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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Is it nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them? A question posed 500 years ago by Hamlet in Denmark was emphatically answered this weekend by club director Tom Hicks Jnr in Liverpool. It seems that, when your only opposition to those slings and arrows in your in-box is to grumpily fire off an email that reads, and I paraphrase for decency, "Blow me, Duckface. Go to hell, I'm sick of you," suffering them is certainly the nobler option. Mind you, Hicks' opposition certainly ended something. The resulting outcry brought the only moment of dignity from the American cabal since they rolled up on Merseyside. Hicks Jnrs' resignation.

Football is an emotional sport and some fans can be particularly vindictive. The advent of internet messageboards and radio phone-ins has given a very public platform to the kind of borderline illiterates whose green-inked scrawlings would only ever be aired in the wastepaper basket of their local newspaper. But what makes this story all the more compelling is that the email in question wasn't even a nasty one. It was the perfectly fair observation that Rafa Benitez's first priority should be on the team, not debt reduction. It was a rational expression of concern. Things must be really bad in the boardroom if something this benign was enough to tip Hicks Jnr over the edge.

It has been almost three years since the Americans arrived at Anfield and in those three years they've managed to break almost every promise they made. They promised a new stadium. There is no new stadium. They promised that the club would not be laden with debt. The club is over GBP250m in debt with annual interest payments of around GBP30m. They promised to respect the traditions of the club. They emailed a supporter and called him 'Duckface'. In these three dark years, Liverpool have won absolutely nothing. Their last trophy was the FA Cup in 2006. They currently sit in 7th place in the Premier League and, if they don't qualify for the Champions League, they'll be forced to sell Fernando Torres, arguably the best striker in the world. All things considered, it's not really going very well, is it?

Liverpool fans have every right to voice their concerns about the way that their club is being managed. On and off the pitch, it's an absolute shambles. But while no-one can realistically guarantee success and silverware in an industry as bonkers as football, a bit of class shouldn't be too much to ask for. Football supporters are constantly squeezed for cash, either in rising ticket prices, frequent releases of new replica shirts, online subscriptions and all sorts of other paraphernalia. They pay their money and, within reason, they are entitled to their comments. Hicks Jnr could have done anything with that email. He could have answered it sensibly, he could have passed it on to someone else, he could even have ignored it. Replying with foul-mouthed petulance wasn't just rude, it was stupid. His response has become a metaphor for this ghastly era and it supports the widely-held perception that the only commodity they have for the fans is contempt.

No-one will particuarly miss Hicks Jnr. He has shamed the club, shamed his father and shamed himself. What a pity for Liverpool fans that only one American is clearing out his desk today. Their sea of troubles continues to swell.