A date with destiny awaits Liverpool Football Club this Saturday in Kiev, Ukraine when Liverpool face Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Final. The LFC supporter collective are chomping at the bit, teetering between angst, nerves and an abundance of excitement...rinse, repeat. Is it Saturday yet?!!
John Henry was interviewed by Rob Harris from the Associated Press this week and shared his thoughts on the rollercoaster ride that has been his journey as the owner of LFC for the last eight years. In 2010, after a battle that had to be settled in court, he inherited a Liverpool who were facing relegation and bankruptcy due to the financial mismanagement from the Hicks and Gillett era.
In an in-depth discussion, Henry reflected on the 2010 takeover, the reluctant sales of players loved by supporters, the transformation of the club, the wondrous gift that is Mohamed Salah and the club’s title history and subsequent title drought.
Maybe it’s because I’m an American, but I have a difficult time understanding why anyone would want to leave Liverpool. The club is so rich in history and tradition, supported by so many millions around the world, in virtually every country of the world.
You don’t want to be in the position where players want to go somewhere else, even if it is a great club like Barcelona. It’s hard to understand why players would want to go to a league where the competition is so weak. They must play 30 or so meaningless matches per year waiting for Champions League matches.
They’ll be watching this weekend and could have been playing. But (part owner) Mike Gordon, (sporting director) Michael Edwards and everyone in our scouting department have done a terrific job in making the best of those two difficult situations.
He also talked about his first Liverpool game as the new owner: the Merseyside Derby in October 2010 when Liverpool lost 2 - 0 to Everton and found themselves in the relegation zone.
Evertonians were chanting ‘You’re going down!’. We were 19th at the time, but we managed to stay up despite a lot of early mistakes. Football isn’t easy, and building from that squad, if you remember that squad, took a lot time.
Mistakes were made, clearly, like the sale Fernando Torres to Chelsea with the funds re-invested in an unproven Andy Carroll. But from those mistakes, lessons were learned, both in player recruitment and who was brought in to oversee the club, and eventually got them to a place where Jürgen Klopp could become the manager.
It took Michael Edwards winning more and more of the battles internally to get us to the point that when we met with Jürgen and he said ‘I really want to coach this group. This will be fun.’
He has done a tremendous job getting us into this position. He has been just as effective in inspiring not just our players but everyone who loves this club. He is an inspired, natural leader who is sensitive to what some might see as small things, but are very important over the long term.
On European nights I felt like the supporters at Anfield pushed the club past opponents to the point that we were just unbeatable on those nights. On away nights the resolve and effort of this group of highly talented players got us to the finals. Being in the final is a reflection of the incredible support this club gets at Anfield and the ability (of) Jürgen and the entire staff to put our players in the position to be successful. You can do all of that but the players have to step up and they have.
And those players have certainly stepped up, including Mohamed Salah, who for at least a few months replaced Carroll as the club’s most expensive signing.
His record-setting scoring became one of the biggest stories in England this year. Perhaps my favorite Anfield songs ever are a couple about Mo. We are proud of more than what he has meant to us on the field. It is highly significant for a global club with a particular set of values to have a huge star who personifies what can be accomplished with unity rather than the divisions among people we see so often these days.
And, on the club’s past titles and title dreams, he had this to say:
Liverpool has a history in European competition and it may be more important to many of our supporters. Is a European championship bigger than an English championship? Most people would say, ‘Yes, much more so.’ However, in many ways the Premier League is the world’s Premier League — there is nothing like it.
Viewership dwarfs other leagues. Interest in the Premier League is far greater than the Champions League until the last month of the season. Probably because the vast majority of Champions League matches are not compelling for the first few months of the competition.
Liverpool have been on a mission. I expect that will continue this weekend in Kiev.
Here’s to the successful completion of that mission on Saturday night... May our Mighty Liverpool Reds gengenpress the hell out of Los Blancos and lift Ol’ Big Ears for the sixth time.