Liverpool are, of course, in the news again and Tom Hicks' attempts to take over the club on his own have made the back pages of late. Now the Guardian's Kevin McCarra has his say on the current problems at Anfield.
Tom Hicks has inspired a popular uprising. Liverpool supporters are generally pleased that the co-owner is finding it hard to borrow £280m and so pay back the £237m due to the Royal Bank of Scotland next month. Hicks might still raise the funds but the fans' attempt to deter lenders, with the side-effect of temporarily devastating an institution they love, speaks of desperation.
Hicks and George Gillett, his partner in the purchase of Liverpool, are not entitled to any sympathy. The crisis rests on a miscalculation by them. They were wholly wrong to suppose that they were acquiring a wonderful asset when they completed their takeover in March 2007. Perhaps they were as light-headed as the crowd about a side then on its way to the final of the Champions League, a trophy it had won only two years before.
The glamour of that tournament has had its invigorating effect since then. As recently as March last year Liverpool drubbed Real Madrid 5-0 on aggregate. Four days later Manchester United were trounced 4-1 at Old Trafford in the Premier League. Such spectacular moments have to be appreciated but they divert attention from a long-term decline. The American proprietors themselves may have been blinded to the intrinsic handicaps that this club endures and sometimes transcends.
Potential buyers have cause to be wary. At the end of the old First Division, in 1992, Liverpool came sixth. They filled that spot again at the close of the inaugural Premier League campaign. Rivals like to honour Liverpool, whose heritage is indeed remarkable, but when Sir Alex Ferguson referred to the allure of fixtures with them he was certainly not identifying the Anfield club as his principal foe nowadays.
Liverpool have roused themselves on occasion and, as recently as 2009, came within four points of the champions United. All the same such exploits are misleading. People were aghast when they came seventh last season but the club have been there before in the Premier League and indeed have done worse still, ending up eighth in 1994.
There has still been a sustained and intermittently inspiring fight against the odds since finance became the key consideration. Indeed, the principal grievance with Hicks and Gillett is their failure to fund a new stadium in Stanley Park. Even so, there might have been an improvement in circumstances rather than a transformation of Liverpool's affairs, had the Americans financed it.
There is not the wealth to be tapped that exists in Manchester or, of course, London. Regardless of references to overseas markets and, in particular, the far east, the size of revenues from match-day income and domestic television coverage continues to have a great bearing on prospects. Liverpool presently have the air of a club economising.
Roy Hodgson, below, is an excellent manager but he will have known that, in part, the Anfield post was his because he had demonstrated so keen an eye for a bargain at Fulham. All the same expectations differ at Liverpool. Fans will feel keenly that the side lost substance when first Xabi Alonso and then Javier Mascherano were transferred. Perhaps they could not have been stopped from going but there were no equivalents to succeed them and Raul Meireles, pardonably enough, could not stifle Paul Scholes at Old Trafford yesterday. The economising has taken its toll on the line-up and the lack of distinction around Fernando Torres makes it harder still for the Spain striker to regain form.
Steven Gerrard has recently shone in adversity but not even he will win many games single-handedly. We could start to think of the Europa League rather than the Champions League as Liverpool's natural habitat unless there is a well-funded revolution.
The only fortunes seen in the past couple of years have been plunged into Eastlands. In Manchester City Sheikh Mansour identified a club that already had a well-appointed stadium. It continues to belong to the local council for the time being but the ground can be expanded to a capacity of at least 60,000 in a place where a well-heeled audience may be attracted.
While few suppose that City will land the title this season Roberto Mancini has been given the means to establish his club eventually as a force in the Champions League. Liverpool's decline diminishes the English scene but anyone with the funds and desire to take over from Hicks and Gillett is buying himself a formidable challenge.