Liverpool owner Henry defends the club's strategy
MANAGER Brendan Rodgers has decided against a return to Liverpool of Michael Owen despite a striker shortage that prompted John W Henry, the club’s principal owner, to write an open letter to supporters that appears to condemn the manager’s pursuit of Clint Dempsey.
Liverpool’s manager and owners are at odds over the failure to sign a replacement for Andy Carroll on transfer deadline day and Rodgers has considered the virtues of signing Owen, and other free agents, as back up to Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini, his only first team strikers until the transfer window opens in January.
However it is is understood Owen’s age – 32 – fitness record and lack of regular football during three seasons with Manchester United have discouraged the Liverpool manager.
Rodgers would rather promote a youngster from within the club’s academy as cover for the next four months, despite the risks and pressure upon himself after Liverpool’s worst start to a season since 1962, than take what he considers a retrograde step in signing a player who left Anfield eight years ago.
The manager’s stance coincided with Henry taking the unusual move of defending Fenway SportsGroup’s transfer dealings in an open letter to supporters.
Henry and Liverpool’s chairman, Tom Werner, have faced the most hostile criticism of their near-two year reign since failing to sign a striker on Friday.
Rodgers had hoped to replace Carroll with Dempsey but FSG would not offer above €5 million for the 29-year-old, who ultimately joined Tottenham Hotspur for €8.5 million. Fulham claim Liverpool offered only €3.75 million for the USA attacker while a deal for Daniel Sturridge collapsed due to the striker’s insistence on a permanent transfer.
The Liverpool manager, who has claimed finances were a factor in Carroll’s departure, wanted a loan move before committing to a permanent deal for the Chelsea striker.
“Spending is not merely about buying talent,” Henry wrote. “Our ambitions do not lie in cementing a mid-table place with expensive, short-term quick fixes.”
That comment reflects the rift that has developed between owner and manager in recent days, though Henry describes Rodgers as a “talented young manager and we have valued highly his judgment about the make-up of the squad”.
The former Swansea City manager was granted control of all football matters upon his arrival in June, having resisted FSG’s attempts to install a sporting director such as Louis van Gaal before accepting the job, and has found his judgment undermined.
Having spent almost €38 million on new players this summer, albeit with almost €12.5 million recouped in sales and loan fees and with the wage bill slashed, Henry defended FSG’s overall work in the window.
He said: “I am as disappointed as anyone connected with Liverpool Football Club that we were unable to add further to our strike force in this summer transfer window, but that was not through any lack of desire or effort on the part of all of those involved.
“They pushed hard in the final days of the transfer window on a number of forward targets and it is unfortunate that on this occasion we were unable to conclude acceptable deals . . .
“But a summer window which brought in three young, but significantly talented starters in Joe Allen, Nuri Sahin and Fabio Borini as well as two exciting young potential stars of the future – Samed Yesil and Oussama Assaidi – could hardly be deemed a failure as we build for the future.
“Nor should anyone minimise the importance of keeping our best players during this window. We successfully retained Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Luis Suarez.”
“We are still in the process of reversing the errors of previous regimes,” he adds.
“It will not happen overnight. It has been compounded by our own mistakes in a difficult first two years of ownership.
“It has been a harsh education, but make no mistake, the club is healthier today than when we took over.”
* Guardian Service