herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

Sale of Gerrard and Torres can kickstart revolution at Anfield

SOMEONE is going to have to make some very hard decisions about Liverpool football club in the next two or three months and the biggest of them could very well be to sell Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard. It might even be a good idea.

I don't envy the decision-maker the job. If yesterday's Mersey derby proved one thing for Liverpool supporters, it was the scale of the task facing the new owners. There is no quick fix here.

It was obvious from the demeanour of both sets of players which club is on the up and it clearly wasn't the players in red. David Moyes can use the result to kick-start Everton's season while Roy Hodgson can only scratch his head and wonder where it will all end for him.

Hodgson went through the motions of picking a team to take on Everton but nothing will change the fact that his players are not good enough or the fact that he was hired in different circumstances to those now in operation.

He has been given a vote of confidence by the new owners but Hodgson is essentially a caretaker manager until next year when we will have a much better idea of where NESV want to take the club and who they want in control of team affairs. It's a really tricky problem for the Americans who, like Hicks and Gillett, know nothing about football and must make choices which could make or break their new investment.

If they are wise, they will sit down and listen to those who know what is wrong with Liverpool and know how to fix it.

They may choose not to appoint someone like Kenny Dalglish to manage but they should certainly sit down and talk to him for a long time and get the education they so desperately need.

Right now, those who make up NESV have no idea whether Hodgson is a good manager or a bad manager or whether Liverpool should cash in now on Torres and even Gerrard. I've heard many times in the last few months that Liverpool without Gerrard cannot be contemplated; that he is the heart of Anfield and must stay.

From where I'm sitting, the heart was ripped out of Liverpool a long time ago and I'm not sure whether Gerrard staying or going is all that important any more.

The talk is that there will be £40m available for new players initially but available to whom?

Do the new owners want to stick with a manager they didn't choose and one who was clearly taken from the second tier?

If Hodgson is not going to be the man for the long haul, it cannot be him who makes a decision about Gerrard and Torres nor can it be him who spends whatever cash is available.

Which means that the new owners must make a quick decision about who they really want to manage the club and act appropriately.

How quick could easily depend on results.

If Hodgson continues to leak points, there will be pressure to find a new man in the coming months but the owners will probably hope that he can take Liverpool away from the relegation zone in the short term and buy some time while they settle on who it is they want to build a new club around.

It's hard on Hodgson but football is hard and he knows that. Of the 30 or so paid professionals currently earning a living at Anfield, half or more of them need to be offloaded rapidly.

To do that at the level required to compete in a realistic way at the top of the Premier League would take two or three hundred million and I'm not sure John Henry and his mates in NESV have the resources or the will to spend that sort of money.

I'm not even sure it would be the right way to go about it.

In that context, it could well be that it makes more sense to cash in on Gerrard and Torres next summer, add another £60m to the pot and start from the bottom again.

A fresh start for the club with a new manager and a mandate to build a new team.

Once the deal was done and Tom Hicks and George Gillett ceased to be important, I know many Liverpool fans heaved a big sigh of relief and began to look forward, for the first time in many months, with something like optimism.

I know that there is an understandable feeling around Anfield that the club has been given another chance and that with the Hicks/Gillett debt cancelled, it won't be long before the good times return.

The reality is much more sombre and fans should know that the club is nowhere near out of the woods yet and that it will take patience, intelligence and restraint before anyone should feel confident that two decades of decline has been arrested.

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