With sale final, Henry gets down to business in Liverpool
LONDON — Liverpool FC players met their new owners yesterday as attention turned from the long and bitter boardroom fight to the fortunes of the relegation-threatened team.
Red Sox owner John Henry, whose New England Sports Ventures bought Liverpool, spoke to the players as they prepared for today’s match against Everton. The team is looking for only its second league win of the season.
Winger Ryan Babel said on Twitter that it “was a short but good meeting. He is humble and proud to be part of LFC.’’
The $476 million deal with NESV ends the turbulent three-year ownership by Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr.
Henry and NESV chairman Tom Werner watched the last training session before the match and addressed the players inside the Melwood complex.
The new owners arrive without the promises of their predecessors, but they have been largely welcomed by the club’s fans, who are relieved to be rid of the massive debts the club acquired under Hicks and Gillett.
Henry already has cautioned: “One thing I’m going to try not to do is to create a lot of expectations.’’
In the months after Hicks and Gillett arrived in 2007, the Reds reached the Champions League final, losing to AC Milan. In 2009, the 18-time champions missed out on their first English top-flight title since 1990 by 4 points.
But last season Liverpool slipped to seventh in the standings, missing out on qualification for the lucrative Champions League and the team is now languishing in the relegation zone.
Henry made no promises about a spending spree on players in the January transfer window, or a replacement for the iconic but relatively small Anfield ground.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to get this club to where it needs to be,’’ Henry said. “There is a great nucleus here off the field and on the field and we think we can build from that, but it’s not going to be easy.
“We’ve got real challenges but we’ve got a very strong organization — financially and otherwise — we have some terrific strategic thinkers, and we’re going to be attacking this head-on.’’
Henry did state that the $476 million transaction will wipe out the club’s crippling debts and was not funded through the type of leveraged takeover that ultimately suffocated Liverpool’s ability to invest in the squad.
“All that huge amount of money that our fans spend supporting our team, coming to games and all the other activities, is now available for what it should be available for, to invest,’’ Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow said.