FSG's learning process at Liverpool
Think of the power and the prestige. Imagine the chance to put your plans into action. For the vast majority who are neither qualified nor talented enough to manage or play for a football club, owning one is the next best thing. For many a predatory businessman, it is also a money-making opportunity.
But sometimes it is hard to be an owner. And for Fenway Sports Group, this is one of those times. Liverpool's American directors have been criticised for what they didn't manage to achieve - signing a striker on transfer deadline day - and then for their reaction, releasing an open letter to supporters, restating their ambition and reiterating their philosophy.
It also kept Liverpool in the news, offered hints of a disagreement with manager Brendan Rodgers and did not address every concern fans raised. Honesty and humility brought some censure and condemnation. And, at times like these, it feels that FSG are damned for whatever they do and whatever they don't.
Clearly Friday was a disaster. Quite how costly a failure it proves to be will become apparent over the next four months. It looks a false economy not to sign the 29-year-old Clint Dempsey for around £6 million and an additional error not to have a secondary striking option.
Yet anyone expecting an in-depth explanation of who said what to whom on Friday, when and why is deluding themselves - partly because some things ought to remain confidential, not least because they could expose greater divisions, and partly because it wouldn't happen anywhere else. Liverpool's owners are more open than many of their counterparts; compared to some others, they do not deserve to have their motives questioned. They are not the Glazers. They are not Venky's. Most importantly, they are not Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
After their 2010 takeover, FSG inherited a far greater mess than they expected and, while there should be a statute of limitations about attributing problems to Messrs Hicks and Gillett, John W Henry and Tom Werner are nowhere near it yet. In many ways, including communicating with the fanbase, they are the opposite of their secretive predecessors, not to mention Manchester United's reclusive directors, who have lumped debt on the club and taken money out of it.
It is not enough to satisfy some of the Liverpool support, but it is a level of transparency that would make Sir Alex Ferguson turn puce with rage. FSG have been truthful enough to admit to mistakes, and diplomatic not to name them, which might have reflected rather poorly on Southport's most prominent golfer and his most expensive signings.
Kenny Dalglish is a reason FSG have long been in a no-win situation. The awkward decision to dismiss the Anfield icon came at a cost to Henry's popularity with a section of fans, yet the alternative was to risk another league season like last and, perhaps worse, another summer signing spree like the last.
During the Scot's reign, Dalglish's loyalists criticised FSG for not offering the Scot enough support. Yet it was not advice that he needed - he needed to be overruled. When apologies were dictated from Boston during the Luis Suarez affair, it was a belated reaction to a situation that had escalated out of control.
The problem was not that Dalglish had too little power, but too much. Yet had FSG parachuted someone in from America to run the club, the interpretation would be that they were interfering. Now the call from the pressure group Spirit of Shankly is for them to appoint a Merseyside-based chief executive. They are sentiments many share but, were FSG to accede, it may lead to a militant faction making demand after demand.
As it is, apart from vetoing a deal for Dempsey, FSG have given their appointments licence to act as they will and room for manoeuvre. At Rodgers' wish, their plans to install a director of football this summer were shelved. He, too, is largely able to run the club his way. But if Henry takes advice from others on players' valuations, is it any wonder given the way Dalglish and Damien Comolli paid over the odds for average talents?
Yet while Rodgers has not been granted the spending power afforded to his predecessor, the demands are also lower. A top-four finish was the principal objective last season but Henry has said that failure to secure Champions League football will not be grounds for dismissal for Rodgers. This is entirely reasonable.
Their broader principles, of assembling a young group of players, with an intelligent recruitment policy focused on identifying talent and a manager with the skill to turn them into a competitive, attractive team, make sense. In the case of Dempsey, FSG should have been more flexible.
But, as Henry said in his letter, it is a learning process for them. In particular, they are learning that they can't please all of the people all of the time. Or even a majority of the people most of the time.