"We've been through it all together..."

Earlier this season I decided to stick a spare £5 on Liverpool being relegated; with odds of 80/1, it was a long-shot, but with growing unrest at Anfield it was difficult not to see more and more similarities with the epic fall of Leeds United.

In truth, I’ve never really believed Liverpool would go down and the bet was made as more of a wind-up to my Liverpool supporting friends than it ever was for profit. The term ‘too good to go down’ became synonymous with Leeds United during that dreadful season back in 2004 and even when the games started to run out very few of us ever really believed it was a possibility. Most Liverpool fans probably share a similar mindset now, and whilst I agree with Fanhouse UK’s verdict that Leeds’ team was better than Liverpool’s current one, there’s one major difference they’ve not accounted for – morale!

The real problem at Elland Road was growing unrest which grew from a mixture of court cases, wage deferrals, player speculation, manager changes, in-fighting, ill-fated book releases and a looming financial Armageddon (amongst numerous other things). It’s difficult to pin-point the exact straw that broke the camel’s back – and there’s been plenty of discussion amongst fans over the years that followed – but ultimately, the real problem was a team that had stopped playing for one another. Squad morale was at an all time low and once you reach that point it’s hard to turn it around.

Whilst I may be hard-pressed to find many Liverpool fans that agree with me on this one, Liverpool have been extremely lucky. With Leeds in an unrelenting spiral of decay, what we desperately needed was the kind of investment NESV has brought to Anfield. Not only have they ridden Liverpool of the debt the previous American owners had burdened them with, but they’ve also provided the Liverpool fans and players with a silver-lining. The boost to morale that financial security and the possibility of new January signings will bring the squad and fans should be enough to see Liverpool turn the corner.

Whilst £405 in May would be a welcomed contribution towards my season ticket renewal, it’s never going to happen. Like Leeds were in 2004, Liverpool are ‘too good to go down.’ The difference is, the Liverpool fans and players now have more reasons to believe it.

  • Bill Fox

    They have been lucky I think and I still am not 100% sure why/how the 2 real owners/financial stakeholders agreed to a constitution that could and did see them marginalised from the decision to sell at £300m. All doesn’t always come out in time but they have certainly been lucky and I agree that our squad was far superior to what I watched Vs Everton on telly at the weekend.

    On a related note does anyone know when time runs out for Pompey to exit administration?

    • Hicks Hater

      The owners were given no choice about handing over power- it was a condition of the refinancing package agreed back in April. The owners effectively no longer owned the club- it was owned to the people who had loaned them that money- ie the bank. The bank wanted their money back so there was no choice but to sell- Hicks and Gillett were given a stay of execution in return for allowing the board a majority vote on any sale.

  • TSS

    @captaincrash From what I can make out, Gillett and Hicks assigned the others with the task of selling the club, and at this point it was agreed that a majority decision from the board would be necessary to complete any deal. So basically, they shot themselves in the foot – I think?

  • Matt BB

    i also dont think Liverpool will be relegated, though its clear they will have an awful season and are almost certain to miss out on Europa League Places.

    There are many similarities to our situation 6 years ago. Financial Turmoil, the beginning symptoms of chronic underinvestment in infrastructure, lack of investment in the playing staff, and a number of gobby `senior’ members of the squad airing their opinions.

    The other similarity of course is an ageing manager who has lost the dressing room, preceded by one who went radio rental.

    Where they differ is that they own the ground, have a respected board (we had ridsdale) who can speak to investors and the stock market with credibility, and i think only those last two factors will see them through, oh and their multimillionaire new owner.. werent many of those around when we went t*ts up.

    I can see probably three or four major purchases for liverpool in January, and a change of manager, but for me theyve blown it for the next few seasons.

  • Barneystuta

    Hi TSS,

    I know a few Leeds fans, and followed your pain with them while I was at University. I could always relate to how he felt, because I felt the same about my club, Liverpool.

    It was awful what happened to Leeds, and while our situation could have been similar, in other ways it was very different.

    You are right in that we are lucky to have secured investment. As Leeds never got that, they had to sell off every asset they had (players, training ground, stadium etc). We are very fortunate not to have reached that point, and we are grateful.

    Also, where Leeds (and Portsmouth) differ, is that the debts were brought in to bring success on the field. It worked, short term, but long term failed, and both clubs have suffered for that. Our difference at Liverpool, is that we were leveraged by someone to buy us, and was unable to invest in the club, to maintain our success.

