John Henry’s cigar-chomping celebrations after Boston’s World Series victory in 2007 figured prominently in British newspapers Thursday after the Red Sox owner emerged as the prospective new owner of Liverpool football club.
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While newspapers welcomed the possible departure of Liverpool’s current American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. after a turbulent three-year reign, the media offered a generally positive view of Henry and his New England Sports Ventures.
"These new Yanks will knock your Red Sox off" was a headline in The Daily Mail, one of a number of papers praising the sporting track record of Henry and his two NESV principals, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino.
The Times’ back page had a black-and-white picture of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, except for his socks which were kept red – the club’s colors. The paper also said NESV would be a better fit at Liverpool than Hicks and Gillett because the Boston group brought two World Series titles to the Red Sox since taking over in 2002.
"The most significant highlight on the CVs of the new trio of wannabe Reds is that they have experience of taking over creaking, old and once successful sporting institutions and bringing back the good times," The Times said.
Both The Times and The Sun compared Boston to Liverpool in a host of cultural areas – New Kids on the Block vs. the Beatles and Boston baked beans vs. lamb stew – as well as their respective records on the field.
The Independent described Henry as "a businessman first, a fan second. And that’s worked out just fine for the Boston Red Sox."
"We all know what Henry is at Anfield for," The Daily Telegraph said. "It’s not to sate some childhood passion for Liverpool Football Club … If Henry and his business partners want to reap a rich harvest they must tread carefully, distancing themselves from their loathed compatriots Tom Hicks and George Gillett."
But there remains a sense of caution, with some of the papers claiming Liverpool fans fear things won’t change under new American owners.
The banner headline in the Guardian’s sports section read: "Exit Americans. Enter Americans."
"Better the devil you know, it is widely observed, than the devil you don’t," columnist Richard Williams wrote.
The takeover still faces a legal challenge from Hicks, who is fighting the proposed 300-million pound ($477 million) sale of the debt-ridden club in the High Court. Hicks wants about twice that much.
There was little sympathy for the current owners, with The Sun’s back-page splash reading: "Gillett and Hicks had one final chance to walk away with their heads held high. Now they leave humiliated."