Posts Tagged ‘Brendan Rodgers’

Brendan RodgersI am a Liverpool Football Club supporter and quite vociferous in my support. I am also an Australian. My family originated in England, some generations ago, although I have never visited there myself. I have no knowledge of where my family are from, something I am slowly rectifying, I only know that my surname first appeared somewhere in Northern England.

If you asked me why I support Liverpool, and people do, I will tell you that I truly have no idea. I grew up in a small country town in Regional Victoria that only had two television channels and football did not feature on either of them. In truth I had no real knowledge the English Football League system existed until my early teens. Once a year our National Broadcaster televised the FA Cup final. This was my introduction to the game. In those years, more often than not, Liverpool were playing and I had a chance to glimpse the South African born Australian Craig Johnston plying his trade.

This probably all had an effect. I will tell you now though, I hold a suspicion that sometimes the club chooses the supporter. Liverpool has always felt right. Like an old friend that has come back into your life. I now sport a Liver Bird tattoo on my wrist and the letters L.F.C. proudly displayed beneath it. But enough about me, I want to talk about the Club and its current Manager.

When King Kenny Dalglish was appointed Manager for the second time it became painfully obvious, very quickly, that the game had passed him by. I’d like it put on record that when Fenway Sports Group went calling for a new manager I, like many, didn’t want Brendan Rodgers to take the job. I mean who was he? He left Watford to become sacked at Reading. He successfully guided Swansea into the Premier League and, more importantly, kept them there but really, what else had he achieved?

At the time Liverpool were a club in turmoil. It had been twenty two years since they had last won the title. Sure, there had been success in Champions League and the FA Cup but the Domestic title was what the fans demanded. There had been financial and Board troubles with Gillet and Hicks forced out of the club, paving the way for Fenway Sports Group. No, Brendan was not who I wanted. Other names were being mentioned. Houllier. Benitez. Van Gaal. Martinez. O’Neill.

Neither Martinez nor O’Neill had achieved much either, but at least they were known quantities and more palatable than the appointment of Rodgers. How soon things changed. The first half of the season was awful. The players looked confused. Mistakes were made, over and over again. Then, slowly, it all started to go to plan. Passes were strung together and Liverpool were once again playing free flowing football. In January the addition of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge meant that Luis Suarez had better service and in the back half of the 2012 – 13 season Liverpool outscored the rest of the league.

It was still only enough for seventh in the league, which simply put, wasn’t good enough for us long suffering fans. I wasn’t completely sold on Rodgers methods. There were the Suarez incidents at the end of that season and then the beginning of the next. The transfer window came and I watched as, one by one, supposed targets decided on clubs other than Liverpool. We got players on loan from other clubs to fill gaps. All other transfers were kids, players for the future. This was not a way to run the biggest clubs in the world. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. As I write we are currently on top of the league, three games and seven points away from winning title number nineteen.

Rodgers has been a breath of fresh air to the club. A master tactician, he has shown the world that it’s not only a healthy transfer budget that makes a successful team. He has cultivated a champion team rather than a team of champions. He has worked with the players under his control, transforming them into what appears to be one of the tightest knit groups in Europe. When Raheem Sterling signed a new contract his form almost immediately dipped. There were reports of domestic problems for the youngster. Rodgers and his team got him in, helped him sort it all out, got his head straight and then unleashed him back on the Premier League. Then there’s Henderson. Oh, how many times I read of a fan asking for him to be sold.

Many historically successful clubs will happily point to the trophies in the cabinet and then use this as a form of collateral. In the here and now, however, you are only as good as your last result. Brendan appears to understand this, after failing to land any number of transfer targets, but has also embraced the history of the club and used it to good effect.

“Why aren’t the goal nets red?” he asked, when he first arrived. “I alway remember Anfield having red goal nets.” So he fixed it, got red nets in. The club’s oldest ‘This Is Anfield’ sign was restored and returned to its rightful place above the players tunnel. He brought Steven McManaman and Robbie Fowler into Melwood to mentor the youth players and instill into them what it means to wear the Liverpool shirt. Rather than simply hanging onto history, he used it, to cajole, inspire and restore pride. Not just to the players, but also the supporters. Now Anfield is many steps closer to becoming the fortress it once was, a place that other teams fear to come.

When Rodgers interviewed for the job he brought with him a one hundred and eighty page dossier. It was the Rodgers’ philosophy. A document he had been working on before his managerial career had even started. Over the years he had revised it, cut from it, added to it and made it what it is today. No doubt it is still being worked on, enriched with his personal experience. Gone was the concept of buying players by committee. He would decide on whom he wanted, who best fit into what he was trying to achieve. It’s just one part of his philosophy and it appears to be working just fine.

He has his critics. Too many press appearances, too much talking. Just get the job done. Well, he can say without a question of doubt, that he is. Modern football means that the Manager is the face of the club. Football is a business as much as it is a sport and the Manager is the salesman, the spokesman. You want those commercial dollars? Well you better get out there and sell the brand. There aren’t too many bigger brands in modern football than Liverpool, just look at their pre-season Australasian tour. I was at the Melbourne Cricket Ground that saw at least 20,000 people turn up to watch them train. 95,000 people turned up the following night to watch them play.

With Champions League returning to Anfield next year there has been much speculation on who to bring in to strengthen the playing squad. I’m actually wondering if we need to spend that much at all. Yes, squads need to be continually improved and although national pride means I probably hold Brad Jones at a higher level than he realistically is, better cover for Simon Mignolet must be a priority.

I look at the players returning from loan spells. Are the players being considered for purchase going to be that much better than Assaidi, Borini, Suso, Ilori, Wisdom and Coady? What of Yesil, Aspas and Alberto? Then there’s the youth academy where we have the likes of Ibe, Teixeira, Rossiter and Smith (another Australian), all of who had first team exposure this year (Rossiter as a sub only) and performed reasonably well, Teixeira and Ibe in particular. Nearly all of these players are young and hungry and Brendan has a great track record with bringing players of this ilk on.

For the moment though, Liverpool sits on top of the table, not through luck, but hard work and determination. While the success this year is not the work of one man, but a team effort; it’s Brendan Rodgers’ philosophy that underpins the improvement. I am relishing the team’s current position. Recently while talking to a workmate, Chelsea fan mind, about Liverpool’s current season I felt Goosebumps rise. Tears of pride started to well in my eyes and I suddenly found it difficult to speak. He placed a hand on my shoulder. “It’s alright mate, I understand, I’ll get back to you later.”

If the unthinkable happens and we fail to finally win that nineteenth title I won’t be upset. We have already achieved the goals we set this year. It will be disappointing to again come so close, but we’re poised, ready to fight next year. Put simply in the words of our talisman Steven Gerard,

“We Go Again!”

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