IT’S three trophy-less years since Brendan Rodgers was confirmed as Liverpool manager, an appointment that prompted John W Henry – who remains principal owner of the club despite his current disinterest – to say at the time: “We do not expect miracles overnight nor should anyone else.”
But we do expect miracles. And we should. We want them overnight. We want them after three years. We want them always. And when we don’t – well, why bother? Deal too much in what’s probable and what’s likely – talk yourself out of it, basically — and there’s a 99 per cent chance you’ll wonder just why you’re skinting yourself to watch Premier League football.
We’ve seen miracles happen in red before. And no apologies should be made for wanting to see them happen again. Rodgers knows this. It’s why he said the shirt is heavy. It is heavy. And it should be heavy. Managing heavy shirts is part of the job.
However it is pitched – Liverpool’s position in the food chain financially, the stadium, the mistakes of the past, the quarter of a century without a title – many Reds will ask a simple question when it comes to assessing the suitability of the current manager at Anfield: “Can he win us the league?”
It was asked on Rodgers’ first day in 2012 and it’s still being asked now, three seasons and £210million later. Is that enough time? Is that a long time? Is that a lot of money compared to what the teams Rodgers is tasked with competing with have spent and will spend? Rodgers has had more time in charge of Liverpool than Graeme Souness. Than Kenny in his second spell. Than Hodgson (obviously). He’s had more time than Mourinho in his second spell at Chelsea. Than Ancelotti had at Stamford Bridge. He’s had less time than Roy Evans at Liverpool. Than Kenny at Blackburn. Than Mourinho in his first spell at Chelsea. Than Mancini at City.
Can Rodgers win us the league? It’s debatable and it’s debated. Daily. The rest is best guess. I can only say I’m more sure he could win it than when he was Swansea boss but less sure he could win it than this time last year. That seems fair to me. Whatever your answer, it is what it is. Rodgers is the manager. We can only watch it unfold now and hope for the best.
It was naïve if Henry genuinely expected people not to expect miracles of Liverpool managers and by now he probably knows that. Football waits for no man. Especially not at Liverpool. When a ‘this is OK and OK will do’ attitude pervades all that Liverpool do it will no longer be the Liverpool we know and love. And then it really will be time to wonder just why you’re skinting yourself to watch Premier League football.
FSG had decided, in Henry’s words in June 2012, to “embrace the unconventional” and appointing Rodgers as the manager of Liverpool was just that. It was never going to alter the unwritten standard though – that’s the bar; that’s what we’re in it for. Call that what you like – delusional, unrealistic, madness (I call it being a supporter) – it’s there regardless at Anfield. No amount of calculations, quotes and expectation management will ever temper that. We want trophies. We want days out. We want trips abroad. But more than anything we want to see Liverpool winning – and winning enough to finally lift that bloody title.
So what next for Brendan Rodgers? Win the league. He has to at least come close now. To prove the second place not to be the outlier. To reach the standard or get near to reaching the standard. Otherwise, what’s the point? And otherwise, Liverpool are likely to look for a new manager. For Rodgers then, the only way will be down. What’s his next job after Liverpool if he leaves on a low?
It remains a big ask. Only seven managers have ever won the Premier League in its 23 years of existence (Ferguson, Dalglish, Wenger, Mourinho, Ancelotti, Mancini and Pellegrini) with those titles ending up at just five clubs: Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City.
After FSG sacked one of those responsible for achieving the feat, albeit with Blackburn (and a man who just so happened to be a club legend and the boss who had lifted Liverpool’s first silverware for six years), appointing Rodgers – with only Watford, Reading and Swansea on his CV – didn’t convince many as a replacement on paper. He’s never truly convinced everyone ever since, even in *that* season. Then the mockers simply fell silent. They soon found their voice again last season. Rodgers has acknowledged himself that there some fans he will never win over. He’s right.
