his last respects to his Mother. Neville over rode this personal issue, and in many ways, was using his position to divide and conquer the Club that he resents and detests. Not to mention that we know he ‘hates scousers’. He can hardly deny a personal motive. (And he calls Klopp, ‘spikey’).
If he does not know why he is ‘in the head’ of the Liverpool Manager, then he is stupid, or conveniently ignorant. Klopp made it clear. Yes, there was no need to reference the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ anthem. In fact, it had no relevance to this current debate. Absolutely zero. So, why mention it? Whilst he defensibly stated that he has been just as critical of the United owners, he chose not to mention any United anthems. (Oh, to be fair, do they actually have any songs?). How about, ‘Glory, Glory, Man United…?’ To make the point: ‘what glory is there in the ESL proposal?’
Oh, god, I am being churlish and puerile. Just one of the many emotions that football can provoke. The game makes a Peter Pan of us all, at certain times. But Neville was disproportionately focused upon Liverpool. And if he has criticised the Glazers, his own self-interest had sufficient longevity to accept a fortune in salary from the nefarious American owners.
He wants them out, now. On this basis, he could also criticise the guy who helped to get them in. United were saddled with debt, when none existed previously, prior to the Glazers brokering the deal of a football lifetime. But Sir Alex Ferguson, as Neville always respectfully refers to the man, has always been spared within the Glazer context. Yet, the Scot was the one who defended the Glazers as ‘good owners’.
Where was the moral compass then? Where is it now? And does this not render SAF`s own objections to the ESL, somewhat chokingly hypocritical? A bit late to become concerned about the Club and the fans, on a climb to a moral Everest. Maybe both Ferguson and Neville have already had their United heyday and pay day?
Neville has pursued business interests since his mid 20s. He hid his dalliances from SAF, fearing the latter would have seen the pursuits as a distraction from playing for Manchester United. Ideally, Neville is not in a position to make charges of ‘selfishness’ and ‘self interest’. He has looked after himself very well, indeed. For a long time. If United was a priority, during his playing days, his business interests would have been an equal first. Remember Jaap Stam, terming the Neville brothers as ‘busy cunts’?
Not to say that Neville is the only hypocrite. Carragher was not too averse in terms of self-interest, when rushing through a new contract in advance of FSG’s arrival in town. This is the salient theme of my Post. It is not a defence of the ESL, at all. But to have to read the likes of Boris Johnson, Oliver Dowden, et al, pontificating on the side of righteousness, railing against ‘unfairness’, ‘self-interest’, whilst eulogising ‘fair competition’. Oh, do fuck off.
Like a reincarnation of Dick Turpin complaining about modern day, car hi jacking.
4 – Ciarant is not convinced that a new ESL is a serious proposition:
What puzzles me is the why was the ESL announcement so poorly handled? Only the basic information was released, no take down of the FIFA/UEFA’s incompetence/corruption/greed, nothing to sell the concept or critique the status quo. So of course, they just get accused of money grubbing, which, in fairness, it is, but with some possible side benefits. That’s why I think it does smack of a negotiating tactic/bluff called rather than a serious proposition.
5 – Nor is Garythespud:
The very shoddy way they have announced this makes me think it’s all just a ruse to get UEFA to play ball with their CL demands. No press conference with CEOs, no branding, no chance for questions, no chances for bringing the media onboard with free flights, hotels, etc, letting Klopp take the shit as it hits the fan, and so on. If they were serious then they couldn’t really do a worse way of announcing it. John Henry letting Klopp have to put up with lesser sides than his putting “Earn It” t-shirts in the changing room has left a very sour taste in his mouth I imagine. And the disrespect shown by Leeds was appalling. They almost went bust in their attempts to win something and ultimately won nada. And they want to tell recent PL and CL winners about earning the right? Fuck off.
6 – Serpico advocating a role for Klopp in repairing the damage:
How can FSG regain legitimacy among the fan base? Here’s one path, which uses the club’s most precious and unique asset in order to dig us all out of this hole.
I think there is near consensus on TTT that we would like to see FSG stay. They have been excellent owners, invested, brought us the title we dreamed about, and let Klopp work his magic. There was no better experience in world sports over the past six years than following Liverpool football club. I think this is an accurate and in some ways measurable estimation.
