BRENDAN RODGERS received some unlikely backing from commentator John Motson. Motty, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, revealed that he thinks there is a ‘conspiracy’ against the Liverpool manager and that some in the media have an ‘agenda’ against him.
I’m not sure that is quite true. I think if you have a load of bad results, then the pressure builds, whether ‘the media’ are talking about it or not. But it’s interesting that he went on to talk about how Liverpool nearly won the league under Rodgers, a title challenge built on 26 league wins — a figure never bettered in the 25 years since the Reds last won the league.
I think what Motty seems to be suggesting is that Brendan Rodgers is quite a good football manager. Which, of course, he is.
I find myself defending Brendan Rodgers a surprising amount in public, considering I spend so much time in my head moaning about the things he does as Liverpool manager. This isn’t just with people who would rather moan about teeth than tactics, or with people who hilariously want to give him a woman’s name (because you know, female = incompetence), it’s largely with people who don’t want to give him any credit, or praise, whatsoever. People who see it as black and white. When it comes to management, you’re either good or you’re shite, right?
I don’t think he is a bad manager. Largely because I don’t think any of them are. In the same way I don’t think there are any bad footballers in the Premier League. You, of course, get players who fancy becoming managers who aren’t suitable for it. They generally get found out pretty quickly. Football clubs are unforgiving work places, football grounds even more so. All these group of Premier League managers have generally done well somewhere and then done well somewhere else and then got promoted to manage a Premier League club. They have proved that, in a specific set of circumstances at least, they know what they are doing.
I think it is really hard to compare the abilities of managers, like you do with footballers. They’re either mostly good or mostly good blaggers. I’m fine with either to be honest, as long as we can stop debating it. I don’t want to argue about whether Rodgers is any good any more, because it’s boring and irrelevant. The question shouldn’t be whether he is a good manager. The question should be whether, right now, he is the best manager for Liverpool Football Club.
If we can accept that they are all mostly good, with different strengths, weaknesses and suitability, then we can free our minds to discuss what exactly we want from a football manager — and who out there is the most likely to deliver it. Football fans rarely seem to think like this. For us there is a league table of football managers and you should go out and get the best one you can, regardless of the relevance of their achievements, or failures, in the game. Regardless of whether what you are trying do matches their experiences, good or bad.
As fans we get obsessed with what is deemed fair or deserved. We focus more on what someone has done in the past with what they are likely to do in the future. Football clubs themselves do occasionally buck this trend. In the summer Hull City were relegated, despite investing pretty heavily in a squad that looked pretty talented. Nine times out of ten this would lead to the manager being sacked, if he hadn’t been already. This sacking would be seen as ‘deserved’. The Hull chairman decided that a disappointing season didn’t necessarily mean that Steve Bruce wasn’t the best man to lead them back to the Premier League, and kept him on. They currently look a decent bet to return to the top flight.
Another was at Southampton. There was general uproar when they replaced Nigel Adkins with Mauricio Pochettino after the former had led them to back-to-back promotions to the Premier League. Southampton focused not on what was fair on a man who had achieved so much, but on who was the best manager to take them to where they wanted to be.
Aims and objectives at the football club changed, and a different manager was deemed more suitable. Southampton excelled under Pochettino, while Adkins is currently managing Sheffield United back in League One.
I’m always surprised that no one bats an eyelid when a football club replaces half the playing squad when they go up to the Premier League, yet it is seemingly unthinkable that they will replace their manager.
Some football managers, Neil Warnock for example, are particularly good at getting a club promoted, but not particularly good at keeping them there. Yet they will always be given an opportunity to do so. And yet this is possibly the best time to appoint a new manager — the stock of the club is high and a manager gets a full pre-season and a summer transfer window to impose their system and beliefs, yet clubs would rather wait until they are struggling in December to replace a manager at a worse time because of what is deemed fair and deserved.
Football clubs should constantly assess what they want to achieve, how they think they can achieve it, and whether the current manager of the football club is the most likely person to get them there. This should be informed by the relevant history of a manager, of course, but also what they are likely to do in the future. Their mindset, vision and beliefs. Otherwise, there would be no new managers. No Guardiola. No Dalglish.
I’ve been guilty of thinking in an opposite way myself. In 2010 I marched against the dismissal of Rafa Benitez. I thought it was a disgrace that the crooks running my football club thought they could sack a manager who had wontThe European Cup.
I thought it was sickening that a manager who had given everything to Liverpool, who had battled with owners and fought for the fans, could be cast aside after one indifferent season. I thought Rafa was the best manager we could get, and I still think I was right. But best in what context?
Was I thinking about who was best in terms of achievements or best to lead us into the 2010-11 season? They aren’t necessarily the same person.
Which leads us to now. I now longer care whether Brendan Rodgers was ready to manage Liverpool in 2012, I only care who is the most ready now. I don’t care if he nearly won the league in 2013-14, only if he is the most likely to win it in 2015-16. I don’t care if he got beat 6-1 at Stoke, only which manager is the most likely to ensure nothing like that happens again.
Is that man Brendan Rodgers? That’s the debate I hope they are having at FSG right now. Forget everything else. Regarding the manager, it’s the only debate that matters.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo