Americans making mark in English soccer
AP Sports Writer
Vail CO, COLORADO
LONDON ” Hot dogs, apple pie and … soccer?
It may not exactly flow off the tongue, but a trio of American owners in English football are on the verge of doing something you wouldn’t expect from, well, a trio of American owners in English football.
Malcolm Glazer took the first step toward what the Yanks would refer to as a “triple crown” and the Brits would call a “treble” when Manchester United won the Premier League title Sunday.
It was the first major trophy for the team since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner and his sons took over two years ago amid protests from many of the club’s fans.
The 16-time league champions can make it a double May 19 when they face Chelsea in the FA Cup final. United already owns a record 11 FA Cups.
The third major trophy up for grabs would be the most impressive, partly because English rival Liverpool can win its sixth European Cup title despite a less-then-stellar Premier League season and partly because the team was sold to a pair of Americans in February.
Liverpool ” now owned by George Gillett Jr. of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens and Tom Hicks of baseball’s Texas Rangers ” will play AC Milan on May 23 in the Champions League final in Athens, Greece.
Another American, Randy Lerner, bought Aston Villa at the beginning of the season, and Stan Kroenke seems to be making an effort to take over Arsenal.
Whatever their reasons for investing in English soccer ” and it’ll take a minor miracle to convince anyone it isn’t about money ” Gillett is already looking forward to helping Liverpool win yet another European Cup.
“Our aim now is to go on and win the Champions League,” Gillett said Tuesday after Liverpool beat Chelsea on penalty kicks in the semifinals.
But while most Liverpool fans have embraced Gillett and Hicks and look forward to an influx of top players they hope the once-mighty dollar will bring, many United fans still hate the Glazers.
The Independent Manchester United Supporters Association, which has been anti-Glazer from the start in part because it is afraid the debt put on the team after the takeover will lead to higher ticket prices, complimented United manager Alex Ferguson on its Web site while taking a swipe at the owners.
“Given all the financial constraints he’s been under, we reckon this could well have been Fergie’s finest hour,” the site said about Ferguson, who has won nine Premier League titles and 20 trophies overall in his 20 years at United.
As for the Glazers, the group is less kind.
“Matt Busby had a vision,” reads an ever-changing image in the top-right corner of the site’s home page, referring to United’s other great manager of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. That statement is followed by four photos of past glories, but the third and final frame features photos of Glazer and his sons with the words, “This … is not it.”
A rather harsh attack on an owner who spent $32 million alone on England midfielder Michael Carrick. Before that, the Glazers also brought in Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, a pair of defenders who were among eight of the United players who made up the Premier League’s team of the year last month.
“All the doomsayers who said we would be in trouble have been proved wrong,” Manchester United chief executive David Gill said Monday. “(The Glazers) have brought a stability to the club and stability is the key element of any football club.”
Gillett and Hicks haven’t had time to bring Liverpool any new players because they took over after the transfer period ended. But the two have been amazed by what they bought, and it certainly looks as if they’re ready to move the club forward.
“I couldn’t have imagined when we bought the club the kinds of experiences we’ve already had,” Gillett said. “This is so much bigger and so much more important to so many people than we could ever have imagined.”
Despite owning the Canadiens, one of the most successful sports franchises in the world, Gillett is starting to understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to “the beautiful game.”