The Liverpool job is a tough gig no matter who takes it on (look what it’s done to the people who have held the position, physically and mentally, for evidence). Replacing Dalglish, even after an eighth place finish in the league, made it harder. Doing so with an unconvincing track record made it look like Mission Impossible and it’s felt like many have been gleefully waiting for Rodgers to fail ever since. It may seem trivial but that utterly shite Being Liverpool didn’t help matters either. A new boss. Big boots to fill. All the pressure in the world. Oh, and by the way, we’re going to film it. Genius. The lowlights of that visual cringe fest remain in the lexicon of the Rodgers naysayers to this day. Who needs enemies when you’ve got friends like these?
Talk among fans before Rodgers’ appointment – aside from the rights and wrongs of Dalglish’s dismissal – centred around (just like this summer) a return for Rafa Benitez, or at least a move for a manager with pedigree in terms of trophy wins and European competition. Those close to FSG linked Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Martinez to the vacancy, while Johan Cruyff and Txiki Begiristain were tipped for a director of football role.
In the end it was Rodgers who arrived. Alone. “The number one target” as he was later pitched. The DoF never arrived, instead the elusive transfer committee became the compromise.
An improvement of one place and nine points in the Premier League, allied to early exits in all the cup competitions – including defeat at Oldham in the FA Cup — in Rodgers’ first season in charge did little to silence the doubters, although some of the football in the second half of the campaign hinted at the attacking thrills to come. And so it proved.
The season after? It doesn’t require another review. You know it. You lived it. And it’s still tapping you on the shoulder. If anything it needs to be forgotten now. Ideally by bettering it… But to suggest it had nothing to do with the manager remains madness. As is suggesting it was *all* down to Luis Suarez. The LMA Manager of the Year award has ended up in the hands of some strange recipients down the years but few begrudged Rodgers after a season no one predicted. The world being what it is, it now seems to be remembered as a time Liverpool ‘blew’ the title. Look again at that run of results from January to April. Rodgers’ stock was rightly high then. Manchester City rumours had floated around, as had links with England roles. No one really regarded them as mad.
This time last season, with a spring in his step, Rodgers was happy to deliver the soundbites. “There is no depression here, there hasn’t been a hangover,” he said. “I wasn’t lying on a sun lounger on a beach over the summer crying and fretting over the fact that we lost the league.
“There is only an excitement and a belief inside the club that we can challenge again for the title this time.”
A season of disappointment on, from the Champions League no show to the waving of the white flag in the race for top four, it’s a different Brendan Rodgers that will return on Sunday to the scene of one of his darkest days in football.
Publicly at least, since the last season ended, Rodgers first said nothing and has then said less, even when his own future was on the line (again) and even when his trusty sidekicks, Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh, were unceremoniously told to find a new job. Major things attracted minor comment.
When Rodgers has spoken at length he’s seemed more deliberate about who gets the gig (the club’s own media). Allied to the silence from FSG – a Q&A from Mike Gordon on the Liverpool website is the best they have managed – it’s clearly a policy. Someone, somewhere, sometime – Brendan himself, Brendan with others, who knows – has decided that the snipers will snipe so let them. There’s no use handing them more bullets. Just get down to work.
Rodgers remains the favourite to be the first Premier League manager sacked in season 2015-6. A fact that tells its own story and a fact he will be more than aware of.
Rodgers said himself that his future was in doubt last November. His haunted expression in May said he knew the same was true again then. “I’ve always said if the owners want me to go, I go,” he said then.
After that 6-1 horror show at Stoke, which had come on the back of a worryingly weak end to the season, I was convinced the manager had, metaphorically of course, taken a fatal one to the chest.
It wasn’t just the biggest Liverpool defeat in a half a century. It was everything. Talk of dressing room unrest. Defeats home and away to Crystal Palace, the dismal display at Hull, the Wembley humiliation, crashing out of Europe twice. The team sleepwalked through two months of football, managing just three wins in 10. The manager always pays. Only this time he hasn’t.
So what was the thinking? Did FSG recognise their own role in last season’s failures? The folly of the signing of Mario Balotelli? The sitting on hands during the January transfer window? Has the manager sold a new vision to sit alongside his new coaching team?
Or is it as simple as a new manager means starting again. They need ‘time’, they need to ‘bed in’, the three-year stopwatch is reset. Perhaps it was decided that one more season will make Rodgers hungry again. Keep him on his toes. Bring out his best. And if it doesn’t work, there can be no more if onlys or what ifs.
