'I'm more pessimistic about the future of Liverpool than when Hicks and Gillett went'

John W Henry

What does the future hold for Liverpool? With European qualification for next season very much up in the air, supporter Mal James is not especially positive...

Let's start with a fact. Liverpool currently lie ninth in the Premiership. They have failed to beat any side in the top half of the table. Statistics don't lie.

Yes, they are 'work in progress' but it isn't at all clear what the direction is.

We can see the intended one. It makes sense to get an inflated wage bill down and bring in players with potential to develop. Supporters with longer memories will recall that this was exactly what the club did in the Shankly and Paisley days.

The problem is the speed that this is now being done. Too many experienced players were shipped out and replaced by too few inexperienced ones. Going for change too quickly is full of risk.

The marketing of Liverpool as a global brand means European competition, especially Champions' League, is a must. Without this TV revenues and, in the longer term, valuable sponsorship, will fall.

However, at the moment, even Europa League qualification next season via the league is not probable; so to be in it next season, they must win it in this one. Given the sides still in it (Chelsea, Inter, Spurs, Atletico) then this is a big ask.

The real fear is what then? Gerrard is still a superb player, but can't keep it up much longer. If the nightmare scenario of Suarez leaving happened, then the two truly international class players the club has could be gone within a couple of seasons.

If Liverpool have not made it back into Champions' League football before then, it is difficult to see how they could be replaced. The club will not be able to attract established players of that calibre and, promising youngsters or not, it is not likely they will be replaced from within.

The decline has been quite dramatic. The Mail yesterday pointed put it is just four years since Liverpool beat Real Madrid at the Bernabau. This is not a criticism of the manager. The problems lie much deeper than that.

The slide can be laid at the door of owners beginning with the chronic failure to commercially develop the club under Moores and the disastrous decision to sell to Hicks and Gillett. Six years on from the "spade in the ground" quote, work has still not started on increasing stadium capacity.

When FSG took over, they needed to recognise that investment in quality players was necessary to achieve the European qualification needed to maintain the club's status and income.

To be fair, FSG tried to do the right things. They brought in a fans favourite as manager and they spent on players, clearly with an aim of Champions' league qualification within two seasons.

But they had to rely on the judgement of people they presumed knew the game, Too much was spent on average players.

So, with their fingers burned this is not the route FSG will now go, but comments about babies and bathwater come to mind. I'm sure younger players with potential may eventually come good, but this isn't likely to produce enough to challenge for the Champions' League team.

And the time scales involved mean it may be too late in terms of Gerrard and Suarez. In the meantime, the clubs that Liverpool need to challenge for a fourth place, Arsenal and Spurs are likely to continue to move ahead. Arsenal's stadium capacity means significantly higher revenues.

I expect my views to be criticised, and I really do hope I'm wrong, but I'm more pessimistic now about the future of Liverpool than at any time since Hicks and Gillett went.

Will Liverpool qualify for Europe next season? Do you share Mal's pessimism?

image: © kong niffe

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