THE NEWS last night that Kenny Dalglish had, officially, been sacked by FSG was big news. If Liverpool’s place in the football world is diminishing nobody seems to have told the news outlets. It wasn’t just sports pages, sports bulletins or local radio talking about the end of Kenny’s second stint as boss and views were sought from ex-players, reporters and fans.
One person whose views were thought relevant is the man who – some argue – got Liverpool FC into this situation of trying to find the right manager in the first place. Christian Purslow was installed, probably by demand of the banks, as the club’s MD in 2009.
Purslow was announced as MD after Liverpool had finished second in the league. The season that followed saw the manager undermined and the club head at speed towards administration whilst the man sent in to save it was pretending all was rosy financially to anybody who’d listen.
It was that pretence – including untrue statements that there had been £20m spent on transfers over and above what came in from sales – that helped set the scene for Rafa’s ultimate departure. For reasons best known to themselves, some fans wanted Rafa out even as he was taking the club towards that second-place finish. “This club exists to win trophies!” they cried, probably literally. Before long they were being used to add to the pressure Rafa was under as certain elements in the boardroom did all they could to distract from the genuine, threatening, problems the club now had with its lenders.
The tactics were dirty.
Benítez explained after he’d left how things hadn’t been as promised after finishing second: “It’s strange. This year everything changed from the beginning,” he told Radio City. “People in the club changed and the approach to everything was different. Clearly it was a question in the beginning of controlling the money we could spend or not, and everything was different to the past. We were so close to winning the title the year before that everybody was expecting something more but we couldn’t do it.”
By allowing fans, and the disinterested elements of the media, to think Liverpool had still invested in improving the squad the club allowed those fans to expect improvement on second place. As all other clubs invested in improving and strengthening their squad Liverpool made a transfer profit and the squad was effectively weakened. Liverpool were expected to do more with less and the pressure was on from the day the first ball was kicked.
Today Christian Purslow is hoping all of this is forgotten. He now gets called in to give his views on running a football club. The man who played a large part in Liverpool moving from league runners-up to relegation candidates is probably a good person to call in for his opinion on running a club – but not exactly in the way he has in mind.
Speaking about Dalglish’s departure, Purslow told Radio 4: “I think it’s strictly a business decision. The business was acquired by this new investment group only 18 months ago. They did so with the intention of making a return on that investment and the two key elements of that, building a stadium and getting the team back into the Champions League, there’s been very little progress in either of those.
“I think with the investment not on plan Kenny Dalglish has carried the can for that.”
Purslow played a key role in swapping Benítez for Roy Hodgson, the man who lasted six months before the new owners got rid with the club heading for the Championship. The former MD was asked who Liverpool should be looking at: “I think in terms of heavyweights, people with real track records of success at the highest level in European football, I think there are two obvious names – Rafa Benitez and Fabio Capello.”
The man who played a massive role in the departure of Benítez was no recommending him for the job.
After Rafa’s departure from Anfield, Purslow claimed: “The Board didn’t sack Rafa. Rafa’s exit was about as clear cut a case of mutual consent as I have ever been involved in in my life.” Rafa had been pushed out and Purslow had won his little battle, although he didn’t stay much longer. He would be the first casualty of the FSG takeover, his resignation accepted without pause for thought.
Now, all that forgotten, Purslow says Benítez, and former England boss Capello, would be good for LFC: “They’re both serial winners, they both know the job inside out and have a proper track record.”
Purslow thinks FSG would be wrong to go for a “younger up and coming manager”. He said: “I think that would be a very risky thing to do, given this investment is not where they need it to be.”
When Purslow was at Anfield and with the club – as he recently claimed – at serious risk of going into administration he certainly didn’t play the role of a man here to save the club money and help it survive the financial problems it was facing.
On a public website (Linkedin) the former PA of the club’s former MD explained what her role consisted of. It was all as expected really, including: “My day was often spent organising social meetings, booking restaurants, and liaising with many high profile people and celebrities.”
Maybe these are also considered to be fairly normal responsibilities for a PA at a club on the verge of going out of existence: “I was also called upon to help arrange family holidays, family weekend trips away, which included sourcing accommodation etc., and liaising with the appropriate company throughout.
“In my role, it was vital that I kept in constant contact with the family chauffeur in order for things to run smoothly. Occasional liaison with the family housekeeper was also required.”
She was also, despite having been at the club longer than her final boss at the club, a victim of FSG’s takeover: “Regrettably, I was made redundant when the Managing Director stepped down in November 2010.”
Purslow, before he did step down, said: “I don’t have a contract. It would cost the new owner nothing to say the day after he buys the club, ‘Thanks very much but we don’t need you.’” The club’s accounts show Liverpool paid out a total of £8.4m on terminated contracts during the period covering Purslow’s departure. How much of that went to Hodgson, Mike Kelly or Purslow wasn’t revealed.