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Hicks' and Gillett's 'tag of shame'

Can Brian Reade win over more than Kopites with his new book on the LFC meltdown?

Published on May 5th 2011.

Hicks' and Gillett's 'tag of shame'
By Laura Brown

CAN you ever get balance from a football fan? Can a book written by a lifelong Red manage that tightrope?

Last year, when wall-to-wall coverage of Liverpool Football Club's descent into civil war filled each and every news radio and TV channel, Brian Reade was watching the unfolding drama aghast.

 “It felt so dramatic,” says The Mirror columnist. “Like you were watching a film”.

Two months after the High Court hearing that saw the club's owners Hicks and Gillett booted out of the boot room, Reade was finalising his book on the whole sorry affair.

Epic Swindle JACKET.jpgAn Epic Swindle: 44 Months With a Pair of Cowboys is his take on what happened at the club with the two Americans at the helm. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher feature prominently, along with Rafa Benitez, the former Chief Executive, Rick Parry, and Chairman David Moores.

“It was a journalistic exercise,” he says. “The story told through the eyes of those involved.

However, Reade insists he has tried to give everyone their say and defend themselves where need be.

“It is biased because it's through my eyes as well, but I wanted to give everyone a bit of balance and let people make up their own mind when they read it.”

A balance not extending to Tom Hicks and George Gillett, I point out. Depicting them as "a pair of cowboys" hardly hides what you think of them.

 “It was clear they were never going to give me their side of the story,” says the Huyton-born writer who started out as an Echo sub editor. “But it's not about them, it's about what Liverpool went through while they were there. Even the players are going to say they don't come out of it great.”

'I feel ashamed when I go to 
Anfield. The area has been 
allowed to fall into dereliction
and the people who live 
there have been so neglected'

 “Hicks and Gillett, because of the litigation going on while I was writing it, couldn't have spoken to me anyway,” says Reade. “But I started it with a dedication taken from John Steinbeck about the inspiration behind the Grapes of Wrath and the American capitalists who landed in the country in the Great Depression. He said he wanted to put a 'tag of shame on the greedy bastards responsible for this'. That's what I wanted to give them, a tag of shame.

 “They may come out with their own version and tell a different tale. This was heavily legalled, but when you hear a QC describe their testimony as a “grotesque parody of the truth” I think I'm on safe ground to call them shysters. They were prepared to see Liverpool die.”

Already, fansites, blogsites, forums and twitter feeds are full of praise for the writer who has less nailed his colours to the mast, more sat at the top of it waving a scarf and singing You'll Never Walk Alone.

“Brian Reade's Epic Swindle sold out in Waterstones Lpool 1. Surely you'd think they'd stock up more since it's in Lpool,” says one twitterer

“Those pair of clowns were worse than I thought,” says another.

hicks_885438c.jpgIt does feel a little like preaching to the choir. Is anyone other than a die-hard Kopite going to be interested?

 “It's an interesting question,” says Reade. “Is it just an LFC book? I hope it will be more appealing than the last one (44 years with the same bird: A Liverpudlian love affair). That was a fan's view, my journey with Liverpool Football Club.

 “This is more like a journalistic analysis, over the course of 44 months, of how the football club was brought to its knees to the extent where it was four hours from administration.

 “I was on a radio station this week and a Tottenham fan came on and they were talking about how what happened at Liverpool has implications for other clubs. William Gaillard (advisor to UEFA President Michel Platini) told a select committee two weeks ago how what happened to Liverpool was a classic example of how a great club nearly died. So there is a sense that there are lessons to be learned for other clubs.”

Talking to a passionate Red can sometimes feel like you've slipped down a rabbit hole in the Kop. Liverpool, and all it entails, is the centre of a red-tinted universe. There's plenty of talk of the “promised land”, emotional roller-coasters, of being “depressed, exhausted, angry”; battles of “internet terrorism” as fans fought fire with fire, targeting the companies Hicks and Gillett were trying to negotiate refinancing deals with.

Author Brian ReadeYet according to The Mirror, Reade's book knocked Jamie Oliver off the top spot at Amazon at one point, so perhaps even if it is just Reds fans buying it, there are enough of them to make it a viable mainstream product. Instead of writing it, say, as a series of newspaper articles, Reade wanted to tie all the loose ends of the story together in one volume, while it was still fresh in people's minds.

David Starkey, it ain't. But this was a tale already widely played out in the media and online. Is there an argument for just giving the fans more of what they want?

 “There was civil war at the club. The board was split, with themselves and with the manager. The club was riddled with it and it was out-and-out warfare. There were constant media briefings and counter briefings. Journalists were being used and it was a completely horrible situation. The fans saw through all that and they weren't led in a particular direction.”

Football, as we know, is a mega brand. Every time a 20-year-old millionaire kicks a ball there are billions of pounds at play. The sense, perhaps, that Liverpool should somehow be above all that seems a little dated, maybe even naïve. Reade welcomes the fact there are now “proper sports businessmen” at the helm, ready to turn Liverpool into a cash success.

But it can't half rankle when you read about players like Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, speaking either directly to Reade or via a network of “friends”, about their dissatisfaction with the previous owners.

As they drive out of the hallowed ground after a home match, do they ever think of the hundreds of families still living in houses in Anfield, who expected to be moved out the way to make room for a new stadium?

“I feel ashamed when I go to Anfield,” says Reade. “The area has been allowed to fall into dereliction and the people who live there have been so neglected. It's a big football club, a big commercial entity that's been at war and it hasn't seen through its plans.

condemned-houses-anfield.jpg “It's heartbreaking to see and looking at the area is symbolic of what's been happening at the club and how other clubs have gone ahead of them.”

But, says Reade: “Liverpool was ripe for the picking, before the Americans arrived, its decline and descent into anarchy began way before. It's been badly run for years so it was easy for it to be picked off. It's reflective in the area. Liverpool Football Club have got to sort themselves out."

He predicts the ground will be redeveloped, much as the current owners, New England Sports Ventures, did at Fenway Park home to the Boston Red Sox.

 “I think it makes more sense to knock down the slums and rebuild. Heads have got to be knocked together here. Redevelop Anfield as is. As a fan that's largely down to wanting to see Liverpool win the league in that ground. Then when they win the league and get the boost in funds, redevelop around the ground. I think they'll rebuild it to a 50,000-60,000 seater stadium.”

The new book will launch at The Casa on Hope Street this Friday. Entertainingly, while Mr Reds Fan is speaking upstairs, in the basement there will be a meeting of “Keep Everton in Our City”.

“It's a Nicky Allt play right there,” he jokes.

*An Epic Swindle: 44 Months With A Pair Of Cowboys is published by Quercus is available in all good bookshops, and some rubbish ones too.

*Book Launch, Friday May 6, 7pm, The Casa, 29 Hope Street, L1 9BQ. Free entry, places are limited so must be booked in advance. Call Writing on the Wall on 0151 703 0020 or email: info@writingonthewall.org.uk


Follow Laura Brown on Twitter @finny23

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AnonymousMay 5th 2011.

This is sold out everywhere, including Amazon, so there must be a lot of Kopites engaged in naval gazing still

Eric the VikingMay 7th 2011.

Launch for this was good at the Casa last night. Cheers.

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