Friday 29 February ~
If ever there was a good week for Jamie Carragher to have a "roadside confrontation" on his way to training this was the one. Jamie's barney did generate a few headlines – not least because it has only been a month since he climbed a fence to swap insults with Luton fans after a Cup tie at Kenilworth Road – but the story got much less prominence than it would have received in a quiet week. Instead, his club was in the news for different reasons every day.
Liverpool's American owners have previously denied that they would consider selling up to Dubai Investment Capital but now it seems that co-owner George Gillett wants to do precisely that, something that has him at loggerheads with business partner Tom Hicks. The latter continues to claim that he has no intention of going away but observers expect that DIC will be granted access to Liverpool's accounts with a view to making a takeover bid by April.
Although the club look likely to reach the last eight of the Champions League, and are still favourites to finish in the fourth qualifying place again this year, Steven Gerrard announced this week that he is “getting tired” of Liverpool's failure to mount a challenge in the Premier League. He also joined manager Rafa Benitez in complaining of "damaging" rifts at boardroom level that he feels are holding the club back. Meanwhile, two former fan favourites at Anfield, Phil Thompson and John Aldridge, are among the latest recruits to the Share Liverpool group aiming to raise the £500 million that is said to be necessary to acquire control of the club – though that would still depend on whoever the owners happen to be by then agreeing to sell.
And a separate group of supporters have announced the launch of AFC Liverpool. Although the club is set to follow the example of FC United by joining the feeder system beneath the Northern Premier League, its organisers are intending to create a "grassroots addition to Liverpool FC, not a replacement for it" which does suggest that the club's future will be implicitly tied to developments at Anfield. Since they were set up in 2005, FC United have lost a proportion of their original following who've drifted back to watching Manchester United. But they have built up a solid fanbase who seem prepared to stick by the club as it progresses through the non-League structure.
AFC Liverpool, however, seem to resemble more closely another breakaway club, formed two years after FC United. AFC Barnsley was set up in the wake of a stalled takeover at a club that was drifting in mid-table in League One. Since then, however, the club has been revived, with a promotion to the Championship and a FA Cup run this year that involved a win at Anfield. AFC Barnsley was disbanded in 2006, their supporters having had good reason to return to Oakwell. AFC Liverpool might flourish but you sense that its creators would prefer it to be a short-term proposition.