Since Fenway Sports Group purchased Liverpool they have made it patently clear that they see the future of the football club in the hands of talented young players who, should they fail, can be sold on without losing too much of their initial value. In the face of recent goings-on at Anfield, is it time for Tom Werner and John W Henry to reconsider their plan for the club?
The theory behind FSG’s plan is very admirable, and as a Liverpool fan, I hope it can bring Liverpool Football Club back to the pinnacle of English football. If the plan were to be a success it would be one of the most revolutionary ideas put forward by a club chairman in years.
The problem is, to quote Alan Hensen, “You can’t win anything with kids.” Now, obviously that isn’t completely true, and there are a few notable exceptions, but it is generally agreed that you are making life much harder than it needs to be by fielding a team made up exclusively by youngsters.
A successful team needs to have experience at the heart of it. Manchester United had Roy Keane, Chelsea have had Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry, and Claude Makelele, and Arsenal have had Patrick Vieira, Sol Campbell, and Martin Keown, to name just a few.
If Liverpool continue their plans of buying exclusively young players, then the average age of the squad will continue to drop, and with it the level of experience and maturity amongst the players.
The decision to opt for youth over experience may come back to haunt Liverpool as early as this season; if Luis Suarez picks up a serious injury the Merseyside club are left to chose between a gamut of teenagers to take his place.
Liverpool have successfully bought aging players in the past, with Gary McAllister the most notable example. With McAllister in the side, Liverpool went on to complete a League Cup, FA Cup, and UEFA Cup treble in 2001. The experienced Scot was joined in the Liverpool starting eleven by the much younger Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, and Emile Heskey in the final of the UEFA Cup that year.
It was not the talented youngsters (no Heskey jokes please) that made the difference that night in Dortmund, but the elder statesman of the team, with McAllister scoring a goal and taking home the Man of the Match award.
Surely, then, we must accept that no matter how talented the youngsters in your side are (some would argue that Steven Gerrard went on to become the greatest footballer of all time) they will always need a calmer, more experienced head to guide them through tough situations.
With that in mind, should FSG have thought twice before deciding that Liverpool should not do all they could to land Clint Dempsey on transfer deadline day?
It is true that they would probably have had to move the American on again after just a few short seasons but the impact he could have had between now and then could have been monumental.
I admire FSG for trying to build for the future at Liverpool, but this does not mean they should sacrifice the present. Their policy of buying young players can work, but only if they are willing to make exceptions when needed.
I am very excited by the quality of the youngsters at Liverpool but I can only hope that the club has not been consigned to mid-table obscurity by the time they reach their peak.
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