The owners of a well-supported club installed their final manager before selling up and moving on, much to the delight of the club’s vast fanbase. The club’s new owners are wealthy benefactors who promise a return to the glory days and instantly back the manager they inherited, only to relieve him of his duties after just 6 months in charge. The manager wasn’t popular with the fans and the new owners knew as much.
Now the owners – wanting to win over the club’s fans – decide to bring back the club legend in a move hailed as ‘The return of the King’. Said legend served the club with distinction as a player and later as manager, yet he’s been out of the game for years. Some question his credentials in today’s modern game. The fans claim he understands the club like no one else. The good times are set to return…
Well… that’s what was supposed to happen anyway. In reality the club legend briefly restored the fans’ passion and pride in the team before being unceremoniously dumped, much to the outrage of the faithful.
The club I’m referring to? Well, it has to be Liverpool, surely, and FSG’s hiring and firing of ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish. You’re only half right. For those departing, unwanted owners, instead of Hicks & Gilett, read Shepherd & Hall. For Hodgson’s disastrous 6-month tenure, read Sam Allardyce. The new owners universally welcomed with open arms? For FSG at Liverpool read Mike Ashley at Newcastle. As for that club legend, well, for King Kenny, read instead King Kev – former Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan.
For a while now I’ve been following FSG’s tenure at Liverpool with much interest, mainly because I felt like I’d seen it all before. As it turns out, in a way, I have. As a Newcastle fan I watched Mike Ashley arrive to a hero’s welcome before he gained even more fan popularity by dumping the unwanted Sam Allardyce before he could even negotiate the 3rd Round of the FA Cup in 2007/08. Allardyce, after half a season in charge, was axed on the 9th of January. Almost 3 years to the day later, Roy Hodgson departed Liverpool in similar circumstances.
In stepped Messrs Keegan and Dalglish, both of whom saved their respective clubs’ seasons from disaster by the end of the campaign in May. Both were also given Directors of Football to work with, put in charge of player transfers & scouting. In hindsight, perhaps the appointments of Dennis Wise and Damien Comolli showed an inherent lack of trust from the two clubs’ owners in their newly appointed managers to spend their money, especially at Newcastle.
Eight months after returning to Newcastle, Keegan was gone, with the club subsequently admitting in court that they had undermined their manager and lied to the fans. It turned out Mike Ashley wanted to run the club on a budget, whilst Keegan wanted to continue Freddy Shepherd’s policy of paying top dollar for ageing stars past their peak.
Needless to say, despite the blip – or blessing in disguise – of relegation in 2009, Ashley got his way and the rewards are there for all to see.
The only difference, it seems, between the start of Mike Ashley’s Newcastle tenure and that of his American counterparts at Liverpool, is that Ashley was ruthless enough to realise his blunder of appointing Keegan and to ditch him before he could spend any of his money.
The same cannot be said of FSG, who let Dalglish spend over £100m on overpriced British players who spectacularly failed to deliver last season, leading Liverpool to their worst Premier League finish since 1994.
FSG, with their history of implementing the low-budget ‘Moneyball’ scouting and transfer techniques in baseball, will be looking to use Mike Ashley’s Newcastle blueprint – minus relegation – to propel the Anfield side back into the Champions League.
For the fans, the departure of the King may not seem the right move at the moment, I know, but trust me, I’ve been there before. Perhaps it’s for the best.