But we need to realise – as I know we do – that this mistake has created a situation where their position as owners is at great risk. How do FSG feel about that? It could be that they are fine with that, because they are looking to sell on the immediate term. That would be disappointing, but it would at least demonstrate that it was always the end of the road for FSG, because of all the problems around the competitiveness (and lack of financial fair play etc).
Having said that, I have not entirely given up on the potential that they genuinely want to stay longer term. Henry talked about their work not being done. It might be that he must say that to regain whatever small good faith he hopes to retain, but it could also be that they are determined to make this work with LFC longer term – if conditions allow.
Conditions are very difficult now. Liverpool are blessed with very engaged supporters. But the majority of the loud base has now moved firmly into wanting to push FSG out. I don’t want that. You don’t want that. How can that base be converted back to accept FSG’s apology and move on?
Enter Klopp. There is no greater charismatic figure in world football than Klopp. Media and narrative control and performance is a strength that is extremely well developed and natural to him. Reading in Raphael Hoginstein’s Bring the Noise biography of Klopp, you learn that Klopp’s control of media and sports press is tied to the fact he was personally involved in sports journalism. He knows it from the inside. Klopp provides a very unique and precious asset in the campaign to legitimise FSG’s continued ownership of the club in front of those angry fans that want to see them go. Fans trust him, fans know he has the club’s success in mind. He is not a figure whose voice they can dismiss.
What can Klopp do? He can, in press conferences, give the following narrative – which would be true and completely in tune with his character and message so far:
1) No one should forget the glory that FSG led us to. That is the first point. They did so with heavy investment, developing, buying, giving me, giving us, everything we needed. There are no other better owners out there. If you are a Liverpool fan, watching me, think about how much I care about our club – and believe me, because I have a bit of experience in world football. We will not do better than FSG, even if we are disappointed with the error they made – for which they apologized.
2) On that error: yes, the Super League was problematic for all sorts of reasons, I already explained my view. But I want everybody to keep in mind the sever problems in the current structure. Financial fair play is gone, leaving teams with the funds of actual sovereign states, free to do whatever they want. Our recent success should not confuse us into thinking the wealth gap is not going to kill the competitiveness of the current structure. These are real problems. What I’m saying is – while Super League idea had a lot of problems, we should not deduce that the current order is defensible or reasonable long term. Liverpool do not have the means City and PSG and Chelsea have, over time – it should technically tell.
3) He’s not saying people should wake up every day and bless FSG. No, he gets it – people are angry and they are disappointed. But ultimately, people need to keep their heads. He loves the club, and he knows the club is first and foremost about the fans. He is the manager, but he is also a Liverpool-lifer now. Someone who will always be a fan of the club. He can tell them that trying to push FSG out the door would be extremely determintal to the collective goals of the club. Let him handle the relationship with the owners, to make sure he has what he needs to make Liverpool tick.
4) So what we need to do is put this mess aside, and go focus back to what is important. Getting top 4. Winning football games. Getting everybody healthy again. Welcome back supporters into Anfield, and try to make it into the Champions League next year, and hopefully put together a title challenge. This is why we love football, so let us focus on that. We need you. The team needs you. I need you. Let’s do this.
I hope that FSG and Klopp are discussing a messaging strategy of that kind to be delivered sometime before his Friday morning press conference, but preferably before that – in a special announcement – today or tomorrow. Every hour counts when it comes to narrative control in such a fast paced media environment.
7 – Jeff on whether Liverpool would be damaged if FSG were to sell up:
To me the question today is not so much the demise of the Super League but the future of Liverpool FC. Any commodities trader and please remember John Henry made his money as a commodities trader always has a plan if things begin to go wrong with his trades. What is Henry’s plan if the proposed Super League failed? I do not pretend to know what his plan is or is not but if I had to guess I think he put the plan forward to deal with the failure of football to reform and his search for what he thought was a well run industry. It failed. The logical move on the part of FSG is to take the profits it would enjoy from selling Liverpool and move on and above I suggested where from the point of view of FSG they would find better places to put their money. Simply put, in the world of John Henry it has become time to sell Liverpool FC and move on to other investments.
