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MARTIN SAMUEL: Are John Henry's Liverpool crew just Double Glazers?

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17 Nov 2010 00:56:28

MARTIN SAMUEL: Are John Henry's Liverpool crew just Double Glazers?

Imagine if Joel Glazer, the joint chairman of Manchester United, told a room full of journalists that he was a big supporter of the 39th game idea. Not only that, but he wanted to take a real humdinger of a match, perhaps one of the marquee fixtures of the season, abroad. 'The more important the game, the more excitement,' said Joel. There would, understandably, be uproar. We would hear from columnists, custodians and every fan pressure group. The disaffected at Manchester United would take to the airwaves claiming this is precisely the sort of stance that demonstrates why the Glazers should not be in charge of their club. It would be claimed that they have no feel for the supporters or for English football, its history and heritage. All they are interested in, we would be told, is the bottom line, and if that comes from the Far East or the West Coast, they would sell out our fans in the blink of an eye. American idol? Liverpool owner John Henry (above) is getting an easy ride compared to the Glazers at Manchester United (below) So what happened when Tom Werner, chairman of Liverpool, said it? Exactly that statement. The quote falsely placed in the mouth of Joel Glazer in the first paragraph. Nothing. Not a squeak of protest, not a murmur of dissent. Werner, the man who will run Liverpool on behalf of the new American owner John Henry, strongly advocated a scheme that has come to represent everything crass and commercial about the modern game, and was good-naturedly disregarded. This is what is known as a honeymoon period. Henry is fortunate that his stewardship is still being assessed in the most benign terms, because to peer beneath the surface may give concern. Advocacy of the 39th game, of debt, a stadium project that may now take four years to complete, a reluctance to address the weakness of the squad in the January transfer window, these are all stories that have emerged from the Henry camp in recent weeks, and failed to attract juicier headlines than his wife Linda picking up singing tips from the Kop on Twitter. Henry is new to football. It is clearly too much to expect that he should fall immediately in step with the traditionalism of the Spirit of Shankly. Yet while scepticism meets the announcement that the Glazers are to pay off the cursed PIK loans with £220m from outside the club, the Henry regime can make statements that support seismic change in English football and we smile politely. Nobody is saying Henry is a fool. Subjects such as global expansion and club debt are being debated constantly in football club boardrooms, while taking time to plan a £400m project is only sensible. Nor would hebe the first to decide that the January transfer window is a minefield best left unexplored.   More from Martin Samuel... Martin Samuel: Carlo offers Chelsea a ray of hope amid the Roman ruins14/11/10 Martin Samuel: British boxing will be real loser after Audley's no-show14/11/10 Martin Samuel: Roll up for the boxing X factor... heavy with hype, light on talent12/11/10 MARTIN SAMUEL: Grave doubts about Marks's latest wheeze11/11/10 Martin Samuel: Mancini needs to learn from the master gambler next door10/11/10 Martin Samuel: Carroll brings aggro, so this is Capello's leap of faith09/11/10 Martin Samuel: Bin any hopes of honest answers from FIFA07/11/10 MARTIN SAMUEL: Paper poppy worth more than jewels04/11/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE Yet it remains true that had such pronouncements or stratagems come from a Glazer or a sheik they would not have passed without comment. Henry has been painted as the antidote to a slew of dubious foreign owners, but he might not be that different after all. This is his chairman, Werner, on the 39th game. 'Pre-season matches are great but why not have an actual match in the season? The Premier League is the strongest league in the world and its reach is global. Thenumber of people globally who watch has impressed me and we hope to expand that imprint. I think the more important the game, the more excitement.' This is Henry on debt. 'It is a big issue with Manchester United, but the New York Yankees have a debt of $3.5billion and I have never heard a Yankee fan complain because they built a $1.5bn stadium. The difference is between stadium and acquisition debt.' No, the difference is the $2bn that the Yankees owe that is nothing to do with the stadium, but who is counting? Certainly not us. We're too busy admiring the lovely Linda to be thrown by the fact that the new owners of Liverpool quite fancy a match in Honolulu. Look at Werner's quote again. He is not advocating an extra round of fixtures. His plan is not for the whole league to decamp to different continents on one, mad, weekend, but to cherry-pick a fabulous fixture - it could be one of Liverpool's home matches against Manchester United or Chelsea - and send it to Singapore, the way the NFL do with their one-off games at Wembley. It is as unnerving a statement as has been made by any chairman in 10 years, a far more radical proposal than the one abandoned by Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore in 2008.  Many owners would agree with Henry about the Yankees' debt, but fans would not. Fans are obsessed by red numbers right now. They have all been turned into accountants by the Glazer regime at Old Trafford and ifclub debt looks to affect the ability to run up more debt by spending on players, the balloon really goes up. Yet Henry continues to enjoy an easy ride, because the debt he talks about will finance a new stadium. Maybe. Controversial: Liverpool's new co-owner Tom Werner has given his support to taking Premier League matches abroad Henry 's people are currently revisiting the plans for a £200m facelift at Anfield, mothballed in 2005, taking the capacity to 65,000. This is a wise move. They are also reassessing the development at Stanley Park. Again, this is sensible. The time-frame for these projects, however, has now lengthened to 2014, meaning there could be another four seasons of Liverpool falling behind more robust rivals. If the club spent that long without Champions League football, what calibre of players would grace the new stadium? History means little to the modern footballer. These days nobody joins Nottingham Forest becausethey are bewitched by the glory years under Brian Clough. And by the sound of it nobody joins Liverpool at all until next summer. Roy Hodgson greeted the Henry regime by talking up the changes that needed to be made in January, but the manager has gone quiet on thesubject of late. Henry told a fans group that immediate investment was unlikely and hehad been advised that to thrive in the volatile January market was difficult. Yes it is, but not impossible. 