During the height of their protests against owners Tom Hicks and George Gillet, Liverpool fans burned American flags as a intentionally provocative sign of their hatred.  "Yanks Out" was a consistent refrain, echoing across Merseyside as the two American billionaires took the club further and further into debt.  With the deadline for the Royal Bank of Scotland to seize the club and take it into administration approaching, the roar of anti-American disdain became deafening.  Though the vitriol was specifically directed at Hicks and  Gillet, the nationality of the owners became a significant element in the way fans expressed their anger.

Today, Liverpool Football Club supporters are rejoicing, their prayers finally answered.  Hicks and Gillet have been ousted, the club has a new owner, and things are looking up at Anfield.  In an intriguing twist, it just so happens that the new owners are also American; on the surface, this puts Liverpool fans in the odd position of welcoming new Yanks after so vociferously deriding the old Yanks.  

Though Anti-American feelings have faded, don't expect any apologies for burned flags and anti-American chants.

John Henry and New England Sports Ventures, the group now in possession of Liverpool, will have every opportunity to change the minds of those Yank-hating Liverpudlians.  By ridding the club of Hicks and Gillet, they already have a measure of conquering heroism about them; the immediate tasks of helping to enact a turn around on the field and solidifying the club financially will ultimately determine how they're viewed by the fan base.  If they succeed, we can be certain that "Yanks out" will never be uttered in reference to them.  Their American origin won't be mentioned, particularly in a negative context.  If the fortunes of the club are revived and trophies won, perhaps an American flag or two, unburned and handled respectfully, might even show up at Anfield.  

The fact that Hicks and Gillet are American had little to do with their disastrous reign as Liverpool owners.  If John Henry turns out to be a good Premier League owner, that too won't be because of his nationality.  The American element in all of this is a distraction, not a relevant factor, but is played up because of the American relationship with both soccer and the world in general.  Viewed as soccer neophytes or worse, American ownership is subject to suspicion from the outset; though leveraged purchases and treating clubs as assets (while neglecting to appreciate the level of public trust that comes with ownership) is a sin not unique to Americans, the presumed lack of knowledge and historical understanding is a strike against them.  Because Hicks and Gillet failed to give proper reverence to the history and traditions of Liverpool, they ran afoul of the fan base at a deeper level than simply financial tomfoolery might have caused.

It's not difficult to imagine why some English football fans might believe Americans investors lack understanding on what a club can mean to its community and its fans.  The "franchise" model runs counter their own traditions and the glitz and glamor of American marketing gives everything the appearance of the new and shallow.  The idea that a club might be moved from one city to another is anathema; MK Dons (formerly Wimbledon) are reviled as the only example in the history and almost universally disparagingly called "Franchise FC" by those appalled at the move.  There's much more to the American franchise system, including deep-rooted histories that might prepare an owner for the feelings English fans have towards their clubs, but it's easily overshadowed by example after example of American callousness.

In the case of Liverpool fans, they have specific and painful experience with American callousness. 

An illustration of British perception comes from an article at The Daily Beast on the Liverpool saga:

"Hicks outraged Liverpool by fans by attempting to sell naming rights to their legendary grounds, Anfield—a move that would have hardly registered in the United States, where stadium names change with the seasons."

Whether the conclusion drawn is fair or not - the selling of naming rights for Fenway Park certainly wouldn't fly with Red Sox fans to cite a pertinent example - the sentiment expressed reflects the uphill battle American owners have when it comes to the perception.  Henry and NESV will no doubt tread carefully, making sure to defer to tradition whenever necessary because they're intelligent; their American-ness is not a factor.  

The hope is that Liverpool has gone from "bad Yanks" to "good Yanks."  Henry and NESV ride into town on a wave of good feelings, their nationality a matter of no concern; for now, it's enough that they've rid the club of the American scourge.  The fans can put away their "Yanks Out" signs and flag-lighting flames and enjoy the new dawn for Liverpool.  Expressions of gratefulness might even include a nod to the country where Henry and Co. come from, though the reference won't appear nearly as pervasively.  But if NESV take Liverpool down a dark path, or fail to improve the current state of the club, rest assured the anti-American accoutrement will be back in force.

Liverpool fans shouldn't paint Americans with the same broad brush simply because Hicks and Gillet turned out to be abject failures at English football club ownership.  Henry and NESV should have their chance to prove themselves with their American-ness a non-factor.  Liverpool fans may be wary, but a common origin does not mean a common approach.  These Americans are not necessarily those Americans.

Today Liverpool fans find themselves happy to see an American face on their televisions saying the right things and promising a focus on winning.  After so much time spent protesting not only their former owners but defiling national symbols of Hicks and Gillet's country it's odd to see them suddenly enthralled with another "Yank."  

It's amazing how quickly the tide can turn with a precious thing like a football club is involved.  

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