It is easily one of the hardest seats to fill in World Football today. 24 years: The club has gone without success in the Premier League. Tough luck, eh? To make it worse, it’s been three years since Liverpool played in the Champions League. Once the most successful, now the least touted. How does it feel to be a Liverpool supporter? The fans, like me, must be earning for the glory days to return to Anfield. Istanbul seems a light years ago. Wembley appears as often as a blue moon (unlike last season).
Amongst the 10 clubs that finished in the top half of the table last season, only Chelsea have fired more managers than Liverpool in the past three seasons. Week in and week out, despite losing previous games to minnows like Wigan, Blackburn, Sunderland and Wolves, the club is expected to beat the likes of Manchester United, City and Chelsea. Our armory available in our arsenal is mediocre yet we govern ourselves on the ideology: “this is the season, mate. We are winning it!” A string of good results and our confidence bloats to such levels that we certify ourselves as title contenders – well why wouldn’t we?
We were always used to winning, weren’t we? Our teams in the yesterdays were invincible. Today, they are domitable. Just compare our midfield to Swansea, and only a fool wouldn’t laugh at us. And the same fool would laugh at me if I were to tell him that Stewart Downing is going to prove himself this season. Overambitious they say we are, not going to go anywhere they tell us. Leaving Rangers alone, supporters of Liverpool have possibly endured the most misfortune amongst British Football’s top guns.
On June 1, 2012, Fenway unveiled Brendan Rodgers are our new manager. I, for one, thought we would sign Villas Boas – a far more reputed name in European football. I, for one, didn’t consider Rodgers good enough to manage Liverpool. Come on, two good seasons with Swansea and everyone thinks he is “good enough”? We saw what happened with Roy Hodgson who achieved impeccable results with Fulham before sending Liverpool into a debacle. Yes, I wasn’t convinced with Rodgers’ appointment. Another tenure in which we are doomed, I assumed.
Many believed Liverpool was too big a football club for him to vest upon his repertoire (myself included). Who were the big players he managed at Watford, Reading and Swansea? Probably none as idolized as Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez. The combined value of the three clubs he has managed put together wouldn’t total up to Liverpool’s investment in last summer’s transfer window. However, none of my predictions have come true in the past five years for Liverpool. Fortunately for Rodgers, it means he will do well. Right from the start with his decision to reinstate the original “This is Anfield” sign in the tunnel to stating at a press conference that he is here for the long-run and not just for winning the Premier League, Rodgers has played his cards wise. But so did Villas Boas at Chelsea before he was sacked in March. The Portuguese publicly rubbished questions about his age, and concerns regarding player and owner egos. Chelsea fans thought they found another “chosen one”. Well, let’s confirm it: he wasn’t.
In Liverpool, thankfully, it is a different story. Not many reports have questioned Rodgers’ accountability surrounding his inexperience in the top flight so far. This perhaps has to do with the club experiencing a slump which perfectly works to Rodgers’ favor. What works further to his advantage is that none of the Liverpool players were questioned about the Northern Irishman’s age or experience as they were busy with the Euro Cup.
Brendan Rodgers capitalized this non media fervor and now sits in his comfort zone. When nobody had time, the gaffer was progressively working towards cementing his place in Liverpudlian hearts.
How did he start?
The transfer of Gylfi Sigurdsson caused little drama in England. Rodgers, who signed a clause with Swansea not to come back and sign any players from the Welsh team, was reportedly sealing a deal for the Icelandic midfielder. The chemistry between Sigurdsson and Rodgers flourished in Swansea. Together with Joe Allen and Sigurdsson, the manager orchestrated an attractive game of football where he involved Scott Sinclair as well. Rodgers, despite his ‘close friendship’ with the Iceland international, failed in vying Sigurdsson to Anfield. The winger instead chose Tottenham, citing stronger ambitions at White Hart Lane. Had this happened under Dalglish, Hodgson or Benitez, the club would have panicked. Under Hodgson when Liverpool was unsuccessful in bringing a cover for Mascherano, the boardroom panicked and bought Christian Poulsen. The same could be said when Dalglish brought in Carroll to replace Torres and Benitez signed Alberto ‘Aqualoanee’ to substitute Xabi Alonso. While Rodgers isn’t a household name in English football, his sly wit enabled him to sign Fabio Borini. His diligence goes for the silent talent rather than the outspoken. That is basically how Rodgers’ mind works – at Swansea, he molded the then unknown Sigurdsson and Allen who are hot commodities in today’s market. To laud him more on his work at Anfield, he signed the Italian, Borini for a cheaper fee than Tottenham paid for Sigurdsson. Plus, Borini’s wage demands are lesser than Sigurdsson which adds an icing to the Irishman’s caked signing. And let’s be honest – Borini versus Sigurdsson, we know who got the better deal. The fact that Rodgers stuck to his principles, showed sheer composure under a transfer predicament itself epitomizes the man’s willingness to keep a cool head.
The most impressive quality that I adore in Rodgers is his honesty. When asked about Carroll, he said the striker’s future isn’t certain at Liverpool but it depends entirely upon the player and whether he wants to prove himself or not. He stuck to the same answer when questioned about ‘Aqualoanee’. Today’s football managers play guessing games with the media. When asked a particular question, they insinuate, leaving the media and the fans in an endless labyrinth. Rodgers, however, doesn’t believe in confusion. His straightforward persona ensures no loose ends at Liverpool. His handling of the Clint Dempsey saga speaks only higher of him where he clearly expressed his interest in signing the player, but added that the transfer is halted by the striker’s present club. What Rodgers achieves here is not a positive rating among the media, but a higher command in a fan’s heart.
Brendan Rodgers may not win us the Premier League. But he sure will build a dynasty. His signings may not be world famous names. But his spotted talent will shine and become household names. Liverpool will no longer play an archaic form football that was common under Dalglish and Benitez. The club will now move towards the popular “tika-taka”, an expertise of Brendan Rodgers. Give him time, Fenway. He is our man, finally!
*You’ll never walk alone.*