Friday, May 7, 2010

My fears for the future of Liverpool FC

A diehard Red from Kirkby who stood on The Kop as a boy and went on to realise his dream of playing and captaining the club.

A classy defender who served Liverpool with distinction for over a decade and spent seven years on the coaching staff under Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness.

A dedicated servant who couldn’t resist the lure of the Reds when Gerard Houllier came calling to offer him the job of assistant manager.

These days Thompson’s passion for his first love burns as bright as ever but the Sky Sports pundit is hurting.

At the end of a nightmare season supporters can’t wait to see the back of, his club is wracked by uncertainty – from the search for new owners to intense speculation over the future of manager Rafa Benitez.

Liverpool are seriously lacking direction and Thompson admits he fears for the future.

“Doing what I do for Sky, I have to fight the demons all the time,” he said.

“People love to see the demise of Liverpool Football Club and have a pop at us. What’s going on upsets me – I hate seeing the football club being ridiculed like this.

“I’m an ex-player and an ex-assistant manager but overall I’m a fan.

“As a club we always did things well in the past but the way things have gone under the current ownership is shameful.”

Thompson admits there are parallels between now and May 2004 when Houllier and himself were shown the door after finishing fourth.

“I’ve been there and it’s not nice,” he said. “Everyone is talking about what’s going to happen. All the speculation is awful and this is the city when it comes to rumours.

“It’s a difficult time for everyone and you have to try to carry on under extremely difficult circumstances.

“I don’t relish the position Rafa and his staff are in. The only people who can sort it out are Rafa and those who run the football club.

“Whatever way it goes I hope it gets sorted quickly and in a sensible way.

“When Gerard left he gave a fantastic press conference. If Rafa does go I hope they come to an amicable agreement.

“This club has been in enough mess. We don’t want any more recriminations.

“In 2004 we wanted to stay but this time it’s probably going to be Rafa’s decision. It’s a very difficult situation he finds himself in.”

Supporters are split over Benitez. Many believe after six years the time has come for a parting of the ways, while others insist the club must fight tooth and nail to retain his services.

Juventus are waiting in the wings, desperate to prise Benitez away, and the Reds boss has demanded reassurances about the transfer cash at his disposal.

Thompson believes Benitez has been let down by the Anfield hierarchy.

“I sympathise with Rafa because a top level club needs strong leadership but it’s not there,” he said. “Our owners handle the club from far away and only seem to agree to disagree.

“If Rafa stays he has to be given a lot more help. Not just in terms of money but more consideration for the job he’s doing. He has to be allowed to concentrate on football, not balancing the books.

“We have to invest in the team because the squad is clearly not good enough. Spurs, Man City and Aston Villa have risen in recent years and their finances have got a lot bigger. Compare Spurs’ squad to ours, it’s got so much more depth.

“When Gerard and I finished fourth that wasn’t deemed good enough. But we didn’t have a billionaire-backed Manchester City in our way and Villa didn’t have the money they’ve spent in the last few years.

“If the club don’t back Rafa financially they might force him into the hands of Juventus. He might decide ‘how can I function with no finances to turn it around?'

“The other side of it is that a manager is judged on the signings he makes.

“Against Atletico Madrid last week he brought on Pacheco, El Zhar and Degen to try to turn things around.

“Okay we had injuries to Insua, Skrtel, Aurelio and Torres, but apart from Torres none of the rest would have made much difference.

“Our critics always pointed to the fact that big signings like Cheyrou, Diao and Diouf didn’t work out for us. Rafa has spent nearly £20million net, while we only spent £10million net.”

If Benitez does go, Thompson insists there is no guarantee Liverpool would land one of the top names who have been linked with the job.

And the 56-year-old believes the club won’t be able to progress until Tom Hicks and George Gillett sell up.

“The likes of Roy Hodgson, Martin O’Neill, Guus Hiddink and Jose Mourinho have been mentioned but would any of them come amid all the turmoil and if there’s no money to spend?,” he added.

“I hate the speculation about Torres and Gerrard leaving and I’m expecting it to go on right through the summer.

“There are no guarantees that even if we sold Torres, the manager would be able to use the cash to strengthen the squad.

“In a way it doesn’t matter whether Rafa stays or goes because until the club is sold we’re going nowhere.

“People are saying chairman Martin Broughton needs to sort out Rafa’s future but he wasn’t brought in for that. His brief was to sell the club and that’s what we need him to focus on.

“Martin has to tell the owners what is a proper price for the club and convince them to get the deal done quickly.

“These are worrying times and I’m dreading another transfer window where we have to settle for free transfers and cheap buys.

“It’s frightening where the football club is going. I fear for my club.”

Article published on LiverpoolEcho