An Epic Swindle – 44 Months with a Pair of Cowboys

For all the Liverpool FC fans, this is a must read. Put down whatever else you may be reading at the moment, and start off with this. Here is the link, to get you started. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Epic-Swindle-Months-Pair-Cowboys/dp/085738600X

Brian Reade‘s fairly close-up account of what he calls the “civil war” at Anfield makes for fairly riveting reading. Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillett took over at Liverpool in early 2007, and initially, everything seemed hunky dory. Multi-million pound transfer deals were sanctioned for the summer transfer window, including the transfer of one Fernando Torres. However, what unfolded over the next 40+ months was what Reade has described as a “civil war”. I will have to agree with him on that terminology. It was as if the people’s club had suddenly become the training ground for churning out champions’ of office politics.

Having finished this book over the Christmas and New Year period, here are some of my observations.

1. An Epic Swindle makes for riveting reading. If someone has not been aware of what happened at Anfield those few years, it would seem like a fiction novel.
2. Yes, there are times when you can clearly see that the book is written by a fan who feels very passionately (bitterly, rather) about the events that transpired. But that should not take anything away from the facts and the timeline of events that An Epic Swindle puts out for everyone to digest.
3. The narration puts the writer fairly close to the action, and did have some interesting sources in the Liverpool setup.
4. While the book does put certain issues in perspective, it seems to be rather gentle towards Rafa Benitez. Wrongly so, I believe. Please allow me to explain that later in this article.
5. The way the final courtroom drama is brilliantly put across. You will not realize it, so ask someone around you to point out when you are reading all wide-eyed and stunned!

One thing is certain, you will feel a sense of relief once the book is finished. Because you would be half expecting the Americans to pull another move that reeked of selfishness and disdain.

After reading about the back-stabbing, politics and sheer mess that Anfield was being put through, it isn’t a surprise that the club declined so rapidly. It is fairly easy to claim that off-field antics should not have an impact on the performance on the pitch, but have you ever tried having a good day writing an article after getting into a row even before the day started? Now recreate that by 24 x 7.

I am always the first to blame Rafa Benitez for the decline of the team, towards the latter half of his reign, but reading the facts, the numbers and what the Royal Bank of Scotland had to say, I do feel for him. The way Hicks and Gillett, Hicks particularly, was disgusting. People may claim that Rafa did not help himself by ranting to the media, but what else do you do when under extreme pressure. I have gone through a not-so-good work environment once in my life, and trust me, it makes you say and do things you normally wouldn’t.

But, Rafa did not help himself by making some rather foolish transfer decisions. The list of useless players signed up is endless – Zenden, Sissoko, Kromkamp, Barragan, Nunez, Pellegrino, Josemi, Gonzalez, Pennant, Babel, Voronin – the list goes on and on. Secondly, what was the logic of having the one plan to sell Xabi Alonso, buy Barry and Keane so that Barry would give service to Keane from the left. How can an entire season be based on just this plan? Frankly, this didn’t even work in FIFA Manager! (Yes, I tried!) Admittedly, the book does try to portray Rafa as the one who was trampled at every chance, but a look at some numbers here would dispel any such notions. Mostly because Rafa always claimed to not have had the support of the owners with transfer funds.

2004/05:
Total bought: £27.5m
Total sold: £11m

2005/06
Total bought: £26.73
Total sold: £14m

2006/07
Total bought: £27.15m
Total sold: £10.15m

2007/08
Total bought: £70.7m
Total sold: £36.7m

…and so on.

By the time Rafa had packed his bags, the numbers read simply – Total Players Bought: £228,976,000 and Total Players Sold: £145,100,000

While it is easy to see that the two Americans were being a complete waste of blood and organs, Rafa wasn’t being very smart either. And the two combined to pull Liverpool down so far that we are still trying to get back afloat.

B. Rodgers will be the saviour. We have hope. You Will Never Walk Alone.

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About Vishal Mathur

Geek by day, heavy sleeper by night!

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