Red mist: the new owner will have to win over a sceptical fanbase

Those at Anfield should by now realise the potential fallacy of first impressions. And, at the least, they're not presenting pending new owner John W Henry as the saviour of Liverpool in the manner they might have done. No, the reaction has been much more reserved and cautious than when the last American owners arrived three and a half years ago. Once bitten, twice shy and all that. Supporters' representative and football academic Rogan Taylor was talking this week about how "a lot of Liverpool fans are tremulous and worried". Another common warning was "don't pop the champagne open yet".

A few raised glasses might have been understandable though. This, after all, was a day long awaited. Tom Hicks and George Gillett are on their way out. In an ironic twist that only sweetens the taste, they haven't made any money out of Liverpool either. In fact, they're set to lose money. A lot of it. A reported £144.4m. Far from ruthlessly exploiting a sporting institution as they surreptitiously intended on taking over in 2007, their greed got the better of them. Sometimes, it seems, real life does have a few morality tales.

On a wider level though, the worst-case scenarios and fears can finally be waved away. Liverpool are now much more unlikely to 'do a Leeds'. The future is a little clearer on the horizon.

But, far from celebrating good times, it's lyrics from Pete Townshend the fans have been singing all week. One, "who the f**k are you?" Two, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" and, three, "won't get fooled again".

The apprehension at Henry's takeover is even more understandable. Of the little that's known about how the Boston Red Sox owner plans to fund the purchase, one thing is clear. He is very far from an oligarch or an oil magnate. He can't just throw money at the club's problems. Indeed, first it seems, he'll have to scramble around for cash. There has been unconfirmed talk of a 17-man consortium doing so, while Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton has been at pains to point out that Henry's is a "rational, commercial" approach. Or, in other words, trying to make the very best of the minimal money there.

But if New England Sports Ventures (NESV) are just about raising enough to buy the club, where is the additional investment going to come from to make it a success and their takeover worthwhile? That was Hicks and Gillett's main problem. The likelihood is more debt or higher ticket prices. The latter is something Fenway Park regulars have become accustomed to. And the frugality in the transfer market is something Anfield regulars will.

At the very least though, the fog has been lifted. Even if it does mean Liverpool supporters will now realise they're right back where they started three and a half years ago. The express reason David Moores initially sold the club was because he realised his stewardship couldn't bring the new stadium required to compete with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Both United and Arsenal, for example, earn £2m more than Liverpool every home match.

Hicks and Gillett would bring the club to new ground alright. Much shakier ground. Far from catching up, Liverpool fell through the cracks and out of the Big Four. Now that Henry's takeover has firmed things up and effectively removed the debt, the club can look to the future without worrying what's going to grab them from behind.

An increasing number of Liverpool supporters would prefer that future not feature Roy Hodgson. By already expressing their support for the manager, however, NESV are ironically adhering to the club's cherished tradition much more than the dissenters. Liverpool, it's often claimed, are a club where they don't sack managers.

Should Hodgson's critics have their way, the most common solution put forward – in the absence of Jose Mourinho beating down the door – is to install Kenny Dalglish. But the former double-winning manager hasn't taken on a team of his own in over a decade and that job at Newcastle United didn't exactly bring much joy. In which case, Liverpool would only be replacing a manager perceived as out of his depth with one who is out of touch.

Indeed, there are further lessons from the club's own history when it comes to making premature calls on managers. The first month of Bill Shankly's era saw a 4-0 home defeat to Cardiff City. Bob Paisley lost three of his first seven games. Graeme Souness, meanwhile, earned as many points from his first seven as either Paisley or Gerard Houllier and more than Rafa Benitez. The achievements of three of those managers are still celebrated at the club. Souness isn't one of them.

And, far from Hodgson being out of his depth, the evidence suggests Liverpool's atrocious start to the season has been down to him putting players out of their comfort zone. Hodgson, after all, brought an improvement in league position in eight of the 10 teams he's managed. And the two relative failures (ie, not immediately winning the Swiss league) didn't include his only other genuine giant of a club, Inter.

Very few of those success stories, however, started as they continued. Liverpool supporters need only look to the example at Fulham. After the same number of games at Craven Cottage in the winter of the 2007-08 season, his club's league position had got even worse. They dropped to 19th as he lost five of seven games. After 13 matches, prospects looked even bleaker. Matches 14 to 18, however, saw four wins from five, followed by a great escape. He then lead them to the best season in Fulham's history as they finished seventh and did so by out-passing Arsenal at the Emirates. The problem, many players admitted, was that it took time to adapt to Hodgson's training drills.

Whether Liverpool's boardroom troubles have had any effect alongside that is probably a bit of a stretch though. Unless you're someone like Jamie Carragher, most professional footballers don't care about such issues so long as they're getting paid on time every week. What the news will do however – particularly in relation to the departure of Hicks and Gillett – is provide a "feelgood factor" as Phil Thompson put it. All of Henry, Hodgson and the supporters will be hoping that helps Liverpool make the only impression that really matters: on the league table.

The Hicks and Gillett Era in Numbers

£600m - The least amount Tom Hicks said he would sell Liverpool for earlier this year

£517m - Forbes' valuation of Liverpool in April 2010

£300m - Amount Liverpool actually sold for

£237m - The amount Hicks and Gillett borrowed to buy the club

£144.4m - Amount the American duo stand to lose

£66m - Liverpool's net transfer spend from May 2004 to February 2007

£29m - Liverpool's net transfer spend from February 2007 to September 2010