    Both cases however are an excellent case of mismanagement of finances in football (and in business in general). If you are basing your future, on “potential” future revenues, then you are always running a huge risk of failure.

    On a closing note, I am genuinely pleased to see Leeds coming back up the leagues. One day, you may get back to where you rightfully deserve to be, in the Premier League week in week out.

    Our fortunes now lay in the hands of Roy Hodgson. I am personally not convinced he is the man to take us forward, but with that cloud removed from our head, he has no exscuses.

  • MOT

    ‘The term ‘too good to go down’ became synonymous with Leeds United during that dreadful season back in 2004 and even when the games started to run out very few of us ever really believed it was a possibility. ‘ A very interesting sentence. I’m surprised that you didn’t actually think we were going to go down. I thought it was on the cards before a competative ball was kicked. I remember going to Turf Moor for a pre-season friendly and watching us get completely out played by a crap Burnley team. I thought it was fairly certain then that we would go down.

    However the one thing I do feel contributed more than anything to our demise that season (including Jody Morris!) was that god awful, absolute shocker of an away kit – as I recall it was pretty much the Scotland home kit. I hated it from the first moment I saw it and knew then we were doomed…..

    Good article as always though, and I agree that Liverpool won’t go down this season. Not so much because they are too good – they are no better than average, but the fact there are more than 3 teams in that league who are worse than them.

  • yorkwhite

    I remember a couple of years ago Jonathan Woodgate saying that the Spurs team who got off to a very shaky start were not as good as the Leeds team that lost its place in the premiership. Now Robbie Fowler has said the same about the present Liverpool team. The key difference to me however is stability. In the two years before Leeds relegation they not only had four different managers, O’Leary, Venables, Reid and Gray but four different chairmen, Ridsdale, Mckenzie, Birch and Krasner. I think with that kind of instability at the top of the club, along with their court cases and well documented money worries there is little wonder that the players lost direction. Not that the players should get off lightly, Leeds still had 20+ players on million pound contracts when relegation was confirmed. When you consider that most supporters would give their right leg for the honour of representing the club, many of those players should still hang their heads in shame.

  • Billium

    Without doubt, one of the most balanced and intelligent perspectives offered-up in an ocean of dross about Liverpool’s plight…written from painful experience, by a Leeds fan. Many thanks! Good luck guys. I hope you return to the EPL and give ManUre some pain.

  • I think people are getting confused between the team who stayed up by the skin of our teeth in 03 and the team who went down in 04. Only Viduka, Smith, Robinson and Barmby at a push were decent players in that team. The rest of the side was filled up with loan signing such as Cyril Chapuiis, Lamine Sakho, Didier Domi and the unforgettable Roque Junior. That team were terrible, I think the Liverpool side of now is much stronger. As much as I would love to see them go down, they have had a really tough start to the season, playing 3 of the teams expected to challenge for the title and thier local rivals. Yes the Blackpool result was a shocker but I am sure that they will now settle down and stay up.

  • Soulvomit

    Don’t be bitter Leeds supporters. The reason no one stepped up to save your club, was that no one outside of England (well maybe Great Britain) even knew, what Leeds United was. Yes you had a run at CL and probably could have made something of yourselves.
    Liverpool is a world-wide commercial institution. Leeds was a very good club, up and coming, with decent history. You could defiantly have made something yourselves, if disaster hadn’t struck. That said, I’m not as confident as some of you, that we wont go down this season. The OP made the case that Leeds were bereft of morale; well I’ve never seen a more spineless bunch of lads, then the ones at Anfield atm. And I’ve never seen are manager looking as clueless as Woy. How the media keeps backing him, after the way they assassinated Benitez, is beyond most Liverpool supporters. The only conclusion one can make is that the British media is utterly xenophobic. Like them now blaming most of our failure on Torres, a casualty of utter disgraceful tactics. NO WAY IS IT ROYS FAULT!! He is such a nice bloke!

  • Max.

    It’s far more difficult to “do a leeds” now – despite the example of someone like Portsmouth (which is more like doing a Bradford, in terms of the process). Initially, Leeds put too much money into transfer fees and then had too many players on long term contracts, plus had to run a very large squad due to a long injury list and also to the Bowyer/Woodgate incident (notable that Gerrard wasn’t under the same kind of pressures while in a similar mess). Crucially, they also turned down significant fees to move on the likes of Viduka, even as they brought in more players (this is where O’Leary was to blame, far more than the book). They seem to have refused to sell players, on a point of principle, despite having good players waiting in the wings and despite continuing to make more acquisitions.

