“By the time the gospel according to Brendan Rodgers had drawn to a close he was preaching to the converted.” Ben Smith, BBC Sport.
No one could deny Brendan Rodgers cut an impressive figure in his opening press conference at Melwood yesterday. The former Swansea manager showed calmness, as well as being an assured figure. Those who love the game have been excited by this manager’s unique take on the game for some time. How many managers in England encourage their players to keep the ball at all costs when holding a slender lead in the last few minutes of a game? Although Rodgers has a long way to go to silence the doubters that he possesses the experience and knowledge necessary to turn Liverpool into the force they once were, he spoke about aspects of our club he would look to improve, that to those who have cast their eye over the club in recent years, could only have been impressed with his insightful analysis of the problems that have beset our once proud club.
Rodgers spoke intelligently about the weight of wearing the red jersey for some players and how they subsequently find the burden of history and the spotlight within the media to much to deal with. But it seems this is a man with a planned philosophy to implement, which belies his 39 years. Also, Rodgers promised to restore Liverpool to its traditional passing style which recent managers were either reluctant or lacked the morale courage to implement. While Kenny Dalglish could not be accused of being a “Long ball Merchant”, he certainly seemed to lack an overall playing strategy.
Perhaps most impressive of all from Rodgers was his clear message to the Liverpool owners that he would only take the job on his terms. Firstly, he distanced himself from the beauty pageant style interview process when Liverpool first approached Swansea to speak to him. When it became clear he was the number one choice he rebuffed the attempts of F.S.G to appoint him under a Director of Football (believed to be Louis Van Gaal).Rodgers also showed he meant business at Anfield when he cut across Ian Ayre to cast away any ambiguity in relation to who will make the final decisions on transfers. Rodgers will now have final say on all transfer targets which means he is responsible for realising his own vision of how his team will line up. It is in this area which will make or break Brendan Rodgers as with all managers, the ability to get the right players into the club. Remember Rafael Benitez had a vision for Liverpool but knowing how to get there is what separates good managers from great managers.
There can be no doubting the man from County Antrim is relishing the opportunity of Leading our proud club possibly in no small part to the fact his late Father, Malachy, was a supporter. While there may have being many supporters calling for the return of Benitez, FSG have being bold in their approach and some will say taken a huge gamble. However, a manager who wants to play total football and whose ambition matches that of our great managers of the past is clearly in sync with what we are looking for in a manager. There seems to be a real confidence about Brendan Rodgers similar to that of Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho. It is in my experience that that confidence in whatever profession you work in, usually rubs off on all those around them.
When Rodgers settles in at Liverpool he will quickly recognise some of the talented players that Liverpool currently have. It is also my suspicion that we will see a lot more from the players signed last summer when they have a clear and concise role on the pitch to fulfil. Another huge bonus for Brendan Rodgers coming into Liverpool will be the youth set-up for which Benitez can take much of the credit. There is a talented crop of youngsters waiting to make their mark at the club, most notably, Raheem Sterling, Jack Robinson and Jordan Lussey. While some of these youngsters maybe a little away from making the first team at the moment, the Swansea manager has thought younger players throughout his coaching life not just about football but also the importance of respect and values, something that is already instilled at the Liverpool academy.
There can be no doubting that appointing Brendan Rodgers is one of the boldest decisions Liverpool have made in recent times but every time he has spoken in the last two days makes you believe that this could prove a master-stroke of a decision. His own recognition of his failings when he became manager of Reading that he had simply focused too much on changing the philosophy of the club instead of gradual change while winning matches, shows a man who learns quickly from his mistakes and then moves on. This is also another trait that great mangers possess-always look ahead not behind.
As always there is no need to repeat that Liverpool supporters should get behind the new man, that is a given. And while there will be inevitable low points along the way in Brendan Rodgers quest to bring Liverpool back to the summit of English football, one can only feel Liverpool have appointed a manager for the first time in a long time who could in the future rank along the great managers of the past.