Fooking hell . . . are these cunts ever gonna fook off?
Insult Plumbs LFC To New Depths
By Oliver Kay (Times UK)
"Blow me, ****face. Go to hell. I’m sick of you."
As an epitaph to the calamitous Hicks-Gillett regime at Liverpool, the ten-word e-mail sent by Tom Hicks Jr at 4am on Saturday, in response to a polite message from a concerned supporter, ticked just about every box. Brash, arrogant, offensive, crass, uncouth, contemptuous and hopelessly naive, it was the defining moment of almost three years of blundering, back-biting and broken promises at Anfield.
Hicks Jr, the son of Tom Hicks, the co-owner, eventually apologised to the supporter in question for "losing my temper and using bad language with you", calling it "a kneejerk reaction". A jerk’s reaction would probably be a better way of putting it and a more considered, appropriate response now would be to resign from his position on the club’s board.
But still, at least it was an apology; Liverpool’s supporters have been waiting a long time for one of those.
Hicks and George Gillett Jr made all the right noises when they swaggered into Liverpool in February 2007, red-and-white scarves draped around their shoulders, oozing folksy charm and pledging, among other things, to start building work on a new stadium within 60 days (oops), not to take the club into debt (it now stands at around £245 million), to be accessible ("go to hell") and "to add to the lustre of the club, not detract from it" ("blow me, ****face").
For a company director to insult a customer in such a way (and, yes, it irks to use such terminology) is a disgrace and yet somehow it is not the foul-mouthed language that irks most about Hicks Jr’s e-mail. Far worse is the contempt that runs through every word: contempt for the concerns expressed by a supporter who, without further comment, sent him a link to an article in the Liverpool Echo in which concerns were expressed about Rafael Benítez’s alarming struggle to find money to invest in a depleted, demoralised squad that is in severe danger of missing out on Champions League qualification.
The supporters’ concerns for Liverpool’s future, short and long term, are legitimate. Benítez appeared to acknowledge for the first time over the weekend that he may be forced to sell players such as Fernando Torres if they fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League — previously, in an interview with The Times in November, he had said he would resign rather than tolerate such a scenario — and for Hicks Jr to sneer at such concerns, whether he uses foul-mouthed insults or wit worthy of Oscar Wilde, is not acceptable.
For the sake of balance, it is worth pointing out here that Hicks, Gillett and their families have been subjected to some rather less civil e-mails and, according to Gillett, telephone calls since their ill-conceived dalliance with Liverpool took the first of many turns for the worse.
On a visit to Merseyside two years ago Hicks Jr decided, flanked by minders, to go for a post-match drink in The Sandon pub "because I have wanted to go for quite some time to see the birthplace of the club and I also wanted the opportunity to have a direct talk with some of the supporters". Suffice to say it was a brief conversation.
Liverpool’s supporters did everything to make Hicks and Gillett feel welcome in the spring of 2007. Unless it has been burnt, whether out of embarrassment or anger, there is a fan somewhere with a banner that, echoing the words of the MasterCard advert, ends with the phrase "for everything else, there’s George and Tom".
It was not until the season after — the unedifying and very public spats with Benítez, the talks with Jürgen Klinsmann, the decision to take the club heavily into debt, the continuing fiasco over the stadium — that warmth turned to hostility of the type that the Glazer family faced on their early visits to Manchester United.
Outsiders mistake the antiAmerican sentiment on Merseyside as a misplaced sense of empathy with Benítez. They look at the purchases of Torres, Javier Mascherano, Robbie Keane, Glen Johnson and others and suggest that Benítez, having been backed to the hilt, has only himself to blame for Liverpool’s failure to win a first league title since 1990. That is a different argument and a spurious one; whatever Benítez’s perceived faults — and his judgment in the transfer market last summer, albeit faced with a constrained budget, was highly questionable — he is far from being Liverpool’s weakest link.
Hicks and Gillett have made some good appointments in the commercial and financial sphere, helping to drive up the club’s revenue, but none of that counts for a bean when Liverpool were forced to pay £36.5 million in interest last season (and, at best, a similar figure this campaign). Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal chief executive, said in an interview with The Times last week that "not all debt is bad", pointing out how the club’s interest bills are more than covered by the revenue generated by the move to the Emirates Stadium. Liverpool’s debt, by contrast, is very bad, existing for no other reason than to prop up a regime that, in every other sense, ran out of credit long ago.
Gillett took the unusual step of telephoning me the last time I criticised him and Hicks, telling me I had "got it all wrong" and that "debt per dollar, we are in a far better position than our rivals". His response was certainly more polite and more reasoned than that from Hicks Jr in the early hours of Saturday, but my deep reservations were not overcome. It is not a case of saying that Gillett or Hicks or their sons are bad people. It is simply the case that, between them, they have repeatedly shown themselves to lack the qualities needed to be worthy owners of Liverpool Football Club.
In February 2007 — the day he said that "the shovel needs to be in the ground within 60 days" with regards to the construction of a new stadium, where two years, 11 months and four days on, no shovel has yet been seen — Gillett said that "this isn’t about making money. This is about winning and passion and tradition".
Yet passion has been directed in all the wrong areas, traditions have been ignored, the aforementioned lustre has been tarnished and the widespread belief persists that they would be as willing as ever to sell up if they could be guaranteed a huge enough profit to show for all their hard work and dedication to the Liverpool cause.
That will be the final insult, when they depart — whether it is in six weeks, six months or six years — with a profit to their name. Hicks Jr’s e-mail in the early hours of Saturday was merely the latest, but, with those ten words, he plumbed new depths. Next time he is passing The Sandon, he would be advised to keep walking.