A DAY is a long time in football. Two days an eternity. It seems strange that approximately 48 hours before I am writing this Brendan Rodgers was preparing a Liverpool team for a Merseyside Derby.
Since then a lot has happened. A manager has been sacked and gone on holiday to Spain. Another manager, who was thought a week ago not to be fancied by the owners, is now being touted for the job so heavily that every presumes it’s a sure thing. A million lads on Twitter have got a handsome German as their avatar. Oh, and we drew a game of football.
Football fans tend to think about the now. We’re very short term. Who’ll win us our next game of football? Which footballer can we buy to immediately improve us? We’ve not even buried the last fella yet, and we’re already obsessing over the next one. What magic he might weave to improve us. What nights he might give us ahead.
I’m fine with that. We’re all as bad as each other. We’re all just trying to hope. Dreaming of greater things. But, if it’s alright with you, I’ll raise a glass to the last fella first. And the nights he gave me. Here are six of the best under Brendan.
1. Norwich City 2 Liverpool 5 — 29/09/12
It feels now that Brendan Rodgers’ time at Liverpool has been reduced to “one good season” which he is given varying degrees of credit for. That first season was an interesting one though, as the manager tried to get to grips with what he had available, and the players tried to get to grips with the new style of football they were being asked to play.
There were signs of promise, even in the first half of the season when Liverpool were largely inconsistent and failed to pick up enough points.
The Reds had been unlucky not to beat champions Manchester City in the first Premier League home game of the season, playing well until a Martin Skrtel back pass gifted Carlos Tevez an equaliser in a 2-2 draw.
A few days before this September game at Norwich, a Liverpool reserve team, which included Samed Yesil and Dan Pacheco, and a substitute appearance from a 16-year-old Jerome Sinclair, won well at West Brom, a revenge of sorts after Liverpool were beaten 3-0 at The Hawthorns on the opening day. Not just the result, but the style of football Liverpool showed at a tough ground after going 1-0 down, suggested that some of the younger players were getting to grips with what was being asked of them quicker than some of the senior pros.
Then came Norwich — a performance, and scoreline, that would become a bizarre norm 18 months later. Liverpool passed it from back to front quickly and effortlessly. Suarez scores after two minutes. Liverpool are 4-0 up before the hour. They conceded chances but created more. They hunted the ball and broke quickly. Suarez scored a hat-trick and should have won 100 penalties, but it was at the time that he wasn’t allowed them.
I thought that performance would kick-start our season, we’d been so impressive. It didn’t. Liverpool only won two of the next eight league games. But, in September of the manager’s first season, the template for the future was set. The video of that game is well worth a watch. If only for the Norwich fans gloating as Suarez misses a chance at 1-0. How did that work out for you, lads?
2. Newcastle United 0 Liverpool 6 — 27/04/13
Liverpool’s first season under Brendan didn’t kick start after Norwich. It really got going when we were able to add real attacking talent in Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. Results and goals improved almost straight away.
Liverpool followed up a 5-0 home win against Swansea in late February with a 4-0 away win at Wigan in early March. The week after they beat an excellent Tottenham Hotspur team 3-2 in a brilliant game of football that went one way and another.
In late April we went to Newcastle United and could have beaten them 10-0.
The Reds had to settle for six. Luis Suarez was suspended, because he’d obviously bit someone, but by then we had other players to excite us. Others capable of taking the team to the opposition, and scoring goals. Lots and lots of goals.
Newcastle tend to finish seasons looking like a pub team, if we are honest. But the style and ease of which they were carved open time and time again was a joy to watch.
A Suarez-less Liverpool took 10 points from the last four league games of that season, and then won the first three games of the next campaign as well. Not bad for a one-man team.
3. Tottenham Hotspur 0 Liverpool 5 — 15/12/13
In some ways it’s strange to think of this game as the one where a brilliant season caught fire. Liverpool had actually won their previous two games four and five to one. But this result, just two weeks after an abject away performance at Hull City, seemed to completely change the mindset of everyone at the club.
An interesting development took place a week before. Steven Gerrard pulled a hamstring stretching to shoot, and had to go off. Lucas Leiva came in for the Spurs game, and Joe Allen was pushed forward to partner Jordan Henderson.
How those two played ahead of the shield Lucas offered changed how we all saw the Liverpool midfield operating from then on.
When Gerrard (who covered the game with seemingly mixed emotions for Sky) eventually returned he admitted he had spoken to the manager about his role moving forward, and a new position was created.
