Committee. Few other words attract derision from Liverpool fans quite like that one. Another word anchors it, though: failure.
Next week marks five years since Fenway Sports Group rode in during the club’s lowest ebb. Dismantled by Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Managed by Roy Hodgson. Beaten by Everton. 19th in the table. They were dark days indeed.
“We realise the challenge that lies ahead if we are going to go toe to toe with other big clubs,” John Henry said then. “We are not asking for a long honeymoon. This is a contact sport we are in and the going can get rough sometimes.”
Lately the going has been rough. Not quite to the turgid levels of 2010 but enough to raise concerns about the direction of the club.
Only two Liverpool managers have failed to win a trophy since the end of the 1950s, Hodgson and Brendan Rodgers. The latter rather callously dispatched on the phone after the 1-1 draw at Everton. But he leaves a club that must determine whether changing the manager really solves their problems.
For all the criticisms of Rodgers and for all the blame he apportions for Liverpool’s dysfunctional decline – personal nadirs when he was tactically outwitted by Tim Sherwood, embarrassed by Stoke and inexperienced against Chelsea – FSG must now realise the problems are far deeper than just the man on the touchline.
Ultimately, signings have proved to be Rodgers demise as it has for Graeme Souness, through to Roy Evans, to Gerard Houllier, onto Rafael Benitez and then to Kenny Dalglish partnered by Damien Comolli. Signings ruined them all.
There’s a fundamental difference with Rodgers, in that blame for the misuse of the club’s resources does not just hang from his neck. The axe fell on him but Henry and Tom Werner must recognise there are others accountable, too.
The transfer committee was made up of Rodgers, scouts Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter, head of performance and analysis Michael Edwards, FSG representative Mike Gordon and chief executive Ian Ayre. It’s a policy that has failed and is flawed, residing over £290m (Dh1.6bn) spent since the Ulsterman’s arrival in 2012. They target potential, not the finished product; it’s an attempt to beat the system when it can’t be beaten and in seeking diplomacy only creates confusion.
Where does accountability truly rest at Anfield? Rodgers said he had the final word but in reality he was just another member of this committee whose track record suggests they are simply not up to the task of finding the right players.
They target potential, not the finished product; it’s an attempt to beat the system when it can’t be beaten and in seeking diplomacy only creates confusion
History tells us exactly what will happen to Rodgers replacement – it’s the same for every new man through the door. But that could be about to change. It’s promising that the Americans will hold talks with their first-choice candidate Jurgen Klopp because it shows a willingness to deviate from the current flawed recruitment concept.
The German has reportedly made clear the parameters for taking the job. While he would be happy to take advice, final say on transfers has to come from him.
The former Borussia Dortmund boss is the natural fit. BVB’s rise to the top came by the most modest of means and that eye for talent Liverpool have been let down by for so long, he possesses.
No committee is needed to see where things have gone wrong. But moving towards success means entrusting one man, not six.