Photo credit to @nihar247
On Thursday, the only pieces of news that were confirmed were things we already knew---Jen Chang, formerly a senior editor for world football at Sports Illustrated, had been appointed Corporate Relations and Communications Director, and Billy Hogan, who's been with Fenway Sports Group since 2004, was named the club's Chief Commercial Officer. Neither was entirely surprising, with the former starting as a Twitter rumor last week that gained significant steam (mostly due to Chang's relative absence), and the latter scooped a few days earlier by Bloomberg's Tariq Panja, who's proven to be a reliable source of information for Liverpool supporters since FSG took over in the fall of 2010.
That both were expected blunted some of the reaction, although there's not likely to be much emotion for those not directly involved, at least on the surface, with the day-to-day footballing operations. The hiring of Chang was the more welcomed of the two, as he's carved a well-respected and reasonable figure, at least as much as one can do when most of their interactions are on Twitter.
The reception for Hogan was a bit more mixed, mostly due to the fact that there's very little known about who he is or how he'll transition into the culture of European football. He's been successful thus far for FSG, and while concerns about any transition might be justified, it's hardly surprising that John Henry and company have decided to go with a known quantity (at least for them) when it comes to the business side of things. By all accounts Hogan has served FSG very well, and he's been active in the transition process over the past 18 months.
But most of the reactionary energy was saved for an event that, while expected, had no discernible outcome. Late Wednesday we'd heard that Roberto Martinez was headed to Miami to meet with John Henry for something resembling an interview or screening or cocaine binge, but when pictures were released of the two men walking together through downtown (or uptown, or whatever), heads worldwide exploded.
Was the picture real? Where was John Henry's right foot? Didn't the Doppler indicate rain in Miami at that time? Someone really popular said they live there and it was raining, so it can't be real. Is the Mickey Mouse in the window a metaphor? What about the 70% off? Surely that means something. I don't like the shoes Roberto Martinez is wearing. Are job offers in America typically extended over walks with coffee through low-rent districts? Why can't I feel my face? WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME THIS WAS HAPPENING?
Of course, everyone knew this was happening already, but it was more fun to create endless disaster scenarios, most of which focused on what a stroll through Miami meant for the future of Liverpool. There's a very real possibility that John Henry and Roberto Martinez were finalizing a deal for the Spaniard to become the next Liverpool manager, just as there's a very real possibility that it was an interview and nothing more. In my experience, which constitutes a sample size of zero, coffee-sipping excursions through bohemian districts in warm-weather climates don't necessarily lead to job offers. Or maybe they do.
What it actually meant became irrelevant quickly after the second picture was released, at least once we got past that realization that this is where we are---we need a second picture of two men walking that includes the person who took the first picture to verify that an event is happening in reality.
Opinions on Roberto Martinez are decidedly split, and justifiably so. There's no telling how he'd transition from Wigan to Liverpool, especially if there's a Sporting Director in place with a strong personality. The statistics aren't overwhelmingly in his favor, as he turns out as the least successful of those linked with the position. But he also laid a foundation at Swansea that Brendan Rodgers has built upon, and has had Wigan playing attractive football despite their limited resources. He's young, engaging, and intelligent, and he has a philosophy that seems in line with FSG's, or at least what we're privy to when it comes to FSG's philosophy.
And that's become the flashpoint for most, regardless of whether the superficial crisis of the day is a venti espresso in Miami, a petition to get Rafa Benitez his old job back, or which type of peacoat people would prefer to see on Andre Villas Boas when he graces the Anfield touchline. The disclosures---and more accurately, the lack thereof---from Fenway Sports Group have taken center stage, making the situation uglier and uglier.
There's no denying that progress on the stadium issue is needed. Likewise, we'd probably all be a bit more comfortable, regardless of our preferences, if the roles of manager and Sporting Director/Director of Football were filled sooner rather than later. That would at least allow us to argue about something concrete. For now, though, we're left to argue nothing but hypotheticals, and it's all taken on a very catastrophic tone.
In the span of 18 months, FSG have gone from saviors to the cusp of villainy. The lack of transparency that was not so long ago lauded as being in line with The Liverpool Way is now a sign of incompetence, that they're winging it as they go along. A wave of strong voices in the Liverpool supporting world have made it clear that, while they're ostensibly holding off judgment, they're millimeters away from turning on the new owners, just like the last owners. There's a thinly-veiled hope FSG get it right, but the outrage and condemnation are on a low boil.
I care about Liverpool deeply, and I desperately hope that those in charge make effective choices. But we're left to say effective rather than right, because we all know that doesn't exist. Roberto Martinez will be an inspired choice or an ignorant one. Rafa Benitez is the only man for the job or another indication that Liverpool are living in the past. Anfield should be redeveloped or there should be a new stadium. Alcohol is the only way to cope with the situation at hand or...no, that one actually is right.
Time has become a luxury, and it's one that the new appointments probably won't be afforded much of, and it's one that FSG most definitely don't have. Uncertainty and a lack of genuine knowledge have proven too much to bear for many Liverpool supporters, making it easy for vague allusions to future discontent and disaster to take over. Whether or not that proves to be founded is not something we're going to know until it actually does or doesn't. That sucks, and it'd be uncomfortable at any point, let alone weeks after the club dismissed an icon and finished their worst league campaign in over fifty years.
Mostly I'm hopeful that there's some sort of space, as small as it might be, for FSG and their new hires to receive support, even if it's got a healthy dose of skepticism attached. Support for those in charge has recently been equated to blind faith, which isn't---and shouldn't---be the case. Questions need to be asked, and they need to be held responsible. That's not debatable. What is, though, is the how necessary the histrionics and infighting are.
Plus, it's Istanbul Day, so let's take a break.