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John Henry told FSG ‘bought the wrong club’ on day of humiliation for Liverpool



On this day in 2010, FSG’s tenure as Liverpool owners started with a miserable 2-0 loss at Everton to leave talk of relegation swirling

Upon completing his £300m purchase 13 years ago, John W Henry had planned to hold off on attending his first match as the new principal owner of Liverpool FC.

Henry initially aimed to savour his first taste of Premier League football at Anfield having finally wrestled the club from the vice-like grip of the detested Tom Hicks and George Gillett, but having completed a dramatic takeover in the High Court of London on October 15, 2010, the then New England Sports Ventures chief simply couldn’t wait.

Having arrived on Merseyside the following day to meet the staff, players and then manager Roy Hodgson at Anfield, Henry and the rest of NESV pencilled a late change into their diaries to make the 214th Merseyside derby against Everton their maiden fixture in English football.

By early evening the following day, Henry was likely wishing he had held off for the Anfield visit from Blackburn the following week. The cries of “going down, going down” from the home end would have sounded like nails on a chalkboard for the away supporters at Goodison Park but they would stung Henry and his team even more so. The company who would soon become Fenway Sports Group had begun their ownership of Liverpool in the most auspicious of circumstances.

“I hope you’ve kept your receipt,” came one call from the home end as Henry, senior vice-president of NESV Joe Januszewski and the rest of the entourage filed out of Goodison Park having seen Liverpool comfortably beaten 2-0 by their fierce local rivals. The Boston-based organisation might privately have been forgiven for wondering what on earth they had inherited. One Everton fan in particular sneered in Henry’s face that he “had bought the wrong club”.

He hadn’t, but there was a reason why one of the biggest European football ‘franchises’ – to coin an Americanism – was available at such a relatively knock-down price. The ruinous nature of Hicks and Gillett aside, Liverpool’s team was in possession of fewer and fewer genuine stars by the Autumn of 2010 and were coached by a manager who was appearing increasingly out of his depth as the weeks went on.

“That is as good as I have seen a Liverpool team play under my management,” said Hodgson, unaware of the excruciating irony of such a statement. “To get a result here would have been Utopia,” was another questionable post-match observation. The current Crystal Palace manager became infamous in his relatively short-lived stint in the Anfield hotseat for a litany of eyebrow-raising assertions.

“It is certainly hard to recall a Liverpool team worse than this one and hard to imagine that Hodgson will be given long to prove otherwise,” wrote one national newspaper at the time. “Henry met Hodgson after the match and the manager’s position remains safe,” stated another, before adding: “Although comments such as ‘I refuse to accept we were outplayed or in any way inferior’ are insulting to the eyesight of his new employer and to the Liverpool fans forced to endure this derby humiliation.”

The ECHO’s post-match verdict read: “John W Henry and Tom Werner spoke with great pragmatism when they arrived on Merseyside this weekend, making it clear that the job of restoring Liverpool to the summit of English football will not be completed overnight.

“Maybe the club’s new owners had seen a DVD compilation of their new club’s performances this season; if they hadn’t the chastening, harrowing 90 minutes they had the misfortune of sitting through at Goodison Park yesterday gave an idea of the depths to which the Reds have fallen.”

Hodgson also became embroiled in a terse and needless exchange with a Scandinavian reporter at full time when he insulted both Norway and Denmark as two countries he’d “never want to work in again” after being quizzed on his team’s performance. If the Liverpool manager’s bosses were watching on intently, they will have been as deeply unimpressed with the post-match performance as his tactical set-up during it.

The result prompted talk from certain sections of the national media about Liverpool becoming mired in an unthinkable battle to save their Premier League status. It might appear wildly reactionary with the benefit of hindsight but having narrowly avoided administration by NESV’s takeover, such a fear was still in play for a weary supporter-base ready to cautiously step out of the long and toxic cloud created by Hicks and Gillett. It was the most humble of beginnings for FSG.

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