Why Liverpool fans should be wary of John W Henry before they start celebrating a new dawn at Anfield

The end of the ordeal for Liverpool fans? Or merely the next stage in the ongoing torture?

This morning's news that the Anfield board had agreed to sell the club to the owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team may have initially appeared the answer to Merseyside prayers.

A sale, surely, means the end of the American "cowboys", Tom Hicks and George Gillett ready to pack their bags and head out of town before the lynch-mob gets hold of them.

In will come New England Sports Ventures, headed by US foreign exchange trading advisor John W Henry, who has an estimated fortune of £540m.

NESV are offering around £300m for the club, enough to pay back the £240m of loans and £40m of fees owed to Royal Bank of Scotland, which must be settled at the end of next week or risk the club being owned, effectively, by the Government - which has an 84 per cent stake in RBS.

Except, of course, it isn't quite that simple.

Only yesterday, Hicks and Gillett blocked the deal - and talks with an Asian syndicate - and instead attempted to oust managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre and appoint two place-men of their own.

Even now, as chief executive Martin Broughton conceded, the deal is only done between the parties - and is subject to legal challenges from Hicks and Gillett.

No surprise really. After all, as we all knew all along, the Americans were only in it for the money.

For all the promises of investment and grandiose plans for the redevelopment of the club and a new stadium, the truth was very different.

Hicks and Gillett vowed not to "do a Glazer" and then piled on debt. And the end vision was always apparent - sell for a price that got all their investment back plus plenty more on top.

That is why Hicks and Gillett are attempting to block the NESV deal - it does not give them enough money.

Yet even if the deal goes through, there can be no guarantees.

Henry has shown in the USA that he views sport as part of his business empire, rather than a grand passion.

Before finally taking control of the Red Sox in 2002, Henry sold the Florida Marlins after three years at that club and had previously held stakes in the Red Sox' fiercest rivals, the New York Yankees.

Before that, there were efforts to purchase the Orlando Magic NBA franchise and to become an NHL owner in Colorado and Florida.

Hardly evidence of a lifetime commitment. Alarm bells, anyone? Remind you of anybody from, say, Texas and Montreal?

Of course, Henry, business partner Tom Werner and the rest of the NESV structure may prove to be very different to Hicks and Gillett. For the sake of the club, they had better be.

But it would only be natural for the Liverpool fans to reflect on the past three years and have their doubts, no matter how earnestly they wish to celebrate a new dawn.

And even if the new owners are everything they would have to be, all the change of regime would end is the boardroom instability, not the problems that are endemic on the pitch as well.

Broughton, explaining his rationale for backing the sale, spoke of NESV's "vision" for the club and added: "By removing the burden of acquisition debt, this offer allows us to focus on investment in the team."

That investment, clearly necessary, cannot take place until January at the earliest - and nobody makes serious purchases in that over-priced, sellers market, window - by which time the predicament facing Roy Hodgson and his players may well have deepened.

Liverpool are not third bottom because of a confluence of bad luck. They are third bottom because of a confluence of bad decisions, going back over two or three years but now crystallising on the pitch.

Sunday's defeat by Blackpool was almost as low as you would imagine it could get, ensuring the two-week gap between that game and the Merseyside derby at Goodison will stretch on for ever.

And even if Hicks and Gillett give up graciously and gracefully - a big if, based on past form - the job for Hodgson in restoring morale and improving form is not one that can be completed with a wave of a magic wand.

What can Liverpool fans expect from prospective new owner John W Henry?  

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