When the Hicks and Gillett regime was ushered out last year, I wondered if we were taking a massive risk in bringing in American owners yet again. When Luis Suarez was signed in January, I wondered if we were taking a massive risk in bringing in a top scorer from the Dutch league. When Fernando Torres was allowed to leave on deadline day, I wondered if we were taking a massive risk in breaking transfer records for an unproven replacement.
I wondered many times out loud, as we made our signings this summer, if we were taking massive risks. I questioned the wisdom of paying inflated fees for Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing. I doubted if Charlie Adam would be fit to lace Xabi Alonso’s boots. I hadn’t watched Jose Enrique much during his time at Newcastle. I hesitated about the signing of Alexander Doni, our umpteenth backup goalkeeper since Pepe took up his gloves between the goalposts.
These were average players, I thought, who were way too expensive as stop-gap measures while we would grind our way back to European football this term. We would probably have to let them go in search for better and more pedigreed replacements if we ever made it back to the Champions League, and even then we would lose out to the Cities and Chelseas in the race to pay big wages.
Yet, in they came, and out some others went. I wanted Charles N’Zogbia for 9.5m. I wanted Phillippe Mexes, Taye Taiwo and Nuri Sahin on free transfers. I read about Tottenham’s interest in Lassana Diarra on the cheap. I wanted Adam Johnson on loan. I wanted Aquilani to stay after some fine preseason performances. I didn’t want Insua, who I rate highly as a young defender, to leave. A few thousand miles away from the transfer action, I wanted a say. And after witnessing the second half meltdown against Sunderland, I unhappily thought I was vindicated, and all the delirium and euphoria from the exhilarating first-half showing came crashing down. Here we go again, I thought.
Then we went to the Emirates. And then we destroyed Bolton at Anfield.
I found myself suddenly opening my eyes to a Liverpool team that, for the first time in a long while, could play around with our personnel selection. Never mind Kenny’s 3-5-2 ploy against Stoke and Chelsea last year: we could now play all the formations in the world with our strength in depth. (Oh, the wonders of victory.) My eyes glittered as I thought of Suarez, no, Carroll, no, Suarez and Carroll, no, Suarez and Kuyt with Carroll coming off the bench, in attack. My heart fluttered when I saw a front three of Downing, Kuyt and Gerrard behind Suarez – or was it Suarez, Gerrard and Henderson behind Carroll? I got slightly disappointed when I realized I forgot about Maxi Rodriguez and Glen Johnson. I was even more baffled when I realized that we were launching outrageous attacking moves without Steven Gerrard. How on earth would we fit him back in the side?
As we passed and moved all over the pristine Anfield grass against Bolton, I saw Henderson’s defence-splitting chances, Downing’s touchline crosses, and Adam’s Hollywood passes. The glowing, glistening and glittering post-match reports only confirmed to me Kenny and Comolli’s transfer policy this summer: not only were we now loaded with alternatives in abundance, but we were now full of first-teamers who can create a damn good goal-scoring chance.
Upon the close of the Summer 2011 transfer window, Damien Comolli immediately lavished praise on our new owners. John Henry took a massive gamble and showed incredible patience, he said, because he was willing to buy before he sold.
I thought we were taking a huge risk when we let go of Aquilani again, despite some stellar performances in preseason. I thought we were taking a huge risk when we said goodbye and thank you to Insua. (Not so much Konchesky, Jovanovic, Cole, and Poulsen, among others, mind you.)
But when I woke up after the 11pm BST transfer deadline to see that Raul Meireles had left for Chelsea, I felt strangely un-disappointed. Because, like his news item on Liverpoolfc.tv, his importance had already been taken over by more exciting headlines. Craig Bellamy, a seasoned campaigner, was back, presumably as an impact substitute, and a high quality one at that.
And we signed Sebastian Coates, who I first saw playing an absolute blinder at the Copa America final against Paraguay before looking him up on Wikipedia, finding out he was 20 (unbelievably) and still playing in Uruguay, and subsequently making him my top defensive preference in the summer window.
Sometimes I get a bit too excited a bit too easily for my own good. Eh, it’s a risk I’m now willing to take. Hello, optimism.