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Liverpool must challenge at top, says owner John Henry


In-depth interview - Liverpool owner John Henry

Liverpool owner John Henry expects his side to be challenging at the top of the Premier League in the near future.

The American's New England Sports Ventures (NESV) bought the club for £300m in October, and they have since climbed out of the relegation zone.

Asked about his realistic hopes for a title challenge, Henry told BBC Sport: "You can't place a timetable on it.

"Within five years, sooner than that, we have to be competitive with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United."

He added: "We have to be right there with them ever year. That's what we have to do."

Liverpool's recent struggles have increased speculation over the future of their two leading players, captain Steven Gerrard and striker Fernando Torres, and Henry admitted he could not be certain they would be with the club next season.

We're not the youngest team in the league so we need more depth, we need more youth, but we won't rule out going after top players

Liverpool owner John Henry

"I'm new to this sport, so it's hard for me to know, because in the United States you could say, 'Yes, definitely. They're going to stay,' Henry added.

"But the way things work in Europe in football, the players have a greater say in those things. That's been my impression thus far.

"But in any club you really don't want players who don't want to be there, so what it's up to us to do is provide the environment, the resources, the philosophy and the people to ensure that the players want to be there.

"I haven't asked for guarantees from anyone but I've met them.

"Based on what's happened, I don't think there's anyone on the squad that's been happy with what's happened at this point, there's been a decline, but I think that they're more optimistic than some of the people in the media are."

Werner wants Liverpool to play match abroad

The Merseysiders were struggling near the foot of the table at the time of NESV's takeover, but have won their last two Premier League encounters to move out of the bottom three.

But despite their improving league form and Thursday's 3-1 win over Napoli in the Europa League, speculation still surrounds the future of manager Roy Hodgson, who succeeded Rafael Benitez on 1 July.

That speculation intensified following this week's appointment of Damien Comolli as the club's director of football strategy.

Henry, 61, has insisted that the move will benefit the club and dismisses suggestions it is divisive.

"I don't think it undermines his [Hodgson's] authority at all," Henry said. "I think a manager can only do so much.

"If it [the model] works in the US, if it works in other places in Europe, I see no reason why it can't work here. In Roy's case, he was very happy and encouraged this to happen."

der Retter

Henry, who also runs the Boston Red Sox baseball team, added that he no plans to replace Hodgson and thought he would still be in charge this time next year.

"That's what I expect but again I know so little it's hard for me to make assurances of any kind on almost any subject," Henry continued.

"But I have no problem at all with Roy Hodgson. He didn't build this team, so the fact we got off to a slow start, I'm not sure you can lay that at his feet.

"Our history in Boston is we don't change managers or general managers very often. I believe it is up to me to support Roy, to make sure he has the tools he needs to be successful. I never had a lack of confidence in him."

And Henry stressed that Liverpool will remain a potential destination for the best players in the world should they be available.

"We are definitely in the market for the highest calibre players, but age is an issue," he stated.

"We're not the youngest team in the league so we need more depth, we need more youth, so that will be a focus of Damien's. But we won't rule out going after top players."

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see also
Reds co-owner backs overseas game
05 Nov 10 |  Liverpool
Hodgson backed by new owners NESV
17 Oct 10 |  Liverpool
Henry pledges to revive Liverpool
16 Oct 10 |  Liverpool
NESV completes Liverpool takeover
15 Oct 10 |  Liverpool
Owners put Liverpool up for sale
16 Apr 10 |  Liverpool
Clubs delay '39th game' decision
06 Jun 08 |  Premier League
Fifa rejects 39th-game proposal
14 Mar 08 |  Premier League

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