Why Comolli's shock departure is the start of a new Boston revolution at Anfield
It was Patriots’ Day in Boston last Monday, the annual Massachusetts public holiday commemorating (or should that be celebrating?) the battles of Lexington and Concord.
For those of you who don’t know (and let’s face it, we Brits are not so hot on history when we’re on the losing side) those two skirmishes were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War.
As you can imagine of an event that crafted and defined a nation, the residents of the Bay State where it all began take their civic holiday very seriously, extending it across a long weekend, and putting on a mixture of activities from the Boston Marathon to a retracing of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
The Red Sox traditionally play at home every year on this date, with an unusually early start of 11.30am to accommodate the many and varied festivities around the city, which observe the first steps taken towards independence.
Perhaps the highlight of the Monday celebrations is the assembly at dawn of troops of minutemen who recreate the ‘line of march’, heading towards Lexington to re-enact the first engagement of the Patriots with British troops.
It was on Lexington Common, just outside Boston, on that historic day back in 1775, the first musket was unloaded, which according to Ralph Waldo Emerson was the “shot heard round the world”.
No one knows to this day if it was the British army or American militia who aimed that first shot, but in the week of the anniversary 237 years later, there were more shots fired from Boston that reverberated around the world, and there was no doubting from where they came this time.
On Merseyside, there was some surprise Liverpool’s owners missed the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley a week ago to return to Boston for the Patriots’ Day game at Fenway Park. According to the more excitable elements of the Twitterati, it somehow suggested a disregard for their British outpost.
Putting aside the importance of Patriots’ Day in the Boston calendar, putting aside the cultural phenomenon in the States of baseball’s opening week and the role the iconic Red Sox play in that, and putting aside the fact that last week marked the centenary of Fenway Park, America’s most fabled sports stadium, (and putting aside our little Englander perspective for a second) suggestions of disregard for Liverpool seem wayward after those shots heard with the firing of Damien Comolli two weeks ago.
John Henry and Tom Werner are now the minutemen of Anfield. Their response to the shocking run of results since the turn of the year has been swift, incisive and deadly…some would say ruthless. And though their first target was a Frenchman, there seems little doubt now a revolution is coming at the club, with no one under the King’s command (King Kenny that is) entirely safe.
There was a mixed response to the departure of Comolli, with fans uncertain about its message. Yet there is a simple calculation behind the decision: the team has underperformed woefully.
This column wrote a couple of weeks ago of the lack of value the owners have had for their investment so far at Liverpool . They have spent almost £120million on transfers already, and yet have finished outside the top four yet again. Hell, they may not even finish in the top 10 now after that dismal defeat by West Brom.
Even worse, they are still amongst the big four spenders on wages. But where that sort of outlay guarantees United and City 20-plus Premier League goals a season from the the likes of Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero, Liverpool seem to have spent their cash on ensuring they have the highest paid keeper and right back in the division, as well as the highest paid players out on loan in world football.
Henry and Werner know this. That is why Comolli went in the week when the squad he put together with Dalglish reached their second cup final of the season. They know they need better value for their outlay. They know their investment needs better protection. Essentially, they know Liverpool are better than this.
As the chairman said when he explained the departure of his Director of Football, Liverpool need to be seen as one of the strongest clubs in the world, and have the resources to compete with anybody in the game.
There are many Reds fans who will be heartened by that statement, because they were beginning to worry about a lack of leadership at ther top of their club. Interestingly, a similar accusation was levelled by followers of the Red Sox last season.
At both clubs, there was a prolonged period of assessment, a patient examination of direction, before a flurry of shocking activity spelt out an emphatic message. In Boston, it led to the departure of an iconic coach who presided over historic success.
At Liverpool, Dalglish will probably be spared such a fate, especially if he adds the FA Cup to his League Cup success. Yet with the dismissal of Comolli, he is under no illusions about the task ahead. Next season, there can be no excuses, no failure to the reach the top four.
There have been too many failures this season. On the pitch, in the transfer market, in the management of the club’s image, with the decisions during the whole disastrous Suarez affair, and in the delivery of the new stadium that is fundamental to future progress. Those mistakes can not be repeated if Liverpool are to avoid slipping even further away from the big four (or five).
That is why, as shocking as the news about Comolli was and as worrying as the timing was, it offers some sort of encouragement to fans left wondering about the direction of their club. What is required right now is strong leadership and a clearly identified route forward, something that has been lacking at Anfield for far too long.
In so decisively ridding themselves of a man they appointed, an employee who was apparently their eyes and ears within the club, Werner and Henry have shown they are prepared to “give the guts of their gun”, to paraphrase another famous minutemen saying.
If they are true to that instinct, then Comolli won’t be the last. There is a need for world class talent both on and off the pitch; there is a need for something of a revolution at Anfield, and it would be fitting if that was started on Patriots’ Day in Boston .
Read David Maddock's exclusive Liverpool column every week on MirrorFootball.co.uk.