Jim White

Meet the new boss

Jim White

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Kenny Huang, Yahya Kirdi, the Rhone Group: the buyers are circling Anfield. It might seem incredible, given the horrible mess the previous owners made of their investment, that others are so anxious to take it on board. But in fact the new boss - and they could be installed by the end of the week - might well be looking at the bargain of the century.

It wasn't what Tom Hicks and George Gillett planned when they took over in February 2007. Back then their idea was that they would borrow a large amount of money, buy the club, watch its price soar, sell it, pay off the loan and trouser a handsome profit. It was called a leveraged buy-out, just like the one their compatriot Malcolm Glazer undertook on an even grander scale just down the road. Then along came the slump, the banks called in their loans earlier than expected and the pair were in trouble. Not that they wouldn't have been anyway. Showing all the unity of a Gordon Brown cabinet, they bickered and scrapped and undermined each other. In the process they made a laughing stock not just of themselves, but of the great institution of whose heritage they had no understanding.

Sane red fans must have been alarmed at what they were in for from the moment Hicks boasted during a live radio interview ahead of the club's Champions League final in 2007 that he knew "all about" the history of Liverpool's involvement in Europe because he "had done some research on the internet". And that was before the sorry performance he and his family gave in the directors' box one European night, displaying all the dignity of a Big Brother housemate as they failed to sing along to "You'll Never Walk Alone". Safe hands indeed.

As it happened, the crisis in world banking probably did Liverpool a good turn. It hastened the departure of idiots from the boardroom, men with no idea of what it was they had in their possession, no hint of its meaning or purpose.

Indeed, such is its meaning and purpose that despite even their cack-handed stewardship, Liverpool is still a heck of a property. Sure, finishing seventh is not good enough. Sure, scrabbling around in the preliminary stages of the Europa League while the continent's elite clubs had barely started pre-season conditioning, is not the sort of thing a club of Liverpool's aristocratic standing in Europe should be undertaking. Sure, having a squad plumped with journeymen, over-dependent on two players for inspiration, does not speak of the kind of planning that will bring much in the way of trophies.

But none of these conditions are terminal, none symptomatic of the kind of long-term decline that might have set in had the Americans not been driven out by their debt. Indeed, with a sensible, intelligent and practical man now ensconced in the dugout, already a signal has been established that things can change. And soon.

So what is it that the owners will be buying at a knockdown price? Well, they will be getting those two players for a start. The best thing Roy Hodgson has done for the club is to retain Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres for at least one more season, long enough to judge whether the promises of a brighter tomorrow to match their personal ambitions might be forthcoming. It is hard to imagine quite where Liverpool would have stood ahead of the Premier League season if that pair had finally lost patience and gone.

Plus, the new owners will be getting potential. A 65,000 seater stadium is green lit. All that is needed is the money to start work, the kind of investment the Americans would never have given - you see they didn't take to any suggestion of putting their own money into projects and with their track record, no bank was going to go near Liverpool with a loan. And it is a potential that extends well beyond Stanley Park. In South Africa during the World Cup, there were more Liverpool jerseys being worn by the locals than those of any other club other than United. It is a worldwide brand. Something Hicks and Gillett knew without for a moment ever understanding why.

Still, thankful that the idiots have gone as they may be, Liverpool fans should be careful what they wish for. The club needs - and deserves - one careful owner. Sadly, the Premier League's hopeless regulatory system is no guarantee that they will be matched with an appropriate suitor. But even so, already the fans' forums are ringing with endorsements for potential owners whose credentials have never been properly tested.

The enthusiasm among football fans for people whose motives and credibility are as yet entirely opaque never ceases to amaze. It reminds me - reading the postings of fans excited about the man they have already nicknamed Kenny Wok, enthusing that he will bring in Lionel Messi and pair Gerrard with Kaka in midfield - of the banner I saw at the 2007 Champions League final. One of the alleged wits of the Kop had redecorated a bed sheet in the manner of those Mastercard ads. "Ticket for the Champions League final: £50," it read. "Flight to Athens: £300. Bevvies under the Parthenon: £75. For everything else there's George and Tom."

Well, that worked out then, didn't it?

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