When the Glazer family bought another North-West football institution, Man Utd, in 2005, it was all so different. The Glazers had to leave Old Trafford in a police van for their own protection. Even their financial comms agency had to ramp up office security.
But this Wednesday a typical headline in the Daily Mirror said it all: ‘The best a fan can get.’ No police cars involved, no need to fend off aggressive reporters. Instead, a jovial photocall in front of The Kop end. The new owners holding aloft a Liverpool scarf.
Gillett and Hicks had clearly been given some top advice. On Sunday they met Liverpool icons Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher for a chat; they had apparently wooed influential pundits Mark Lawrenson and John Barnes well in advance; and they cannily used humility to talk up ‘the club’s proud tradition’.
Occasionally, the guard slipped: when Hicks referred to Liverpool as a ‘franchise’ rather than as a footy club; and the linguistic faux pas of ‘defence man’ rather than ‘defender’. But, generally, they said the right stuff.
Of course, it helped that there was less debt involved (although in a privately financed deal, how much do we really know?) but it was clear they had analysed the Glazer PR fiasco and the better-handled foreign takeovers of Aston Villa and West Ham that followed.
Some fans protested, and influential writers such as The Daily Telegraph’s Henry Winter wrote warning commentaries.
One also ponders the significance of previous owner David Moores’ refusal to appear at Anfield: was he thinking ‘what have I done?’. Let us hope not. The real work for the American duo hasonly just begun, and they must continue to listen.