Henry sees grim Liverpool reality
Liverpool's new owner John W Henry could not resist taking a look at what £300m has bought him - and got a gruesome illustration of the scale of the task he has taken on.
Henry had planned to wait until Blackburn visited Anfield next week to make his formal entrance but because he was in the vicinity after completing his takeover, curiosity and the prospect of a Merseyside derby at Everton got the better of the Boston Red Sox owner.
Everton and a tumultuous Goodison Park provided a brutal introduction as Liverpool were comprehensively upstaged and Henry had only shouts of "I hope you've kept your receipt" to accompany him as he made his way out of the directors' box.
If, in the words of "You'll Never Walk Alone", Liverpool hoped for a golden sky at the end their recent storm, they were to be sorely disappointed. There are more clouds gathering over an increasingly besieged Roy Hodgson.
Hodgson will have been heartened by measured and firm messages of support from the Anfield hierarchy, but any hopes of creating a good first impression on his new bosses evaporated amid a desperate Liverpool performance.
And Hodgson did not help his own cause by delivering an after-match analysis that bordered on the surreal and left him open to ridicule only eight Premier League matches into his Liverpool tenure.
After Everton eased into the lead with goals either side of the interval from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta, David Moyes' side sat back and effectively asked Liverpool to show them what they had got. Answer? Little or nothing.
And yet Hodgson clung to spells of punchless passing to launch an absurd defence of Liverpool's performance, announcing: "I refuse to sit here and accept that we were outplayed or in any way inferior."
Hodgson has every right to protect his players, but this was positive spin gone mad after Everton had proved superior in every area of the pitch against a Liverpool team that had given as poor a performance at Goodison Park as any in recent memory.
Not content with this massaging of the grim reality of what Liverpool's fans had just witnessed Hodgson, to the general astonishment of all present, added: "That is as good as I have seen a Liverpool team play under my management."
If it was, it does not a say much for what has gone before.
Hodgson already faces a battle to win affection and respect from Liverpool's fans as they lie in the Premier League's bottom two, and to deliver such a flagrant misreading and rose-tinted version of these events runs the risk of damaging his credibility even further.
He suggested he may be "in a sample of one" with this view. And he might just be right. It was certainly not an opinion shared by many Liverpool supporters who were forced to sit through raucous chants of "going down" from their Everton counterparts revelling in the toils of this painfully ordinary side.
Hodgson's message may be regarded as making the best of a bad day, but there was a hint of delusion about the gloss he applied so enthusiastically. It was King Canute stuff and few were fooled.
He will need the time Liverpool's owners have promised to give him. It would, after all, be regarded as almost reckless to march into Anfield on the stability ticket and make sacking the manager your first meaningful act, especially as Hodgson has only just arrived.
But the other messages coming out of Anfield since the Americans' arrival had the word "win" at their heart. And the growing concerns from Liverpool's supporters means there is now a danger that they may switch their discontent from the despised but departed Tom Hicks and George Gillett to a manager who has failed to fire their imagination.
Joe Cole, and this is a player I have never hidden my admiration for in the past, was at best anonymous and at worst awful, while Paul Konchesky's performance was summed up by a late effort that ended up further away from goal than where it started.
It already appears the Premier League is too much for Christian Poulsen, absent for personal reasons on Sunday, while Portugal's Raul Meireles is willing but still coming to terms with the robust style in England's top flight.
The task for Hodgson now is to somehow fashion the wins that lift Liverpool up the table, rebuild morale and, crucially, show enough of the skills that earned him so much respect at Fulham to convince Henry and company to trust him with transfer funds in January.
To talk of a Liverpool manager being in trouble after eight league games is almost beyond belief, but Hodgson needs results fast to stem the tide that currently seems to be flowing against him.
Liverpool barely raised a gallop until Everton were two goals in front, just reward for a performance that hit the right levels of passion and skill. They sized up Liverpool in the opening exchanges and liked what they saw.
And with Yakubu a bludgeoning presence up front, Cahill a constant menace in midfield and Sylvain Distin a powerhouse at the back, Everton were in no mood to allow Henry and Liverpool to round off their big week with a win in the 214th Merseyside derby.
Moyes was rightly wreathed in smiles. Everton used international week for some team bonding in the Lake District as captain Phil Neville admitted: "I can honestly say the sight of Yakubu walking up a mountain is a memory that will live with me a long time."
They were scaling peaks again at Goodison, and Moyes was in expansive mood as he outlined the philosophy that means that while Henry and his New England Sports Ventures cohorts may have bought the more high-profile club on Merseyside, they have not bought the better football team.
He said: "I wouldn't swap my chairman Bill Kenwright for anybody from America and Saudi Arabia because he's a supporter and he backs his manager."
Moyes used his £60,000 deal to bring 23-year-old Seamus Coleman to Everton from Sligo Rovers as an example of the careful husbandry he requires in the absence of big money flowing into Goodison.
Coleman, who spent last season on loan at Blackpool, has a dashing style and it was this that created Cahill's goal. Moyes has swiftly noted the youngster's defensive weaknesses and moved him right-back to an advanced role. Bargain buys and shrewd management of resources is the Moyes template.
"It isn't all about money," he said. "If all you wanted football to be about was money you wouldn't enjoy it."
There may not be much money around at Everton - but there was plenty of joy on Sunday. Liverpool may be newly-rich, but this was a joyless Merseyside derby for new owner Henry and manager Hodgson.