If I am right, who will buy Liverpool FC? I think we can safely say no one in the Northwest of England will come forward to buy the club and no one from the UK will come forward to buy the club. This means that the club will be bought by perhaps a Russian oligarch or some or some entity from the Middle East or an American venture capital firm of one sort or another. I doubt the Chinese will allow Chinese money to buy the club but I acknowledge I could be wrong. I wonder how the morally sensitive could cope with Middle Eastern Ownership from say Saudi Arabia or Qatar or elsewhere and I wonder how the morally sensitive could cope with a Russian oligarch? Now, as for an American venture capital firm of one stripe or another they will be in Liverpool to make money and would not have the whole concept of winning either the Premier League or the European Club Championship in their mindset. As I wrote, I doubt the Chinese government would authorize Chinese money coming to Liverpool but again the morally sensitive would not want Chinese money. Is there anyone out there who could come to Liverpool that would not enrage the morally sensitive?
I do not believe that outside of TTT people understand what unique owners in either baseball or for that matter football that FSG is. When they came to Boston, it was a mid market team in terms of revenues and had not won the World Series in a helluva long time and when they came to Liverpool it was a team that was in bad financial shape and had never won the Premier League, under their ownership the Red Sox have won more World Series than any other team in baseball in this century and they have turned the Red Sox into a financial powerhouse and in Liverpool they have transformed the club’s finances and yes won the European Club Championship and the Premier League title. The did this by being just plain smart business people. They hired the best people they could find to run the football side of the Red Sox and did the same in Liverpool and it paid dividends and they hired the best people they could find in Boston and in Liverpool to increase the club’s revenues and it worked. Simply put, they ran Liverpool as a business and ran to club as business to win on the pitch and to became revenue generating machine. No one in baseball or football has the record in growing a club’s revenues or winning that FSG have and anyone who thinks that this can be replaced is an optimist and in my view unrealistic.
What John Henry wanted was to get rid of the corruption, the incompetence, and the venality that in his opinion was the obstacle to football being a sound business for FSG to operate in and his belief that FSG had taken Liverpool as far as t hey could without reform. They will sell Liverpool sometime in the near future and then what? I find it interesting that it seems no one wants to look at the problems that are everywhere in football and it appears that the vested interests in football are prepared to live with these problems and do not want to reform the game to make it better for supporters.
I posted above in this comment who will buy Liverpool? I suspect it will not be someone who will be anywhere near the quality owners that FSG have been. I suspect the chances of reforming PGMOL, the Premier League, the English FA, UEFA, and FIFA are gone not today or tomorrow but for a long time. Sometimes in this world people do not miss something until it is gone and I am confident that today people will not miss FSG but in time they will see how fortunate the club was to be owned by FSG and say they were right in trying to reform football and Liverpool have lost out because they failed to reform football. I think Liverpool will be in a worse place going down the road.
8 – Jon Rushton on the “absolute shit show” of the past seven days:
I don’t feel the need to mince my words – Jamie Carragher is an absolute moron.
And there we go – that’s the kind of definitive statement that plays well on Twitter and on liberal free-to-air TV stations like Sky Sports where Jamie gives his opinions outside of the disgusting capitalist world in which football owners live.
He does this during the half-time breaks of the nice old fashioned Premier League which was formed a century ago by hippies and donates its profits to charity.
What an absolute shit show the last week has been.
I don’t agree with a closed shop sports situation like the European Super League. Not because a closer shop is bad – I’m sure basketball fans and American Football fans derive as much pleasure from their sports as we do from football – but because you can’t now impose it on football, it would be unsporting to the excluded teams based on what’s gone before.
I’m also not sure for many people this is all about the ESL – it’s about “greed”. The current Big Problem in football. Pundits yearn for the good old days – because it was better when the Big Problem was violence at matches, and when owners were local rich people rather than foreign rich people. Those were the days!
If only we could return to a time when the money the club earned was spent on buying players, paying wages and building stadiums, so we could win trophies. Remember those days?
