Rick Parry: There's no row with Gillett and I wish the Liverpool FC team well
RICK PARRY today dismissed speculation suggesting his impending departure from Anfield has been caused by a fall out with George Gillett.
As exclusively revealed in yesterday's ECHO, Parry is set to leave Liverpool in the summer after 11 years as the club's chief executive.
The 54-year-old does not have another job lined up, although there is expected to be no shortage of offers for a man who is highly respected in the higher echelons of English football and who was instrumental in the Premier League becoming one of the greatest success stories in world sport, before taking his "dream job" at Anfield.
Parry is refusing to give interviews about his decision to walk away from Liverpool at the end of the season, privately insisting that the team needs to be the story rather than himself.
But he spoke to the ECHO to rebuff suggestions that his departure was caused by a breakdown in relations with Gillett, his long-term ally in Liverpool's boardroom.
"There has been no fall-out with George Gillett - the rumour mill is miles off the mark," said Parry.
"There has been a process which has been conducted in a professional and dignified manner on both sides and this is the outcome.
"There are no hard feelings and I generally wish everyone all the best, particularly the team which has an important game today (against Middlesbrough) and more to come in the near future."
The fact that Parry is so adamant that his relationship with Gillett remains strong will remove one conspiracy theory about yesterday's dramatic events.
But it will also raise suspicions that the position of Reds co-owner Tom Hicks is strengthening, because it is highly unlikely that Parry would have come to see his future away from Anfield unless this was the case.
Parry came to his decision to leave during talks with both owners which all involved have insisted were amicable.
Though Parry and Reds co-owner Hicks have not seen eye to eye for some time - with the Texan having tried unsuccessfully to oust the long- serving executive from his position last year - both were prepared to bury their differences in order to put out an official joint statement confirming the course of action that was being taken.
That was followed up by some conciliatory noises from Reds boss Rafa Benitez, whose much publicised wrangling with Parry has been wrongly attributed by some as one of the main reasons for the former accountant's impending exit.
And the Spaniard vowed to work together with Parry until he eventually leaves the club.
"I think it is a decision of the owners and by Rick Parry," said Benitez. "We are at a crucial stage of the season, with important games coming up, so I think that we have to work together and look to do the best for the club.
"At this moment, everybody wants the same, everybody wants to work together and wants to be successful.I will wish Rick Parry the best."
Benitez was also quick to dismiss suggestions that Parry's decision to go makes him the winner of a power struggle.
He added: "Clearly, this is not the case. I have not said anything about this, and I can continue to work together with Rick until the end of the season because we want to win games.
"The relationship between us has been good and professional, and now it will be the same because we both want the best for the club."
One school of thought is that Benitez will now finally sign his new Liverpool contract, now that he knows Parry will be leaving.
But the ECHO understands the Reds boss does not believe the current situation has changed in any meaningful way, and will be seeking further reassurances about the direction in which the club is heading during forthcoming talks with the co-owners.
Fans group Spirit of Shankly has been consistently critical of Parry, but in a statement released last night made it clear that his departure from Liverpool will not weaken a determination to see Hicks and Gillett follow him through the Anfield exit door.
"Tom Hicks should be under no illusion that today's announcement does nothing to enhance his position in the eyes of our members," said an SOS spokesman.
"We will continue to campaign for his and Gillett's departure, as they have proven incontrovertibly that they are not fit custodians of Liverpool Football Club."
Parry will remain at Anfield until the end of May in order to facilitate an orderly changing of the guard when his replacement is found.
Current commercial director Ian Ayre is the strong favourite to fill Parry's shoes, having been appointed to his present role by Hicks.
Ayre is a lifelong Liverpool fan who was chief executive of Huddersfield Town for a time.
But there will be no shortage of interested parties in an executive position at one of the world's top football clubs, and former Football Association chief exec Brian Barwick, another Reds fan, could also be a contender for the role.
London sources have indicated that former Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman could also feature on the shortlist.
It remains to be seen how a process to find a replacement will be conducted as the ongoing differences between Hicks and Gillett are yet to be resolved, and there is ongoing speculation that either or both of the pair will not be at Liverpool for the long term, despite denials to the contrary by the two Americans.
Such matters are no longer Parry's concern, of course, although, as a Liverpool supporter, he is hoping that the future is positive for the club and its fans.
He added: "It has been a privilege to serve the club, and as a lifelong supporter I wish the owners, Rafa, the players and the wonderful staff all the very best for the future.
"I will be leaving at the end of the season knowing that the club remains strong and with a set of supporters who deserve success in all that Liverpool does."