Ian Ayre’s recent comments are interesting in this respect. Ever since Rodgers was appointed as Liverpool manager endless debates have raged about who signs who and how and when and so on – a legacy of the director of football that never was when FSG so clearly wanted it.
Ayre has set the record straight this time. He said: “We set out a plan with Brendan at the start of the summer, and the objectives the manager wanted to achieve.
“We’ve achieved all of them. So we are very pleased with how the summer has gone and it’s been kind to us this year.
“It’s interesting because we don’t do anything differently, but sometimes the cards fall in your favour, and sometimes they don’t.”
Recognition that last summer wasn’t great in terms of giving the manager what he needed to win games? Maybe. A crystal clear statement that this year he’s got the lot. Definitely. They are men of Rodgers’ best – a team that plays the Liverpool way? We shall see. Allied to the appointment of Sean O’Driscoll and Gary McAllister, it seems Rodgers has been given the lot. FSG have backed their man. The Steven Gerrard sideshow is no more. Now there are no excuses. Brendan, it’s over to you.
It’s left a manager who looks determined not to be distracted. There are less smiles, shorter press conferences and a more workmanlike manner. But – as ever – it will all come down to results.
Rodgers dodged a bullet in the summer but a finger remains poised over the trigger in Boston. Transfer committees and strategy talk have disappeared as fast as Rodgers’ jokes. And perhaps that is no bad thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a follower of ‘Deluded Brendan’, nor am I in the ‘Rodgers Out Club’ (actual Twitter accounts, if that’s not your thing). And I couldn’t give a flying one what he does with his teeth who he rents houses from or how often he likes to say ‘character’ (less than Rafa would be my guess). I don’t find calling him ‘Brenda’ funny either. Because it isn’t funny.
In short – I’m not arsed about Brendan Rodgers the man. I’m arsed about Brendan Rodgers the manager of Liverpool. Watching the end of last season peter out, it seemed some players had lost faith in that manager and the manager had lost faith in some players. Now there are fresh faces, new voices and, as ever as this time of year, renewed hope.
Don’t expect miracles overnight? With trips to Stoke, Arsenal, both Manchester clubs, Everton, Spurs and Chelsea before the end of November, that’s exactly what Brendan’s after.
And it’s what we want too. What’s next for Brendan Rodgers? We’ll soon find out.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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The time for his endless waffling is over. It’s time to deliver or get out, as one of the worst managers in LFC recent history if he fails to win a thing or reach CL again.
stop dreaming to those who believe in Rodgers.
it’s time to face reality……………WAKE UP.
last season Liverpool ranked 7th goal scored and ranked 13th goals scored against. This for any manager to address the shortcomings should have addressed the defense by adding a quality stopper left back position and central midfield area. Secondly the use of Sterling last season as a striker was the most stupidest decision for any manager and why we never won important matches. This season Brendon does the opposite buys attacking midfielders and two strikers plus Mario who i believe is a quality player though not favored by his manager. The defense is still porous with Sakho the one-legged left back being favored instead of Levron. The Belgian keeper failed to command his goal area and also does not read movements of the opposition neither does he communicate with his defenders. So this area BR saw nothing wrong and has faith in the Belgian. Liverpool need a keeper, a left back defender, two defensive minded persons and one quality striker.
How many times can a person be wrong? Our record when Sterling was up top was the best of the entire season and his removal from that position essentially signaled the end of the season. Mignolet was transformed mid-season, becoming much more commanding in the process of tying for the most clean sheets in the league (14). And Sakho is boss. End of.
Whats next? Under severe pressure by November, sacked between December and June. We win nothing and come 5th at best.
Then those who have proclaimed him to be “boss” over the last three years will pretend they always thought he wasnt up to it.
And when we go on to put together a genuine title push (after a slow but solid start), all those who have been proclaiming his downfall will mysteriously disappear never to be heard from again (or until the next dip in form) just like the second half of 13/14.
The question is, who is going to have more fun?