The Tottenham game was the embodiment of the manager at that time. It was everything he was saying he wanted from a football team.
It was all the words that had left his mouth transformed into footballers before your eyes. Sterling, who had looked lost at Hull, was terrifying. Allen and Henderson doing the work of 10. Luis Suarez being Luis Suarez. Not a minute’s peace for the opposition, not a minute’s let up from the lads in red.
And Jon Flanagan.
4. Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1 — 08/02/14
I could have picked the Everton game ten days before. That was fun. Everton turned up cocky as hell, and got beat four zip. But I didn’t want to pick two games so close together, and Arsenal was Arsenal wasn’t it? The most improbable 20 minutes of football you will ever see. When anything seemed possible. When you sat in a football ground thinking you might beat Arsenal 10-0.
That was an Arsenal that were top of the league, with the best defensive record in the country. Absolutely taken apart.
Luis Suarez sacrificed himself for the team that day, playing as a wide forward allowing Liverpool to exploit Daniel Sturridge’s pace through the middle. Rodgers tweaked his team often like that throughout the season. Always looking for weaknesses in the opposition. Always managing to get buy-in from his believing players
Suarez still should have scored with the best shot of the season. Sturridge should have got more, really. But that first 20 minutes. It was the start of 10 in a row.
5. Manchester United 0 Liverpool 3 — 16/03/14
I found it tough to decide between this and the Manchester City home game, but United away that season is the perfect response to those who said Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool could only win a certain way.
This was a model away performance. The type that looked like the template for the Champions League next season.
Liverpool, as Steven Gerrard put it after the game, “dominated from start to finish”. They were happy to be patient, to wait for opportunities that they knew would come. They strutted around the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ like they were champions of the world playing away at Yeovil.
The manager made bold decisions, too.
He played a 4-4-2 diamond in a second game running, to allow Suarez and Sturridge to both play up front.
In the previous game he had played Coutinho in the hole behind him, but substituted him for Raheem Sterling, who helped win the game against Southampton with a late goal and a fine cameo. So he started Sterling at Old Trafford, a huge call for a young player in such a big game.
I can’t think of another manager in the league who starts a 19-year-old Raheem Sterling, who everyone said was all pace, as a number 10 away at Old Trafford for the first time.
Sterling was arguably our best player for the rest of the season in that position, showing a deft touch and tactical awareness, not to mention goalscoring ability, that many outside of the manager’s office didn’t associate with the player.
You can have good players. You can have Luis Suarez. But football teams can turn up at that ground already beat. Eleven Liverpool players all believed they were better than their opposite number, and then proved it on the football pitch for 90 minutes. A huge amount of credit for that goes to the manager.
I don’t half miss Luis Suarez playing for handballs in the box.
Liverpool 2 Manchester City 1 — 01/03/2015
The fact that I could have picked from a ton of games the season before, but this season was relatively slim pickings, shows just how quickly the wheels came off for Brendan’s Reds.
There were more good days than are often remembered though. Even if they weren’t quite as spectacular. After a defeat at Old Trafford and a change in formation, Liverpool went 13 league games unbeaten. This was number 11, and the highlight of the lot.
Manchester City were five points off the top and playing well. They’d beaten Newcastle 5-0 the game before, and beaten Stoke City 4-1 away the game before that.
They played well at Anfield, too, and scored a lovely goal that not many football teams are able to. Liverpool scored better ones though, and crucially twice as many. Henderson and Coutinho with power and precision.
It is hard to remember now but optimism was fairly high around Anfield after this game. Liverpool were playing well only three points off third place, and still in a FA Cup that no-one else seemed to want to win.
Daniel Sturridge was coming off the bench and looking sharp, and a good season looked very much achievable.
It wasn’t to be, of course. Later in the month a defeat at home to Manchester United started a run of results that would ultimately lead to the manager’s departure. But it’s strange to think that as late as March, things looked like they could have been very different.
Pics: PA Images & David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Could have had Spurs at home from last season. Our best performance and finest example of what we were trying to get back. Resilience. Combative. Goals.
Spurs were flying at the time. We were back to “who the fuck is this lot? Just another team to attack.”
Brendan Rodgers 6 of the best? Laughable.
3.5 years of failure and some will still try to put a spin on it. Sorry, I’ve had enough spin to last a lifetime. Rodgers was an absolute failure. Such were standards lowered that some are celebrating wins over Norwich & Newcastle or ‘nearly’ winning the league.
