Liverpool crisis deepening?

January 22, 2008

Liverpool's future appears to be reaching crisis point as their beleaguered American owners run out of time in their desperate fight to retain control of Anfield.

And the bitter reaction of the Kop during the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa could have a telling influence on the futures of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

With city sources claiming that the American co-owners have hit a hitch in their bid for a restructuring of their loan agreement with the banks, the battle for Anfield would seem to have reached a key moment.

Such was the animosity towards the Americans at Monday night's game against Villa, it is hard to see - due to security reasons - how they can ever appear again in the Anfield directors' box.

And there was even talk at Anfield of the stadium plans having to be delayed again, such is the lack of cash.

Waiting in the wings are Dubai International Capital (DIC), who are believed to be waiting with a £350million offer.

The speculation about the club's future has been growing despite Hicks releasing a statement on Sunday.

In it he insisted he remained 'fully committed' to his role as Liverpool co-owner, denying he has been involved in discussions with DIC over selling his stake.

It read: 'I have not received any offer to purchase the club from the DIC or anyone else, much less accepted any such offer. Nor do I have any intention of doing so.

'Whoever is behind this false report, the facts are that I and my family have always been, and remain, fully committed to co-owning the club; that no-one in my family has ever indicated any intention or desire to sell our stake in the club; and that we expect and intend to be co-owners of the club, and to actively and enthusiastically support the club's manager, players and fans for many years to come.'

Matters have come to a head almost a year since a Liverpool board meeting in a Canary Wharf hotel, a couple of hours ahead of a 2-1 win over West Ham, which virtually pulled the plug on DIC's initial bid, with the board opting instead to sell to the Americans.

That same night the bemused DIC party sat behind Liverpool chairman David Moores and chief executive Rick Parry at Upton Park, knowing that their deal had collapsed only hours earlier. The Dubai group formally withdrew their bid 24 hours later.

Now Liverpool's next league match is, coincidentally, at West Ham - again on January 30.

By then Hicks and Gillett may have had to accept a bid to buy the club.

Under-pressure boss Rafael Benitez will hope by then to see his side safely into the FA Cup fifth round, with non-league Havant and Waterlooville next up at Anfield on Saturday.

Commenting on the draw with Villa, Benitez said: 'Nobody can say that the players do not want to try, they certainly do.

'It is difficult for me to explain how I feel, you know my English. But I am very, very disappointed. Especially because you can see how the fans react.

'They are magnificent to the team, to me, and we owe them some good games and some good victories.

'Now we have a cup tie with a non-league team, it will be a great occasion for everyone but maybe we can score some goals to give us confidence.'

Benitez is well aware that skipper Steven Gerrard has blamed the off-pitch crisis for Liverpool's fading form. The Villa draw means they have thrown away 15 points at home this season and won just four of 11 matches at Anfield this term.

Liverpool are now in fifth place, two points behind neighbours Everton with a game in hand. The two teams clash at Anfield on March 29 in what could become a showdown for the fourth Champions League slot.

Benitez remains steadfast behind his players, adding: 'It is difficult to explain to people what is wrong. We were much better than Villa, creating chances and should have killed the game.

'We used to have problems playing away from home, now we are very good in that situation but we cannot win enough at home.

'We are creating chances and still we cannot win two or three games in a row.'

He added: 'We deserved to beat Villa, no question. But we must analyse why we didn't.

'If you are not creating chances, then something is wrong. But we are creating them so we must work out why we are not finishing games off.

'We were much better than Villa, we are not being faced by teams who have worked out how to play against us.

'If we were not playing well then we would have to change everything, but that is not true. We are playing well, and we must keep going.

'I will not think about the top of the table, I will not talk of conceding anything. We must work to be fourth, and then try to get higher.

'We must be realistic, though, and talk about being in the top four now.

'What was positive is that the team continued working hard right to the end after what had happened. Peter Crouch scored a fine goal and we certainly deserved that.'