The signings since Brendan took over have been woefully inadequate. Do we genuinely have many players that you could honestly say are capable of winning the PL comfortably? Coutinho, definately. Clyne, got into team of the year, so probably. Benteke, maybe. Firmino, maybe, Sturridge, yes. Milner, obviously. Other than that, no-one really stands out. Our goalkeeper inspires as much confidence as a piece of cheese, and our defence in general are rock solid in one game, but couldn’t beat a pub team the next.
Where are the Hansen’s and Phil Thompson’s of this generation? The Phil Neal’s? Oh, thats right, they’re around, but out of FSG’s moneyball bracket ! Where are the Graeme Souness’s ? commanding the midfield? Again, available but costly. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that winning the PL is perfectly possible, even if only 7 ever have. This year Brendan has got all of his 1st choice signings, and overall, I’m fairly underwhelmed. They aren’t poor signings, but they aren’t exactly awe inspiring either. Hopefully he can rediscover the coaching techniques that he had in 13/14, and deliver some exciting football at least? not the horror show of last year. With the team we have and under BR, I’ll be happy with top 4 and a cup, anything less and it has to be curtains for him. Personally my 1st choice would be Simeone, if we could prize him away.
To call those who lack faith in Rodgers “mockers” is unfair and defensive. The divs on Twitter and various click bait websites who spout about sacking Rodgers or abuse him are not the same as say posters on here, or those who gather in pubs like the Harry pre and post match. There is articulate, informed and genuine concern that this man does not have the skill set (yet?) to manage Liverpool FC to the sort of success we carve. It may be he has got the gig too soon or that he never will be good enough to manage a world class club. In the meantime 3 years, no trophies, huge player turn over, massive spending and we still don’t know the answer.
I lost faith in Rodgers last season and would gladly have seen the back of him and man with a proven track record appointed, However we are where we are and I really want this guy to show that he has the talent to win us lots of trophies. I have hope but no belief.
It’s unlikely we’ll ever have a manager that doesn’t divide the fans. It’s the nature of fans. Some are generally fair and objective. Others are generally unfair and tend to focus on irrelevant things, like teeth and picking out scapegoats.
And would someone please invent a dickhead filter for comment sections. Now.
All of the above make me want to puke. You take Gareth’s excellent read as a precursor or a starting pistol to take your marks and as you’re already crouched squat and coiled like springs waiting for the big bang this weekend, you’ll all be off like 100m sprinters in a dash to prove yourselves right. You sick bitter and twisted MFers!!
Gareth is being the Devils advocate here with 1 foot in either camp, the half fuller’s and the half emptyer’s. I can only speak for myself having that pure and innocent child like excitement and anticipation which I used to feel on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to bring my gifts. Imo the wait especially for this season and the prospect of seeing where this terrific and exciting looking squad of players can take LFC is leaving me clammy with anticipation. 1 more sleep to the magic day!!! COME ON YOU REEEDSSS!!!!!!!
An excellent article summing up the situation pretty much perfectly for me. And typifies the quality of writing on TAW. Cheers Gareth.
No more second chances, no more excuses. Last chance saloon for Rodger’s Liverpool.
I feel genuinely sorry for those supporters who turn to scapegoating and bias when the team isn’t performing well. How any supporter can have a go at Brendan after he got us within touching distance of the title is a disgrace. It’s time for supporters to get real.
Kenny bought Suarez but Brendan got that team playing the best football we’ve seen since Rafa took us to 2nd last time around.
Not only that but he did it competing against clubs with huge finances and squads. People who bang on about the spending need to get real. We are competing with the top 4 in England and they have deep pockets so it’s going to happen.
Also Liverpool have lost their ‘big club’ status. We don’t get the best players any more. When Rafa got 2nd he had the pick of the worlds best players and he still only got 2nd.
So not only did Brendan get us to 2nd – he did it with a vastly inferior team – regardless of Suarez. I think about that a lot when people are calling for Brendan to be sacked. It sounds quite odd really.
My view is that last term there were Lots of attacks didn’t end with a strikers goal which just led to teams coming into games we should have put to bed. It also led to us dropping our heads.
Remember what effect 3 goals in the first half does to opponents? I remember the effect it has on supporters – bloody fantastic :)
Remember that 13/14 season for the majestic feast of football it was, that the vast majority of that young team are still with us, and that the young exciting manager who brought that style of play is too?
