Which Liverpool fan expected Liverpool to sign six players by the official start of the summer transfer window? Certainly not this one, but as we all know, life is full of surprises. Among the charred and despondent fanbase at the end of the season, many changes were not only predicted but demanded in order to revive a team that finished the campaign with a humiliating hammering at Stoke City. Brendan Rodgers had to go, the transfer committee needed to be disbanded, and Ian Ayre would be most welcome to take his platitudes and inertia elsewhere.
Brendan Rodgers is still here along with Ian Ayre, and the the much-discussed transfer committee is believed to still be in place albeit with a slightly altered emphasis on signing first-team players in their mid-twenties and beyond along with capturing talented young players from around the world. James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne, Roberto Firmino, Danny Ings, Adam Bogdan, Brooks Lennon, Bobby Adekayne, and potential recruits Christian Benteke and Allan would represent an eclectic mix of signings focused on both the present and the future. More needs to be done, but when Ian Ayre speaks about the club working the right way, fans may be more receptive to his words.
"I stood on the Kop for many years as a fan, and like everyone else I'd love to buy all the greatest players, regardless of price," Ian Ayre told the League Managers' Association magazine The Manager. "But, as we saw under the club's previous ownership, things can all go very wrong financially; then people will hold you accountable for not running the club in the right way.
"You can't work that way. You have to have a very detailed, thought-out plan and ensure everyone buys into it and adheres to it. That is what we have been doing and will continue to do. It doesn't mean we are not investing in or buying good players; we are just doing it in a smart and sustainable way. We may not be competing in the Champions League this year but we are still making progress as a club and continuing to add quality to our squad. We are also improving financially, which means that as we go forward with the plan we will have more resources and will be able to invest more than we have in the past."
Liverpool have always focused on working within particular constraints under FSG, especially in the Brendan Rodgers era with an emphasis on working smartly and effectively to comply with Financial Fair Play. Restrictions on powerful and rich clubs such as Manchester City and Paris-Saint Germain that have breached the rules have now been eased. The landscape is changing, and with it, Liverpool may require some amendments to how transfers are approached. Does Ian Ayre have confidence in the people who are tasked with propelling the club forward to a brighter and more competitive future? Of course he does.
"If your manager doesn't understand your long-term plan it will never work, because he's in charge of the biggest cost item - the players," Ayre said with clear confidence in the club's modus operandi. "Brendan is very much a team person, he understands budgets and the financial implications of bringing in certain players, and he is very easy to get on with. That always helps gel a team together, because it means you can spend time together socially and professionally and discuss things in a relaxed way.
"We needed a plan and a group of people who were committed to it and who would work together to achieve it. This ownership and management team is strong and united. There are no egos, we are honest with one another and I know I have their full support. I have direct and open lines of communication with the owners at all times and we make and stand or fall by decisions as a group. The unity that we achieved is exactly what Liverpool needed to move forward. It's now in a far more profitable situation and that is the result of good management and good people, which includes our manager."
Such confidence will be tested next season as Liverpool seek to regain a place in the Champions League, and beyond 2015/16, finishing fourth may not be enough to guarantee a place in Europe's finest club competition with English clubs struggling in both European competitions. The process of meeting minimum requirements to be attractive as a club may change, and with it, a guarantee for clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal. It would certainly make the English Premier League more competitive at the higher end of the table. Before that, Liverpool still have 59 days to find the players who can ensure that both the club and manager reflect on a productive campaign in a year's time.
It should not be forgotten that Liverpool ended the season dismally and wilted in the face of top-four rivals in March and April. Furthermore, there is a feeling that the business conducted this summer must be topped off with one or two players of the highest-quality who can spearhead a concerted challenge in the Premier League. Understanding budgets and possessing unity must be witnessed on the football pitch. This is what truly drives revenues, attracts both sponsors and quality players, and enables the club to dine alongside the continent's brightest lights. That is not to say that Ayre isn't right about how the club works as Brendan Rodgers is a talented manager who could surprise his detractors in his fourth season at the club, and FSG are the type of owners that one hopes would do well in the world's most popular sport.
Right now, though, Liverpool appear credible and convincing in the way of working. What's particularly wondrous about acting with conviction, is that words tend to carry greater weight and accuracy. Ian Ayre is no longer the individual who is dragging the club back but has been key in completing negotiations for targets that can only hearten even the most pessimistic of Liverpool supporters. There is still much to be done, but currently, Liverpool are doing exactly what is required.
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