Some of the protests seem to be about capitalism itself – as much as football owners and change to tournaments. I love hearing that from millionaire former footballers particularly. Men of the people.
If anyone in the world was to crack the dilemma, I reckon it is Carragher: Capitalism is flawed. Democracy feels a bit like choosing between similar options. But the only known alternatives are dictatorships and communism. It does seem like capitalism works better.
JC is probably working on a solution right now. While his agent works on his new contract with Sky Sports.
I mean – it’s obviously a gigantic, embarrassing mess that the club owners couldn’t see the huge and unsporting problem in the midst of their idea.
It’s a victory that it fell apart so quickly.
But it’s not completely illogical that they thought a American type model could work – or that they wanted to demonstrate their communal power to the frustrating organisations like UEFA, FIFA and the Premier League that administer football competitions.
I’m not being an apologist for poor decision making.
But two wrongs don’t make a right – do they?!
Ironically: The idea that things would be better if fans or “football people” ran football clubs seems to have been disproved by recent events.
I’d imagine we’d be roughly equally fucked.
9 – And finally, Tony Mc on Fake Geordie Accents:
A true story to hopefully lighten the mood after the furore surrounding the short-lived European Super League proposals. I have mostly good memories of Liverpool v Newcastle games, with The Mighty Reds enjoying some memorable victories over the years. But I still shudder when I recall “The Day I Fooled Nobody With My Fake Geordie Accent”.
I was a real home and way supporter in my teens and early twenties in the 1970s and into the 1980s. I usually went to games with my 2 brothers and 3 mates and as none of the 6 of us owned a car we would usually travel by Crown coaches or British Rail football special trains, but for the Newcastle v Liverpool game at St James Park in November 1976 I had a different mode of transport from the others. I was absolutely skint and couldn’t beg or borrow the coach or train fare so was reconciled to missing the game. Then, on the Friday evening before the game, I was talking to a neighbour called Joe, a fellow Red, who was a Liverpool taxi driver and told him of my plight. Joe told me he was driving his taxi to the game with a few of his mates and offered to “squeeze” me in, free of charge. Of course, I accepted with alacrity.
We set off for the North East early on Saturday morning in Joe’s traditional black taxi cab for the usual 3 o’clock kick off. His mates turned out to be 4 fellow taxi drivers, all in their 40s or 50s and all big, big guys and it really was a case of “squeezing” me into the crowded passenger compartment. The long trip to Newcastle flew by as these tough, funny Scousers competed with each other to tell the most extraordinary tales of driving a taxi in Liverpool, especially at night, with some outrageously bawdy tales of the … ahem … services they had been offered by female passengers in lieu of the fare. They also recalled their hilarious exploits following Liverpool around the UK, and later Europe, during the 1950s, 1960 and 1970s. I hardly said a word as they knocked back cans of ale and talked and laughed and talked and laughed. What an experience!
We arrived in Newcastle in good time, parked up and went our separate ways for the game – Joe and his mates to find an ale house and me to meet up with my brothers and mates outside the Leazes End as arranged. Now, this was 1975 at the height of English football hooliganism. I liked Geordies then, still do, but Newcastle had their share of violent nutters (as did Liverpool). Luckily, perhaps miraculously, none of our gang of 6 had ever been assaulted at a football match, home or away, although we had all had a few close scrapes (West Ham and Leeds spring to mind). So I was careful as usual (no Liverpool colours on show) and kept my mouth shut.
I positioned myself against a wall at the Leazes End and waited for the others, with my head on swivel mode, looking out for them and looking out for potential trouble. After a short while, I noticed a bit of a kerfuffle, seemingly caused not by violence but by excitement. A small knot of people seemed to be moving towards me, stopping frequently, pausing for a few minutes before moving on. I was curious but not concerned … until I realised that it was a local radio presenter who was conducting vox pop interviews about the forthcoming game. I was indecisive, not wanting to desert the place I had agreed to meet my brothers and mates, and my indecision put me in potential danger. All of a sudden, the radio presenter, surrounded by a coterie of local fans, thrust his microphone under my nose and asked me “How many are Newcastle going to win by today then?”