'The current players must each week live up to the history and respect the club has engendered,' Henry announced, by way of solution. They can't. They're not good enough. That was why the manager was rather hoping to open for business at the start of next year. None of this makes Henry a bad guy, just a not so very different guy. Perhaps Liverpool's supporters are so grateful to Henry for saving them from Tom Hicks and George Gillett that they will accept any crack in the paintwork. Maybe they simply think Henry and Werner are new to our game and will learn; or maybe we will.  Platini on the road to ruinNow that Michel Platini's ruinous financial fair play regulations are almost upon us, many are realising - too late - that to link spending potential solely to turnover will only cement the biggest clubs in place at the top of leagues throughout Europe. Bayern Munich, for instance, have been vociferous advocates of this plan and surprise, surprise have a turnover of £300million, including £140m of commercial revenue that is approximately equal to Manchester United and Liverpool's combined. Good luck trying to keep pace with them in Germany; or beyond. Bolton Wanderers, while riding high in the Premier League, would appear to be in just the sort of economic peril that Platini, the UEFA president, wishes to avoid. The club have recorded losses of £35.4m, have debts of £93m, and a wage bill of £46.4m. Phil Gartside (right), the chairman, says they may be forced to sell prime assets such as Gary Cahill and Johan Elmander. Yet he still has a more insightful take on financial regulation than Platini has conjured. Gartside proposes that if an owner wants to invest in players in the transfer market that is his business - providing funds are not supplied as a loan - but wages should be linked to turnover instead. This would prevent an owner tiring of his toy and selling up, leaving the club to fulfil exorbitant contracts it cannot support. This makes sense. Sheik Mansour can do what he likes with his money in the January transfer window, but Manchester City as a business must be able to meet the subsequent costs of that investment. This protects the club, but also allows growth. The question is this: if a bloke from Bolton can work that out, how come all Platini's mighty brain has mustered is a plan to hand the title to the same club for 20 years?  We're heading down fraud AliIf reports alleging that Ali Al Faraj, the former owner of Portsmouth, did not exist are true, this is no longer a matter for the football authorities but the fraud squad. There comes a point where the plight of this sorry club no longer becomes a cheap punchline or a morality tale for the sports pages, and it has been reached. Passport details were provided to the Premier League for screening as part of a fit and proper persons test, and if these were to prove false a serious offence has been committed. If police were to summon the evasive Al Faraj for questioning, who would turn up? Surely it is worth finding out.  Fabio avoids Audley momentIt is very good news that Andy Carroll has been passed fit to face France tonight for it spares us another round of let's pretend. As if we didn't get our fingers burned by Audley Harrison at the weekend, the appearance of Carlton Cole or Jay Bothroyd for England would have further tested the limits of sporting credibility. Just as Harrison fooled us into believing he could fight like a heavyweight champion for one night, so Cole or Bothroyd would have hoped to convince us they have sufficient international class to make it beyond one game, as Kevin Davies did last month. We do not know if Carroll is the real deal - for all the fanfares he has scored just twice for Newcastle United since August - but he is young and may yet prove the battering-ram foil that Fabio Capello prefers for Wayne Rooney. This is an England team shorn of its best forwards but picking Carroll (right) affords a worthwhile opportunity, preferable to merely drafting in an inferior rival, a seventh or eighth choice, to make up the numbers. Carroll was considered highly unlikely to be fit after the weekend match with Fulham and England's management team had to request his presence. Maybe one look at Capello's stern visage has produced a miracle cure, and if so, it was worth it. Carroll clearly needs discipline in his life, and Capello can provide that. If Newcastle ever get around to doing the decent thing by Chris Hughton, and give him a new contract, he will be in a stronger position to take a firm line, too. Beyond Carroll, the player it would be most worthwhile seeing in a forward position is Theo Walcott, maybe moving inside from the wing in the second half. Walcott has a fine scoring record for England and is among the goals at Arsenal this season. He is quick and defenders, even international ones, hate pace. If England were to suffer a similar injury crisis in the front line at a tournament, it would be good to know the alternatives, because by then it will be too late to summon the also-rans.  The idea of a panel of experts to adjudicate on violent offences, mentioned in Monday's column, was apparently put to the Football Association by Mike Foster of the Premier League two years ago. It bit the dust very quickly. Disciplinary committees are the path to power for FA councillors. Remove those committees and how would we ever have heard of a man like Geoff Thompson?  On our final Sunday in New York recently, we went to watch an NFL game at the New Meadowlands stadium. New York Jets were playing the Green Bay Packers. It wasn't much of a match, but the venue was terrific. Good transport links, great sight lines, fantastic facilities. New Meadowlands held 82,000 people with ease and got them back from New Jersey to the city in relative comfort. All around the ground were banners endorsing the United States campaign for the 2022 World Cup, a campaign that identified 70 possible venues at the beginning, now whittled down to 18. But the United States have a problem: these stadiums are already built, operational and successful, just like the ones in England. Russia barely has a stadium fit for purpose, neither Qatar; yet somehow people in the know believe these are the bids to beat. It is hard to believe anything so wantonly perverse could be above board.  Explore more:People: Chris Hughton, Andy Carroll, Carlton Cole, Theo Walcott, George Gillett, Jay Bothroyd, Johan Elmander, Geoff Thompson, Roy Hodgson, Kevin Davies, Fabio Capello, Tom Hicks, John Henry, Gary Cahill, Wayne Rooney Places: New York, Liverpool, Newcastle, France, Germany, Singapore, Qatar, United Kingdom, Russia, Europe Organisations: Football Association, National Football League


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