Most fans were talking about stability being the key to success. You can talk all you like about Liverpool demanding success but that sounds more and more like a spoilt child every year.
I don’t ‘accept mediocrity’ far from it – based on available players, and the current standing of this club what Brendan achieved a season ago was simply staggering. He is still learning in the transfer market that much is obvious but after such a terrible season for player buys, Danny S being injured, and Gerard fading I for one am very optimistic. This seasons buys are much, much better.
I look forward to a return to ultra attacking football and I think we finally have the missing attack that will allow us to go back to it. I look forward to supporting my team come what may. Come on you Reds!!
A good article, full of the optimism that I always feel at the beginning of every season, regardless of what last season was. This time I’m optimistic but also uncertain, principally because of the Lovren/Sakho debate and the manager’s seeming determination to keep ignoring what I thinknid the bleedihg obvious.
Ordinarily I would view Stoke away as iffy, and hope for a draw bug dream about a win. But last season’s last match made this season’s first a test of not only the team but also the manager, and I don’t think any fan will accept less than a win.
My feeling is that by the beginning of October we will be as chuffed as buggery, or looking for a new manager. Simple as that,
I don’t skint myself for LFC any more.
Typical of FSG to tell us “not to expect miracles over night’ but to fire Dalglish after just one full season despite a cup and days out to Wembley. They sacked Kenny Because he they wanted a cheaper manager, and that’s what and all Rodgers is. A cheaper more cost effective manager. No, I don’t skint myself for the franchise branded as ” LFC”. I am Beginning to realise it doesn’t even represent the values of this city or the values of the club Benitez managed. My financial investment in LFC has ceased, and my emotional investment is dying by the day. As a scouser born and bred, from a family 3 generations red, it pains me to admit this. But this isn’t LFC. That club died when John Henry murdered it in his pursuit of profit.
I’m 100% behind Brendan but I also have to respect the views of the anti-Brendan posse as well. All I ask is that if he has a stormer of a season, ie we mount a realistic challenge for the league, win it or finish a close 2nd or 3rd and win a cup that all you haters hold your hands up and give the man a bit of praise. I’d rather have 5 seasons of shite followed by another 2013/14 than to finish 4th six seasons in a row. I really mean that. I’m not a fucking arsenal fan. While I’d take an Ancelotti any day of the week, Man U and Can Gaal are proof that it’s not just about chucking money at the problem. Offensive flair and the a resurgence of the tricky red mentality is the best chance we have of winning the league so for that reason I’m right behind the bullshitter with shiny white teeth and a banging new missus. C’mon Buck.
Rodgers was 7-2-1 during the Suarez ban (19 GF 4 GA). Suggesting Suarez did it alone is rubbish – we know because we saw him try to win alone during his entire time under Dalglish. Under KK, he scored 21 in 52 games. Under Rodgers, he scored 61 times in 81 games.
Meanwhile, Sturridge scored 11 goals during the 10 game ban. He scored 36 goals in his first 50 games at the club – the highest total by any Red since before WWI. That’s more than Suarez (21), Torres (34), Fowler (31), Dalglish (31), Owen (28), etc. Only the second player in Premier League history to score in eight games in a row.
If Rodgers has proper attacking options and technical players who will press aggressively and intelligently, he has a magnificent Plan A. Clearly, he has no Plan B. In fact, I believe he is on record (or a player on his behalf) stating that the Plan B is to do Plan A better.
I am genuinely curious and excited to see what Benteke-taka brings. I like that Rodgers has a lean and hungry look about him now. He seems utterly focused on the task at hand. If we can bag 8 points from the first 4 games ahead of the break, it will represent an excellent start. If our noses are still above water by the time we reach Man City in November, we are poised for a really positive run with 12 out of 14 games that are eminently winnable.
I know there are lots of people short-listed for the “I Told You So” trophy , but to me that represents a complete and utter failure to understand what YNWA represents. And it makes them look like a bunch of jack-asses undermining the club on the eve of the opening game. I’d much rather hope for dusting off the “Make Us Dream” banners than the “Rodgers Out” ones.