Now, TTT subscribers may recall that I am particularly gifted when it comes to languages and accents (see “The Night I Bunked Into Anfield By Pretending To Be French”. So I was fairly confident in my ability to pass myself off as a Geordie. “Two nil to the Toon!” I replied. Silence descended. Time stood still. The radio presenter froze with his microphone still under my nose. His sound guy had a look of horror mixed with pity on his face. Suddenly the silence was broken by a strident Geordie voice “He’s a fookin’ Scouser!” I quickly identified the speaker – I swear he was the inspiration for Biffa Bacon, the violent Geordie character in the Viz comic. He reached out to grab me, I ducked, swivelled and broke free from the group of Geordies in one movement and set off at great speed along the road. I didn’t stop running until the sounds of Biffa Bacon and his mates and their threats of bodily harm had faded.
There is a happy ending to this story – I met up with my brothers and mates, we entered the ground and watched the game without further incident and witnessed Liverpool take the points with a late, late winner from Ray Kennedy. We eventually won the old Football League 1st Division title that season with a victory away at Wolves on the final day. Therein lies another story …. but that is for another day.
For much more on this, see our article The European Super League – the Debate on The Tomkins Times.
Articles published since last Friday, with excerpts:
Friday April 16th:
The last league meeting between the two sides came in 2004 with Leeds’ great demise only just beginning with relegation from the top flight confirmed at the end of the 2003/04 season.
The match ended 2-2 with all four goals coming in the first-half, Harry Kewell (21′) and Milan Baros (42′) scoring for Liverpool and Eirik Bakke (29′) and Mark Viduka (34′) breaching Jerzy Dudek’s goal for Leeds. James Milner was in the Leeds Utd side that day and it should be an emotional return for Mr Ribena if he’s named in the squad for Liverpool.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side have been one of the most impressive sides this season – sticking to Bielsa’s philosophy throughout – which was on full display from the first match of the season when they lost 3-4 at Anfield.
Monday April 19th:
The European Super League – the Debate on The Tomkins Times, by Chris Rowland.
Liverpool supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly (SOS) said it was “appalled” by the decision of Fenway Sports Group, the club’s US-based owner. In a social media post, SOS said: “FSG have ignored fans in their relentless and greedy pursuit of money. Football is ours, not theirs. Our football club is ours not theirs.”
Chelsea Supporters’ Trust called the move “unforgivable” and said its members and “football supporters across the world have experienced the ultimate betrayal”.
The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust called the club’s agreement to join “the death of Arsenal as a sporting institution”, while Manchester City’s Official Supporters Club said the move showed “those involved have zero regard for the game’s traditions”, adding it was “determined to fight against this proposed Super League”.
The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust had earlier said the proposals were “completely unacceptable” and the ESL “goes against everything football, and Manchester United, should stand for. A team died in 1958 to play in Europe. This is our history and it’s being thrown away for money by owners. These people know nothing about Manchester.”
Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust said the ESL was a “concept driven by avarice and self-interest at the expense of the intrinsic values of the game we hold so dear”.
Tuesday April 20th:
Post-Match Analysis: Leeds Utd 1-1 Liverpool, by Daniel Rhodes.
On the opening day of the season we faced Leeds, in a match featuring seven goals, three big chances with a combined xG of two. This game finished with just two goals but included eight big chances (Leeds: 6 Liverpool: 2), 12 shots on target, 12 shots inside the box each, 29 shots in total (Leeds: 12 Liverpool: 17), and nearly FIVE combined xG. That’s entertainment.
As you can see from the screenshots of the big chances below Bamford missed two before Mane’s opening goal. Liverpool were then on top until around the hour mark when they’d created double the xG of the home side. Unfortunately we seemed to run out of legs at that point as Bielsa’s side racked up two full expected goals in thirty minutes.
Jota had the most shots for the Reds with five, he also topped the xG with 0.7 and this includes one missed big chance, the header over the bar in the first half as well as blocked shots in the box. We did of course have plenty of opportunities where we failed to even create a shot (the Robertson overhit pass on the break with a three vs two overload in the second half is the most obvious); however, the non-shot xG doesn’t show any particular dominance either (Leeds: 1.7 Liverpool 1.8).