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Will Tidey - Red Sox story is the stuff of Liverpool dreams

Published: 07 Oct 2010 - 07:44:46

When John W. Henry and his New England Sports Ventures brought the Boston Red Sox in 2002 they inherited a team haunted by the success of their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees.

Not since 1918 had the Red Sox won a World Series, and they'd been without an American League pennant (the divisional title that books a spot in the Series) since 1986.

The four times they had taken the pennant since 1918 had all ended in painful World Series defeat. And fans were beginning to wonder if they'd ever add to their haul of five titles that made the Red Sox the undisputed kings of Major League Baseball in the early part of the 20th century.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had launched dynasty after dynasty. Four straight titles from 1936-39, five straight from 1949-53 and three in a row from 1998-2000. The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry was alive in the stands, but the record books told an increasingly one-sided story.

Fans talked openly of the 'Curse of the Bambino', citing Babe Ruth's move from the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1919 as the moment that resigned Boston to generations of disappointment.

But as the 21st century arrived at Fenway Park the truth of the matter was that the Red Sox could simply not compete on a financial footing with the likes of the Yankees. They had fallen so far behind there seemed no way back.

Henry knew a sleeping giant when he saw one. Bringing much-needed financial clout to the operation, and re-invigorating the team by appointing a young, dynamic General Manager in Theo Epstein, he set about the transformation. Players arrived, optimism grew.

Two years later the wait was over. The Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years, and reached the championship game courtesy of a Hollywood-worthy 4-3 victory against the Yankees - the first time ever a team had come from 3-0 to win a series. Another title followed in 2007.

The parallels with Liverpool's fall from grace are obvious. Having been the dominant force in English football for decades, Liverpool fans have been forced to watch bitter rivals Manchester United play the role of the Yankees in their hard-luck story.

Money has dried up and the 'Curse of the Bambino' could be seen as the arrival of George Gillett and Tom Hicks, or perhaps the cultural shift brought in by Rafa Benitez, or maybe the failure to build a new stadium to keep pace with the competition. (Probably not the sale of Emile Heskey)

Liverpool fans are, understandably, buying into the comparison. Some are even comparing the famous 'Green Monster' at Fenway Park to The Kop, and the 2004 World Series triumph to the 'Miracle of Istanbul'.

Henry can clearly see potential for a Red Sox-style rejuvenation Anfield. Why else would he stake £300 million on a football club when £200m of that will go to pay off debts, and the other £100m cover liabilities of £60m, with £40m to go towards debts for the new stadium?

To make it happen NESV will clearly have to dig a lot further into their pockets. Liverpool need liquidity in the transfer market to make a serious title challenge and the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will need reassurances aplenty.

But hope is reborn. And in Henry Liverpool have clearly found a man who understands fan culture a good deal better than Hicks and Gillett. Having failed to take the Red Sox to the post-season this year, this is how he addressed the fans in a one-page ad in the Boston Globe.

"We work for you. Our players play for you. It gives us immense pride to do so. We can do better. We will do better."

Now that's what Liverpool fans are talking about. Who cares if Henry's American.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey

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