George Gillett Jnr, Liverpool’s new co-Chairman, has spoken to the official website about the Arsenal game and the future of our club.
What were your emotions when you took your seat in the director’s box as co-chairman of Liverpool Football Club for the first time on Saturday?
It was like an out of body experience. It was surreal, amazing – a moment you can’t even dream about. It was everything I expected and a lot more.
And what did you make of the match itself?
It was outstanding, absolutely wonderful. The team played very well and Peter Crouch was superb wasn’t he? It was very exciting. The whole day was just beautiful. The sun was shining and the atmosphere was great.
How much are you looking forward to meeting again with Rafa Benitez?
I’m very much looking forward to meeting with Rafa. He’s a very special man. He’s obviously a great coach and a brilliant manager.
A lot of people have been asking what are we going to tell him but that’s not what we’re here to do. We are anxious to hear from him and hear what he’d like to do, what his thoughts and ideas are, what his plans would be to build this wonderful, wonderful, club up even more than it already is.
Do you have any further developments to report on the new stadium?
To be competitive we must be patient because any decision we make today will have to last for 50 or more years. And so with this in mind we want to be very cautious. What I am asking for is that everyone shows patience and gives us a little time. We have to be very mindful and respectful of the planning process.
There is a plan in place for which approval has already been granted and we have to operate to the extent we can within that process and approval. Decisions about modifications will be taken very carefully. What we want to do is build a stadium that will comply with the seating capacity approval but be expandable. As the fans demand more seats we want to be able to give them to them.
So when do expect work on the new stadium to resume and do?
I’d say late spring, maybe early summer.
Apart from the attending the Arsenal game, what else have you been up to since arriving in Liverpool?
We only arrived late on Friday night. Unfortunately, my wife came down with an illness and couldn’t come but my son has travelled with me. We’ve got some meetings planned and we’re going to Eindhoven for the Champions League tie against PSV. It should be a good trip and one which I’m really looking forward to.
Have you had a chance to see much of the city?
I’m an old man so I grew up hearing all about the Beatles and obviously knew of Liverpool because of this. I’ve spent some time driving around and from what I’ve seen I am really impressed. It’s clean, it’s neat and its citizens are very cordial.
You’ve spoke in the past about your desire to meet with the fans, have you bumped into any so far on this visit?
We met with the fans as soon as we landed. We were going through customs at the airport and some of the staff were joking that they wouldn’t let us through unless we promised not to ground share! Since then, we’ve spoken with many fans, from all over the world. Through this website they told us that they’re very familiar with all the Liverpool facts and were only too keen to express to us their support for the club. We are very appreciative of this and look forward to meeting more.
One of your first actions as co-chairman was to commission a fans survey, what has the feedback been like from this?
It’s been fantastic, it really has. You normally get a three or four per cent response rate to something like this but we connected with 40,000 Liverpool fans and as of Friday night we’d had replies from over 11,000 of these.
Have you spoken with the players yet?
We will be visiting Melwood on Sunday to meet the team and watch them do a light workout ahead of the trip to Eindhoven. We’ll also congratulate them on their tremendous win over Arsenal. There’s a post-game procedure in this country that’s a little different to where we are from. We’d normally be in the locker room with the players immediately after a game congratulating them but there’s a level of respect here, players are given their space, and we’re only too happy to adhere to this.
Have you found that your knowledge of English football has improved since you became involved with Liverpool?
Oh it has, most definitely. I admit I was pretty inept when we first started but I’m learning all the time. Our sons, Foster and Alexander, are huge fans of the game. They both played at quite a good level and follow it. Alexander went to the World Cup in Germany and travels around the world to watch football, while Foster is amazing in the fact that he can tell you about the strengths and weakness of virtually every player in the Premiership, Championship and other leagues! We obviously don’t know the game like you guys do but we’re very respectful of the sport.
How do you follow the fortunes of the Reds when back home in the US?
I watch every game live on television. I get up at five thirty in the morning to watch.
When are you next due in Liverpool after this visit?
I don’t really know to be honest but hopefully it will be sooner rather than later and I’d like to finish by saying a massive thank-you to all the Liverpool fans. Every day, I discover a bit more about just how important Liverpool Football Club is to its fans and they have been fabulous.