Are Things Going Any Better For John Henry Over At Liverpool?

It's been almost exactly one year since Henry's Fenway Sports Group purchased Liverpool, so to mark the occasion, Henry agreed to a rare lengthy interview with the Guardian. Both parts are well worth your time, but let's draw out the interesting stuff.

Henry admits he knew "virtually nothing about Liverpool Football Club nor EPL" before he bought the team, and has learned little over the past year. It's David Ginsberg, a limited partner, who spends the most time in England: about one week per month. Henry wishes he could attend more games, but the Red Sox come first.

Henry watches from his owner's box above the hitter's plate, present, with his wife, Linda, at almost all the games at Fenway. The volume of matches, 162 a season, and the work required in the "offseason" mean, Henry said, he can be at Liverpool matches only rarely. "There is a rhythm of nightly baseball games. I couldn't give that up," he said. "And I love that. I'm rarely at Liverpool matches. If I had two lives I would spend one in Europe, but I don't."

Henry does attempt to watch as many games on TV as possible. He is a homer, questioning any calls that don't go the Reds' way, even if he's not fully informed.

With Liverpool 3-0 down, Henry mused admiringly: "Boy, did you see how far [Andy Carroll] headed that ball?" He seemed to have a touch of Dalglish's propensity to query refereeing decisions, struggling to see why Adam's downward lunge on Scott Parker merited a second yellow. I began to offer an appreciation of the officials' skill, pointing out how an assistant referee was exactly in line with the last defender, to judge the Spurs forward's position precisely when the ball was played โ€“ then I suddenly thought: I am watching a match with the owners of Liverpool Football Club, and I am coming perilously close to explaining the offside rule.

He admits that he overpaid for the underperforming Andy Carroll, and felt pressure to offer a megadeal to Carl Crawford, in part to calm fans of both teams worried that the other would sap funds.

Are Things Going Any Better For John Henry Over At Liverpool?

Many in football remain staggered that Liverpool, with new owners famed in the US for analytical rigour, paid Newcastle so much for Carroll who had at the time played 18 Premier League matches. Some believe that huge fee sent a signal that Liverpool were now flush, and raised the prices for Henderson and Downing, while Adam, a fine playmaker in Blackpool's energetic 4-3-3 last season, faces a challenge adapting in Liverpool's four-man midfield. Asked if Liverpool did overpay for Carroll and the other players, Henry suggested the new owners did, to reassure fans: "There was a lot of criticism in Boston that we weren't going to spend money on the Red Sox after we did the Liverpool transaction," Henry explained. "Then there was the fear we wouldn't spend in Liverpool. Hopefully the fans of both clubs will eventually see what we see clearly โ€“ that there is nothing to fear from the existence of the other club."

Ownership's first big move at Anfield was to land Damien Comolli as director of football, a position akin to GM. Henry says there was no job search, and that Comolli was hired solely because he's friends with Billy Beane.

Henry confirmed there had been no wider recruitment process for this most plum of jobs; Comolli was appointed following the recommendation of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, with whom Comolli had struck up a friendship. "Billy became passionate about the Premier League and he became my initial adviser about the football side of Liverpool," Henry recalled. "Billy was adamant โ€“ 'There is one person who you have to hire โ€“ Damien Comolli. He has the same philosophy Theo [Epstein], you and I share.'"

The season is young, but Liverpool's position on the table should be a very familiar one to Henry and Red Sox fans: they sit fifth, just on the outside looking in, and are being let down by a star player who likes to drink.

Liverpool's owners battle boom and bust after Boston Red Sox stumble [Guardian]
John W Henry turns from Red Sox to red shirts for the global gains [Guardian]