All eyes on Henry as Liverpool enter new era

LONDON - Buying Liverpool may prove the easy part for new owners who will be expected to spend freely to rescue the five times European champions from their worst start to a season in more than 50 years.

Throw in failure to qualify for this season's Champions League, a squad lacking in quality and doubts about the proposed new stadium in nearby Stanley Park, and New England Sports Ventures have their work cut out.

New owner John W Henry, proprietor of Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox, assured fans on Friday that he would "do what is necessary" to get back to the top but the climb to the summit of English football promises to be long and arduous.

The fans will be behind him, having finally got rid of unpopular American double-act Tom Hicks and George Gillett, but they will not be happy until there are signs of a real turnaround on the pitch.

The courtroom dramas may have finished (at least until Hicks and Gillett begin their legal claim against Liverpool for massive damages to the tune of $1.6 billion but plenty of uncertainty remains even if the nightmare scenario of administration has been lifted.

Q - Is manager Roy Hodgson's job safe?

A - The vastly experienced Englishman was recruited as a safe pair of hands in the wake of Rafael Benitez's departure but so far there is no sign of a new dawn at Anfield.

Hodgson cannot take the blame for that though.

Most new managers at a major club would demand a war chest to start re-building but Hodgson was restricted by the off-field problems during the pre-season transfer window.

Henry, given the credit for rebuilding the Red Sox, will know that an instant turnaround is unlikely and will be under pressure to provide transfer funds. Chairman Martin Broughton was responsible for bringing Hodgson to Anfield and he has the board's backing but Henry will want to see a big improvement in the next two months.

Q - Will NESV wipe out all Liverpool's debts?

A - On completion of the takeover on Friday, NESV confirmed all the debt loaded on the club by the previous owners had been wiped out. That will immediately save the club an estimated 25-30 million pounds a year in interest payments which have meant it has existed in a financial straitjacket.

So far, however, it is unclear exactly how much Henry will be pumping into the club from his own fortune.

Q - Will Henry invest heavily in players?

A - The fans' main gripe is that most of the their hard-earned ticket money has simply been servicing the loans Gillett and Hicks took out to buy the club.

Now they will hope to see investment in players but it will not be straightforward.

Henry has yet to talk figures on what Hodgson can expect and there is also a huge difference between the way players are bought and sold in American baseball and the English Premier League. Henry will soon find out Liverpool's name alone will not entice players to Anfield and big sums will be required.

However, he vowed to make money available for transfers and Liverpool fans will be watching closely when the window opens.

Keeping Spain striker Fernando Torres happy will be key to his chances of ingratiating himself with the fans.

Q - New stadium or re-vamped Anfield?

A - Anfield's 45,000 capacity means their matchday revenue is not in the same league as Manchester United or Arsenal and the famous old stadium has certainly seen better days.

The credit crunch put Liverpool's proposed stadium in Stanley Park on ice but just because they now have a new owner and fresh financial start, it is not guaranteed that Henry will opt for moving away from Anfield.

Henry said on Friday after announcing the deal was complete: "It's too early to say what will happen on the stadium front."

His success with the Red Sox involved a 10-year renovation project of the Fenway Stadium -- turning an outdated building into one that will compete with the best for another 20 years.

Q - Will the Liverpool fans trust him?

A - Liverpool fans painted Hicks and Gillett as pariahs, blaming the Americans for just about everything to go wrong at Liverpool. While there is clear relief that they are now gone, there will be nagging worries about whether they have swapped two American opportunists with another one.

However, he ended 80 years of under-achievement at the Red Sox and made them the second most-valuable baseball team in the U.S. worth $840 million.

If he can help end Liverpool's 20-year wait for a league title he would be given the keys to the city.