Even Hodgson beat Chelsea during his brief stint.
How about the 20 odd truly embarassing games under Rodgers. Maybe more.
Can any name 6 succesful signings by Rodgers?
What about 6 players he should NOT have sold?
How about 6 girls out of the LFC office?
In years Rodgers will be spoken in the same hushed breath as Hodgson. An embarassment that we no longer need reminding about.
Bye bye Brendan. Brink on the Klopp.
Now that’s a manager with real ‘character’.
Why read, let alone comment on an article titled “Brendan Rodgers – six of the best” if you can’t remember anything positive he did? You’re on a site about Liverpool for Liverpool fans??? What was you expecting???
Not sure it’s Klopp on the brink.
Hiya Mick. Feel free to write any of those articles yourself and stick them on the Internet. It’s dead easy
you sound like a lovely person
Ha Mick doesn’t disappoint with the spectacular comment this article was always sure to produce. Crazy aul world out there ha
lots of great memories of those glorious matches, and your specific pointers (ie 19 yr old Sterling at the tip of diamond for MU away match) for those matches were priceless.
i might add 15/16 Arsenal first half? (possibly our best goal less first half at any of our main rivals?)
btw, really happy to see Agger, Riena, Wisdom, Suso (and Sahin) started the match at Norwich. Grewt memories.
Well it certainly rhymes with Mick…
Anyway, back in the real world, this is fucking ace. The sane and romantic (not mutually exclusive) among will always have these matches and a whole bunch of others to look back on with awe. Brilliant. Just sad it wasn’t for keeps.
A good read son. Blimey. I would have still gone for the Everton game, because it was them and I was sat in a box.
Newcastle away in his first season is an interesting one in hindsight. Shows there could have been a really good Rodgers side post-Suarez that ruthlessly counters and scores loads with Sturridge, Coutinho and Henderson had Sturridge not been injured for most of last season. The friendly against Dortmund of all teams was further evidence of this. Oh well…
Here’s another 6 of the best..
“Hey Sterling!You’ll be on the next plane home!”
I’ve got these envelopes.”
“I like to play with false number 9’s.”
“I played with reverse wingers.”
“I’ve told Steven I’ll manage his games.”
“,There’s no problem with Raheem.”
Preferred Gibbo’s to be honest, Brian. With his being about the footie and that.
I think you’re forgetting something here Mate.Great results and performances weren’t exclusive to Brendan.We had a great season but I didn’t put it all down to Brendan Rodgers.
And say what you like but we’re not Aston Villa or Notts Forest.So one great season won’t ever give you a place in our history.
We had some fantastic players too.Suarez,Gerrard,Sterling.
To coin a phrase “To lose one fantastic player is unfortunate.To lose two or three is downright carelessness”.
I can see how you can attach some blame to Rodgers for Sterling, although that has to be mitigated by his c*&t of a manager, but name me one club that has held on to a player when Real/Barca have come calling in the last decade. As for Gerrard, he played one season too many, can hardly blame Rodgers for “losing” him.
Not sure why I am bothering though, or why you are either. He is part of our history whether you like it or not, you can’t pick and choose. Given that it has only been 3.5 years it has seemed like an age. The one thing you could never say was that it was boring.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .”
Great stuff. Many highlights, some easily forgotten. We absolutely battered some sides didn’t we? Ta for the laughs BR. History will look on you kindly, I’m sure
Great stuff John. That encapsulates everything about what is food and drink to the football crazy and football mad fans out there. The meaning of life in terms of living a good and enjoying experiences with friends and family and then being able to recall and rejoice the special times whilst not altogether forgetting the not so enjoyable experiences so that we can use them in a positive reference to distinguish the better times and to book mark as to what we want for the future. YNWA. Keep The Faith
Mid-March. Not only was Sturridge back in the side, Flanno was on the mend! Eight of the 12 games prior to Man United clean sheets with Can and Sakho leading the way, Hendo and Lucas bossing the midfield. Not exactly poetry in motion, but just two losses in 18 games.
Gerrard red card – March 22
Sterling BBC interview – April 1 (shisha pipe April 12 and 14)
Emre Can red card – April 4
Sturridge April 8 – 164 days
Sakho April 8 – 46 days
Flanagan – April 28 – 235 days
Lucas – April 17 – 15 days
Wheels off. Not surprising that Rodgers lost his mojo for the last time in this context.
