David Moores, the Liverpool chairman, has threatened "to look at his own position" if the club's Premiership position sinks any further. Moores and the manager, Gérard Houllier, last night faced criticism of the club's performance on and off the field from a succession of shareholders at the club's annual general meeting.
Moores, who said he still "backed the values and objectives of the manager", also had to withstand a sustained verbal assault from the club's third-biggest shareholder, the building magnate Steve Morgan, who is not on the board.
At the end of the meeting, Moores said: "The buck stops here. If it gets any worse I will have to look at my own position, but I hope it does not come to that. This has been a sad night for me personally. People are not happy. I did not expect an easy ride. But what has been happening is not good enough for our club even if I still believe in Gérard Houllier."
Moores has been majority shareholder and chairman for more than a decade, and holds a 51 per cent controlling interest. If he were to sell out or take a step down, Houllier's position could be under threat.
A string of shareholders questioned the cost of building a new stadium if the club leaves Anfield, the club's finances and the playing performance. Liverpool lie sixth in the Premiership, 20 points behind the leaders, Manchester United, and four behind fourth-placed Charlton Athletic, with a game in hand. Fourth is Liverpool's minimum target for the end of the season as it brings with it a place in Champions' League qualifying. Beaten at home in the Carling Cup by Bolton, they are still in the Uefa Cup and went through to the fourth round of the FA Cup by beating Yeovil Town on Sunday.
Houllier made a strong defence of his regime and received warm applause after his report to the meeting. He admitted: "It has been a difficult season and we have been under intense scrutiny. I share your frustrations, but fourth place in the Premiership is achievable. I remain confident in my squad but patience is not a virtue - but we need time. All my injured players will be back in four weeks and then we will be a different proposition."
The Blackburn Rovers manager, Graeme Souness, has been frustrated in his attempt to sign Muzzy Izzet after Leicester City rejected a £500,000 offer for their midfielder. He has also had a £50,000 bid for the Aston Villa goalkeeper Peter Enckelman turned down.
The Bolton Wanderers manager, Sam Allardyce, plans to give his new signing, the Spanish striker Javi Moreno, his debut against Manchester United on Wednesday.
Moreno, whose loan move from Atletico Madrid was, ironically, pushed through in time for the match by the Elite Sports agency of Jason Ferguson, the son of the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson is fit enough to start on the bench.
Allardyce said: "We are hoping to rekindle his career as we have done with many of our signings. He looks fit and should not take as long to adjust as some."
Wigan Athletic have made a club record £1.75m bid for the West Bromwich Albion striker Jason Roberts, who has been on loan at Portsmouth. It is the second time this season that the Wigan manager, Paul Jewell, has attempted to sign Roberts, who snubbed the Latics for Pompey five months ago.