    They also then brought in Venables, who in turn brought the likes of Barmby and Okon, again on long expensive contracts. As performance collapsed under Venables, TV revenue collapsed (it was far more related then to league position), exacerbating the financing problem. And then at some point under McKenzie’s chairmanship, the board really lost its collective nerve and mismanaged the position to a point where both relegation and further financial disaster was inevitable.

    These days, that precipitous drop in TV revenue doesn’t happen. The (bigger) parachute payments can be drawn down in advance to provide a soft landing. Arguably the treatment of Bowyer/Woodgate was unusual (including the retrial). Nobody would run the same contract system now (and to be a bit more fair than Ridsdale deserves, Leeds at the time were operating in the near immediate aftermath of Bosman – Leeds is the lesson that everyone else learned for how to deal with these things).

    In extremis, Leeds would (and even then, should) have gone into administration when they were obviously insolvent, instead of going through the bizarre Mckenzie/Reid period; they’d have found a far more benevolent regime than the current one, as a result.

    Even if Liverpool are relegated (which is always a possibility) it’s likely they will be far more financially prepared for the possibility than Leeds were, as well as the fact that it is a lot less financially painful now.

  • Vialli

    What about Notts Forest, they were “To good to go down” without the financal promblems. No team is to good to go down or they wouldn’t be there.

    We have an old manager who is midtable quality and must be clear to the players he is not long term answer.

    Also look at the squad, all these amazing young players Benitez kept buying – NONE have made it? Kippe, Duran, Nemeth, Alou Diarra plus about 20 other spanish or hungarian players.

    The first team, Who is back up to Reina ? Good enough? We haven’t had a decent full back for about 4 years, Haven’t had wingers for about 4 years and each season it was clear we needed to buy some, Failed at Man City Riera, Pennent who stood out at small clubs but couldnt cut it at top Arsenal.
    Now we struggle to have another PROVEN striker to cover Torres.

    We have played people out of position for years, Gerrard, Marcherano, Babbel and Kuyt….. Now Merriales, Right/left Midfield??? No! Joe Cole bought for the middle – out on the left?!!?!??

    We don’t know what we’re doing !! Gutted !! I am Gutted !

  • chris from wakey

    I doubt that Liverpool will go down because, as has been already stated, there are at least three teams in the Premiership who are worse than they are and that will probably save them from the drop. The teams morale? I’m not sure about that at all – and once the other teams in the Prem make their Liverpool games a cup final day then Liverpool are in for a big shock. Even with a big spend in January the club has got a big fight on their hands and there could well be a big surprise when we get to May 2011

    • Vialli

      So what are you saying Chris?

  • Gryff

    Liverpool have been on a downward spiral for ages. The likes of Sissoko, Bellamy, Xabi Alonso and Riise have left in a trickle and haven’t been adequately replaced – just like at Scum. Now I think with the likes of Torres off-form the club is struggling as the areas that have been made threadbare are starting to wear entirely and an ageing Gerrard, Aurelio, Kuyt and Carragher aren’t going to propel a team by themselves.

    The question is, where’s the young talent?

  • Andrew

    “I think people are getting confused between the team who stayed up by the skin of our teeth in 03 and the team who went down in 04. Only Viduka, Smith, Robinson and Barmby at a push were decent players in that team. The rest of the side was filled up with loan signing such as Cyril Chapuiis, Lamine Sakho, Didier Domi and the unforgettable Roque Junior.”

    My recollection is that the loan rangers didn’t see much persistant action (due to their questionable skill – Roque Cup braces notwithstanding). Kelly, Matteo, Duberry, Olembe, Pennant and Milner featured more heavily that season.

    Even still, a 2-1 away defeat of Blackburn on Good Friday was our third in four games and things looked salvagable. An Easter Monday (Tuesday) Elland Rd draw of Everton was only one of two points gleaned from the final 18 available. That sealed our fate.

    Our starting eleven versus Everton that day were Robinson, Kelly, Caldwell, Duberry, Harte, Matteo, Radebe, Milner, Pennant, Viduka, Smith. (where’s the midfield?).

    Our starting eleven one year earlier (when we finished winning 3 of 4, including the famous result at Arsenal) were Robinson, Kelly, Duberry, Matteo, Harte, Mills, Radebe, Bakke, Kewell, Viduka, Smith. Not much different than the relegation side (Bakke/Kewell/Mills vs Pennant/Milner/Caldwell).

    Both sides look very unbalanced to say the least.