But for me, it will always be the first 60 of Crystal Palace. The universe ripped like a piece of paper and all things are possible.
Which will always bring me back to a quote from The Commitments spoken by Joey “The Lips” Fagan after the band had just spectacularly disbanded:
“You’re missin’ the point. The success of the band was irrelevant – you raised their expectations of life, you lifted their horizons. Sure we could have been famous and made albums and stuff, but that would have been predictable. This way it’s poetry.”
Thank you, Brendan. You’ll never walk alone.
Great film, great quote.
By the time the selective history has been re written we will be wondering why we sacked him
Really enjoyed that. The article is exactly what it purports to be, a list of six of the best performances under Rodgers, so quite why people are sniping about him and his reign as a whole is beyond me. This is nice reminder of the fact that Rodgers really did lead us in some outrageous performances. I’ll never forget the way we blew teams away with almost contemptuous ease in 13/14.
Thanks for these reminders. And yes, thanks to Brendan Rodgers. No buts. Justice requires credit where it’s due. We played some magical stuff under BR in the 18 months or so that culminated in our near shave with the title in May 2014. Lets hope for some more heights under whoever replaces him.
The 2-3 at Norwich Easter Sunday for me. Genuinely thought it was our title.
Had a dream about the man giving off to a room full of journos…started a fight with Malcolm Tucker from the thick of it. Hope we get away from this sorta shite and get back to the footy.
Was really good reading. Cheers for that John. Some of the football we played in that first season under Brendan, especially the second half, was fantastic wasn’t it. 13/14 was just crazy in many ways. The fun and emotion most of us took from that season probably plays a part in why someone like Klopp seems so appealing. Of course Klopp would be appealing anyway, but in his character there’s a hint of the madness, the laughter of 18 months-ago that made it so good. And the rep for attacking, manic football.
Way WAY too many people are determined to drain all of the enjoyment and fun out of what is essentially a writer writing about things that happened that made us ALL very happy at the time.
Its not re-writing history, because it all happened. Rodgers gave us some great moments as Liverpool fans. In the end he didn’t deliver and we move on. But those moments definitely happened – why try to spoil that for yourself by being all arsey about it.
He was alright and seems like a decent bloke. Good luck to him.
If I could go back in time to any one moment in Rodgers’ reign it would be to when Suarez picked up the ball and went running back to the center circle after the 3rd goal v Palace.
Come on!! We’re going to score 10!!!
A FAREWELL TO BRENDAN RODGERS
With all the excitement of Klopp potentially coming in, deservedly so, I wanted to take a minute to send off Brendan Rodgers and give a brief reprieve of the countless Klopp articles the Liverpool community has been inundated with over the past few days.
I began following Liverpool Football Club religiously in 2006. I would regularly make 1.5hr drives, 2.5hr train rides into the city at sunrise on weekend mornings to watch any match I could, often paying a cover to do so, at the 11th Street Bar in Manhattan.
When I moved to Atlanta for chiropractic school in 2007 I was very fortunate to have found a small group of supporters who gathered at the Brewhouse Cafe for Liverpool matches and I rarely missed one. I met some great people along the way and have fond memories of skipping everything the day of the Athens Final (when they were still on weekdays) to gather at Brewhouse with AC Milan fans who seemingly came out of nowhere but showed up in numbers.
Since moving back to NJ, I frequent Meehan’s the 3 times a year I’m in Atlanta and watch with many members of this group. I’ve been to Anfield on 3 occasions, and watched the Reds in a number of different countries with supporters from all around the world.
The point of all of that is put into context what Brendan Rodgers gave me as a Liverpool supporter. I’ve seen miraculous FA Cup wins, Champions League finals, regular Champions League football, a 2nd place finish in the league, all prior to Brendan’s arrival.
But never, ever, in my decade following this football club have I had more fun, and been more excited over a sporting event, than I was to watch Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool every weekend during the 2013-14 weekend. It wasn’t just the fact that we were within a shout of the first title in my footballing lifetime, but it was the football we played. Every morning we woke up we knew we were going to get goals. We knew we were going to get exciting football. We knew we were likely to come home with 3 points. We knew we had a very good chance of witnessing a wondergoal. We knew we were watching one of the best footballers in the world on one of the best teams in the world at that time. We knew we would get a lethal counter attack for teams who came at us, or a moment of brilliance when teams tried to park the bus.
