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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 May, 2004, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Morgan plays power game
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Liverpool - a football institution built on stability and continuity - is suddenly a house divided.

Anyone can make mistakes, but we just seem to have made a hell of a lot of them

The Anfield empire has been wounded by the failure to win a league title since 1990, and has been pushed to the margins by the successes of Manchester United and Arsenal.

Liverpool's claim to at least be part of the Premiership's power trio has also been undermined by the all-powerful chequebook of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

So in an open admission that money talks, and in an attempt to re-create old glories, Liverpool have made themselves open to offers.

And those offers have come in two contrasting shapes.

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was first off the mark with a 65m bid for a 30% interest - but now local boy made good, building tycoon Steve Morgan, has joined the battle.

Morgan has been an ever-present figure in the background at Anfield in recent years, keen to invest and a sharp observer of any weaknesses in the current boardroom regime.

He has been constantly rebuffed by chairman David Moores, but now he is appealing to the popular vote to give him the nod ahead of the Thai offer.

So what will the emergence of Morgan mean if his 73m attempt to buy into Liverpool is successful?

THE MANAGER

Gerard Houllier may have had a distinctly uncomfortable breakfast had he been following Morgan's early morning news conference to outline his plans.

Morgan shielded any ringing endorsement of the manager behind the time-honoured "not the time or place to discuss" tactic.

Gerard Houllier
Morgan criticised Houllier's signings

But, when pressed, it became obvious Morgan has serious reservations, particularly when it came to Houllier's record in the transfer market.

He said: "Players have been brought into the club for a lot of money and have been a major disappointment.

"It is up to the management going forward, in whatever shape that management is, to make sure it doesn't happen again."

And he added ominously: "Anyone can make mistakes, but we just seem to have made a hell of a lot of them."

All words that indicate life would become uncomfortable for Houllier should he wield power.

THAKSIN OPTION: Houllier's position unaffected.

THE PLAYERS

Morgan made it clear he appreciates what he called "the core" players, by which he presumably means Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen.

El-Hadji Diouf
Morgan refuses to name Liverpool's bad buys!

But he was scathing about some recent signings and members of the squad "we would all like to see the back of".

He said: "I'm not going to name players, but if they hadn't been a major disappointment we would be challenging Manchester United and Arsenal."

Morgan won't name them, but if he did they would be led by El-Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao and Bruno Cheyrou.

Emile Heskey is on his way to Birmingham City and Morgan sounded like a man in the mood for a cull if he assumed a position of influence.

THAKSIN OPTION: Houllier in place and making all the moves. Thaksin's actual knowledge of Liverpool's current squad is still a matter of debate.

THE BOARD

The crucial area of contention.

Would Liverpool chairman David Moores and his fellow directors, who have studiously side-stepped many efforts from Morgan to invest over the years, finally succumb to the advances of a man who has made a habit of being one of their sternest critics?

Rick Parry and David Moores
Parry and Moores must make a crucial choice

After his latest broadside, at Liverpool's annual general meeting in January, Morgan said: "The chairman has refused to talk to me. Money is available from me and others, but the chairman will not dilute his holding."

A recent 50m offer was rejected, with Anfield sources suggesting the stumbling block was that it would force Moores to reduce his own shareholding to 37.5%, with his critic also taking 37.5%.

It came after Moores said he was ready to bury the hatchet, but it will still require a major piece of diplomacy for the two to work together inside the Anfield boardroom.

Morgan himself admits: "It's fair to say we have had our differences over the way the club has been run, but we have both got the interests of Liverpool at heart.

"It is nothing personal. I have disagreed with some of the policies of the club and said so, but it's not personal."

He would not only want a seat on the board, but may have other representatives alongside him who he said would be "highly-motivated in their desire to make Liverpool number one".

Another thinly-veiled swipe perhaps?

Morgan would be a fiercely-driven force for change - but is this what a Liverpool hierarchy built on continuity and minimum disruption and discord wants?

THAKSIN OPTION: Would expect representation on the board, but all early indications suggest he will be a benign influence, at least at the start, leaving major decisions to those already in power.

Thaksin appears more interested in the commercial spin-offs of a successful Liverpool.

THE NEW GROUND

Anfield insiders claimed one stumbling block to Morgan's earlier proposal was that he was not opposed to a groundshare with Everton.

This is one of the most contentious issues, with most fans on Merseyside unable to consider using the same home as their arch rivals.

Morgan did not dismiss the notion completely, but attempted to calm the doubts of those who only want a Liverpool home.

He said: "Like any true Liverpool supporter I would always prefer us to have our own ground. That would be the premise I would start with.

"If my offer is accepted and I am on the board you have to look at all options. My preferred option is Liverpool to have its own ground."

THAKSIN OPTION: Would support the board's move to a new Liverpool-only stadium in Stanley Park.

THE DILEMMA

Liverpool's board will know that Morgan's offer will win the popular vote on Merseyside.

He is a lifelong Liverpool fan made good, whose intentions and background are well known compared to Thaksin, who has allegedly expressed support for Manchester United and has no known links with Anfield.

He knows how to tug on the Kop's sentimental heartstrings. See the red van with LIV FC number plate that was used to deliver his bid to Anfield!

Liverpool's board must decide whether Thaksin's offer, which appears to allow them to remain in total control of their destiny and maintain the status quo, is preferable to Morgan's.

Morgan clearly wants an active boardroom role and a change in policy and direction, as well as suggesting he might want a close look at the performance of manager Gerard Houllier and his squad.

And could Liverpool's directors leap comfortably into bed with someone who has been such a public critic of their policies?

Liverpool's immediate future will rest on the outcome of their deliberations.






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