  • STEVO

    Hey soulvomit, what do you mean, ‘nobody outside Britain has heard of the mighty Whites’ ? Get a grip man! We have fans all over the world! When the boys’ got promoted from league 1, the club had messages of congratulations from all over the globe, the U.S., Oz, Africa, Asia and that’s just the smaller nation’s…Everyone who attend’s ER on a regular basis know’s all about our Scandinavian and Irish friend’s, so methink’s you’d best get educated fella..MOT

  • Colin

    As a Leeds fan, the way I look at the Liverpool squad is that it’s in a state of flux – so many changes are just taking their effect and that = poor performance.

    New manager, new owners, new players,very good and established players now injured or off form (Kuyt, Torres).

    Liverpool will come back – ok it’ll be a stinker of a season, but doing a Leeds? No way. TSS has got it spot on. The difference between Liverpool and Leeds and the problem with Leeds that caused them to go down, is that the Leeds players knew the money had run out – quality players (and their friends) were leaving, despite wanting to stay at the club – Rio, Woodgate etc. and the players knew that at any time they could get a tap on the shoulder and told that they were the next to be sold.

    That isn’t the case at Liverpool – sure, Alonso and Mascherano left, but they wanted to leave, so let them go. I hope and I’m pretty sure that Liverpool are okay, but it will take a while to turn the corner.

    BTW, ‘doing a Leeds’ was caused by the Ridsdale and the Krasner led boards, not by fans or the players. The Ridsdale board essentially set Leeds United on fire and then Krasner turned up with a box of matches. Leeds should have gone into admin much much earlier. It was unsaveable. Admin would have allowed more potential bidders to come in. Selling the assets of ER and Thorp Arch for peanuts was the most stupid thing (more stupid than anything the Ridsdale board ever did) that anyone could have done.

    Guess what, Krasner never lost any money and he lauded himself as some sort of Leeds hero. He isn’t and he took all the praise for ‘doing the best he could do’. Bates came in and rightly cut costs. Krasner didn’t do that. He just made stupid decisions, said he was great, moaned at Ridsdale, got lots of publicity, sold it to Bates, moaned about him too and walked away as a millionaire having not lost a penny.

    Leeds’ current owners, FSF (Forward Sports Fund) have made (much) less than the owners of ER and TA, who take £2m a year in rent.

    Many thanks Krasner. Okay, rant over.

  • TSS

    @colin

    Haven’t I warned you about pro-Bates speeches before? We’ll have less… lol

  • Dje

    What I find odd about the Liverpool situation is that people presume that John W Henry is entirely different from the two idiots they’ve just got rid of. I’m not talking about temperament or knowledge of football, or the fact that Henry looks better in a suit that the two chancers that have just gone, I’m talking about the financing of the buying the club.

    In 2005 Henry was rumoured to be worth $3.5bn. But his money is made from futures and foreign exchange gambling, and it hasn’t been a good couple of years for him, so by 2010 he is now seen as having £600-800m. Still a rich guy, fine. But why would anyone invest nearly half their wealth in the notorious financial gamble that is English football club ownership?

    There is no ‘big money’ to be made in the long term in this game, but there are chances of very big losses (just ask the Yankee whippets shirking off with their tails between their legs).

    I can only see that the £300m, plus the very modest ‘investment’ in the team, is coming from more borrowed money. Essentially more leverage.

    Yes, this was and remains de rigeur of capital finance – borrow more than you invest yourself, especially when interest rates are so low – but that debt will still have to be serviced and set against a Liverpool squad depleted of assets – aside from Torres, Reina, Gerrard, there are not many more – and needing major investment if it is going to finish at a level in the league that will make them break even financially (rumoured to be two out of every three seasons needing to be in the top four and a reasonable Champions League run in each of those two seasons). This is a lot to ask.

    As a caveat, Henry will have borrowed on far less pecuniary interest rates (from American banks too, and not “give-us-our-cash-back-quick” RBS). So that debt servicing will be sustainable. But you have to wonder about their future.

    ~ No money to compete with the top 4 teams (possibly to the top 7 either)
    ~ Limited room for increasing revenue (need a new stadium, can’t afford a new stadium)
    ~ No major talent coming through the youth ranks to replace the aging squad (Reina, Carragher, Gerrard).
    ~ Declining squad assets – Torres out of form (but young enough for a big money move still), Gerrard (age 30) is seriously in danger of becoming past it for the big money move the club would need to replace him.

    Seriously, I can see Everton surpassing them in the next five to ten years.