WHEN John Henry and Tom Werner walked away from Goodison last October they must have wondered what they had let themselves in for.
Just two days after completing their £300million takeover of Liverpool they sat in the directors box and watched their new investment be embarrassed by their neighbours. It was the worst possible start to Fenway Sports Group’s reign and it was an afternoon which graphically underlined the size of the task which lay in front of them.
Liverpool were in disarray. After being comprehensively outfought and outplayed by Everton, manager Roy Hodgson’s bizarre claim that it was the Reds’ best performance of the season merely rubbed salt into gaping wounds.
Only a superior goal difference to West Ham saved Liverpool the shame of propping up the Premier League. Eight games had yielded six points – the Reds’ worst start to a campaign since 1928 – and at the final whistle Goodison resounded with chants of ‘Going Down’.
FSG’s stated mission to restore the club to the summit of English football looked like a pipe dream amid claims from pundits that this was the worst Liverpool side to contest a derby for a generation.
Nearly a year on Liverpool return to Goodison for the first time today. The shirts will be the same colour but they are unrecognisable from that dispirited bunch who surrendered so meekly last October.
The team sheet will certainly have a very different look to it. There will be no Paul Konchesky, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Joe Cole or Fernando Torres for starters.
In fact Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel and Lucas Leiva are likely to be the only starters who also played a year ago.
New faces have brought new hope. FSG took the first decisive step towards putting the club back on track when they sent Hodgson packing and restored Kenny Dalglish to his throne.
The doom and gloom surrounding Anfield lifted and progress has continued courtesy of the owners’ show of ambition in the transfer market. An outlay of £114million – offset by sales of around £76million – has enabled Dalglish to embark on a major rebuilding job.
Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique were bought with days like today in mind. There are demons to be exorcised as Liverpool look to show just how far they have come since they last crossed Stanley Park.