It’s easy to point to Suarez being a top 3 player in the world at the time as the sole reason for our success, and he most certainly was that at the time, but the manager still deserves a ton of credit for getting the most out of him and playing a system that perfectly suited each individual player’s style of play. It would have been easy to play a safer brand of football, but we went out to batter teams, and batter teams we did.
The rout of Arsenal comes to mind. I’m not sure we’ll see a result like that again for a long time. It was one of the best 20+ minutes of football I can remember. Perfection personified.
Then came what would be come by single greatest moment of ecstasy as a Liverpool supporter to join the likes of the 12 minutes of Istanbul, Dudek’s wonder save, and Gerrard’s FA Cup equalizer from 40 yards. In the 78th minute of a hugely decisive match for the title race, Coutinho instinctively pounced on a Vincent Kompany mistake and buried the ball in the bottom right corner to give Liverpool a 3-2 lead. For the first time I truly dreamt. For the first time the title was ours. I had so much beer poured on me from complete strangers in a packed 11th Street Bar I’d been singing with since 5:30am that morning. I will never forget that goal for as long as I live.
The last 1 1/4 years of Brendan’s reign have failed to live up to the incredible heights of that season, and really who could have. Since then he’s seen a man who has lacked assurance in himself and his plan, all while putting on the face of a man totally self-assured in the public eye. From our transfers and how they were employed on the pitch, to the constantly changing tactics on the field, something seemed very off. I’m sure there was dissention behind on the scenes and a million other reasons for why things just didn’t seem right. In the end, I think it was time for a new manager and a new challenge for Brendan.
But I will always remember Brendan Rodgers for that single season. The most fun I’ve ever had watching football in my entire life. Thank you for that Brendan and I truly wish you the very best with the next venture in your career. I know it too will be a successful one. YNWA
Very nicely put. I hope in the fullness of time Rodgers gets credit for his killer instinct. Running up the scores was not an accident, it was all-out psychological warfare. More than that, though, for us it truly was a joy. That word is overused, but it was truly joyous to watch. And it was joyous to think about during the week, and joyous to anticipate the next joys.
Last season, Suarez was missed and Sturridge was missed, but also Flanagan. He brought so much enthusiasm to the squad, so much passion. And, much like Sturridge, just as he was coming back to fitness, it all came crashing down again. It was deflating for the fans, particularly as it came around the time when Sakho’s season effectively came to an end, and surely it must have been in the locker room, as well. I hope he recovers soon.
Who knows what the Klopp era will bring, but it remains even more mysterious what the Rodgers era would have brought if things turned out a bit differently with injuries and, perhaps more crucially, transfer targets. It is a lousy, gnawing feeling, that mystery. In part because the heights were just so dizzying, it is almost masochistic to imagine them sustained.
Like many supporters, I feel it appropriate, even wise, to take a few days taken to sort out the emotions around the end of the Rodgers era before moving into the vast anticipation of the Klopp era. There’s something about life in all of this, and it does us well to slow the blur of social media to honor that Rodgers engineered a squad capable of transforming it once more into something more than a game and a model of business.
Jumping too quickly into Klopp mania seems poor form, although it is difficult not to rub one’s hands together in giddy expectation. Such is that mad thing called football.
It really was the best fun you could ever possibly have supporting a sporting team/possibly doing anything. Thanks Brendan.
The best game for me was the 3-2 against city! The moment Coutinho scored…I won’t forget that!!!Probably the best moment I’ve experienced as a Liverpool fan putting aside Istanbul!
Sterlings finish, see ya Hart! Every player was walking on water then.
You look at these highlights, Liverpool smashing these sort of teams, and i still cant believe we didn’t win it that year!!!
So so close to god status Brendan! But Klopp, thats a whole new level of excitement.
Well done John, ignore the cynics. Letting him go was right, hiring Jurgen Jesus Norbert even righter, but we played some glorious football under Brendan, he made us dream again and we should all wish him well.
Funny but I didn’t get as sad about Kenny getting sacked as I did about Brendan. Kenny’s demise was similar to getting an beloved old dog put down, no offence meant. Brendan was more like getting a dog you loved put down because it had bitten a kid or pissed on too many carpets and you knew it was a lovely dog but too many arseholes around you were too insistent and it was probably for the best.
I think Klopp will be great and he seems like a top guy, but its annoying to hear people who hated Rodgers for his sales patter go goey for the smooth lines of his successor.
Whatever happens to BR, and whatever happened post-Suarez, I loved the Liverpool of 2013-4 and Brendan’s a huge part of that.
Thanks for this.